Motor vehicle weight taxes, bus fares and parking rates will go up under a 2018 budget package approved by the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday.
Bill 25, the $2.45 billion operating budget, is $1.37 million less than the one introduced by Mayor Kirk Caldwell on March 2. Bill 26, the $1.067 billion capital improvements bill, is about $100 million more than the $966 million bundle introduced by Caldwell.
The budget package was highlighted by skirmishes over what fees and rates would go up and which would not. The Caldwell administration said “revenue enhancements” were necessary — without raising property tax rates — largely to deal with rising fixed costs and collective bargaining increases, as well the anticipated costs of operation and maintenance of the rail line.
Bill 10, the increase for the motor vehicle weight tax, part of the annual registration fee, is probably the measure approved Wednesday that will hit most Oahu residents the hardest — at least those who own cars.
|What goes up (and when) with the Council-approved budget:
SINGLE BUS FARE (ADULT)
Currently – $2.50
Increase – $2.75
MONTHLY BUS PASS
Street Parking (downtown, Chinatown, Waikiki outside of Kapiolani Park)
Currently – $1.50 an hour
Increase – $3 an hour
Property Taxes (Residential A only)
Currently – $6 per $1,000 of assessed value
Change – $4.50 per $1,000 of assessed for first $1 million, $9 for every additional $1,000
The owner of a 3,500-pound Toyota Camry sedan would see a jump in vehicle weight taxes of $35.20 in 2018 and an additional $35.20 in 2019 under a 1 cent increase to 6 cents per pound; and then an additional 1 cent (to 7 cents), beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
It was approved 5-4 with members Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi, Ernie Martin and Trevor Ozawa opposed. As proposed by Caldwell and adopted by the Council on Wednesday, the tax goes up a penny per pound (to 6 cents) beginning Jan. 1, and then another penny per pound (to 7 cents) beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
The owner of a 3,520- pound Toyota Camry sedan will see an increase of $35.20 in 2018 and $35.20 in 2019, meaning the bill would go from the current $176 (at 5 cents a pound) to $211.20 on Jan. 1 and $246.40 starting 2019.
The owner of a lighter vehicle will pay less while the owner of a heavier vehicle would pay more.
Owners of trucks and commercial vehicles will see their weight taxes go to 6.5 cents (from 5.5 cents) per pound beginning Jan. 1, and to 7.5 cents in 2019.
Mililani resident Dan Petty testified against the measure, and predicted it would have a “snowballing effect” that would lead to increases in other areas from milk to cable TV rates.
Also generating a lot of buzz was Bill 28, which increases TheBus rates across the board. The adult, single-ride fare would rise to $2.75, up 25 cents from the current $2.50. The monthly adult pass would rise to $70, up from the current $60.
The measure was approved 7-2, with Fukunaga and Martin opposed. Rates were last increased in 2010.
The original Caldwell bill called for Handi-Van rates to go up as well. But that rate hike was nixed last month after impassioned testimony by Handi-Van riders and their supporters.
The original Caldwell bill also called for a tiered, multiyear increase of fares for bus and Handi-Van riders, but the Council also rejected that plan, arguing it would fall too hard on those who need public transit the most.
Bill 12, which doubles parking rates for metered street stalls in Chinatown, downtown and Waikiki to $3 an hour, received a surge of opposition in recent weeks but was approved, 5-4. Fukunaga, Kobayashi, Martin and Ozawa voted against the increases.
The Department of Transportation Services argued that parking rates had not been increased since 2004.
Fukunaga, who represents the downtown and Chinatown neighborhoods, sought to omit Chinatown from the areas that would see higher metered parking rates after business leaders argued that would adversely affect traffic in an area where parking is already a headache.
Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, head of the Chinatown Business and Community Association, said area merchants already had enough problems to deal with in the neighborhood.
But Fukunaga’s Chinatown proposal was defeated 5-4 with members Ikaika Anderson, Brandon Elefante, Joey Manahan, Ron Menor and Kymberly Pine voting to reject it.
Waikiki community leaders also raised concerns about how the parking rates would affect their area. But Council members pointed out that the bill specifically does not affect metered stalls around Kapiolani Park.
Several other Caldwell proposals to increase fees and taxes were thrown out by the Council previously.
A $10-a-month curbside trash pickup fee proposal was shot down, as was a measure to increase the city’s share of the fuel tax to 20 cents a gallon from 16.5 cents a gallon. Opponents argued that the fuel tax increase would unfairly burden those living in rural areas.
The administration also proposed property tax rates for the Hotel-Resort and Residential A categories. But Manahan’s Budget Committee shot down the hike for resorts and hotels after visitor industry advocates argued they were being unfairly targeted.
Midway through the budget season, the Council approved a bill that splits the Residential A category into two tiers so that the first $1 million of value is taxed at $4.50 per $1,000, and any additional value is taxed at $9 per $1,000. Residential A property owners currently pay $6 per $1,000 for the entire property.
The new system resulted in those with properties valued at $1 million to $1.5 million paying less than they do now and owners of properties valued above $1.5 million paying more.
The Budget Committee, for a time, rejected funding for six staff positions for the new Office of Climate Change, Resiliency and Sustainability, an agency created by a Honolulu City Charter amendment approved by voters in November. But those positions were later restored.