Property tax quadruples for needy families in Kalihi - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Property tax quadruples for needy families in Kalihi

Rosita Macabeo Rosita Macabeo
Ray Camacho Ray Camacho

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) – Slapped with a monster tax hike, Kalihi families are in shock, opening their mail to find their real property tax bills have skyrocketed up to $13,000.

And they're not living in mansions. Many of those hit with the tax hike are the needy and the elderly.

For years, Rosita Macabeo's tiny house has cost her about $2400 a year in property tax.

This year's bill is $11,225. That's up nearly 470%.

"I feel very…I am shocked," said Macabeo.

Unable to pay, the 89-year-old may be forced to move from the Kalihi home she's lived in since 1963. And she's not alone.

Honolulu Council Member Romy Cachola says the tax spike affects much of Kalihi.

He says the hardest hit is the area, bound by North King Street, Puuhale Road, Dillingham Boulevard, and Umi Street.

"It just seems unfair that such a burden is placed on those who can least afford it," said Ray Camacho, whose mother-in-law's property tax bill increased more than three times what she paid last year.

Why the hike?

In the 70's, Kalihi was re-zoned from Residential, to Industrial/Commercial.

But Cachola says past Mayors continued to charge families the residential rate.

Cachola says the Hannemann Administration decided to enforce the proper rate.

"Look at the houses that they're going to charge industrial," said Cachola, pointing to humble homes, faced with quadruple the rates.

The reclassification took effect in Fiscal Year 2009-2010. Residential rates are at $3.42 and Industrial/Commercial rates are $12.40 per $1000 of assessed value.

For many, that means a five-figure bill.

"$10,700 and her last year's taxes were $3000. This is devastating, she may have to move, she's on a fixed income," said Camacho.

"Cannot afford, I'm in retirement, am 85 years old," said Camacho's mother-in-law.

Tax relief is a signature away. Cachola has gone door-to-door, passing out a petition that allows residents to dedicate their homes, meaning they can change it back to residential.

"Because the dedication deadline is September 1st," Cachola told one affected resident.

But it's for next year's property tax bill.

The change is too late for this tax period, which leaves folks like Macabeo stuck.

"I am afraid, you know the tax, that's why I am afraid," said Macabeo, who paid the first installment to avoid a 10% penalty if she failed to do so. Macabeo is now scrambling to pay the second installment.

The city did notify residents of the tax rate change. Letters went out in December of 2009. But the deadline for dedication forms was September of 2009, so it was too late for residents to re-classify their homes, and avoid the tax hike.

Cachola is also passing out claims forms to affected residents that urge Budget and Fiscal Services Director Rix Maurer to reduce their property tax bills.

Hawaii News Now put in a call to the Mayor's Office asking why the administrative rate change was implemented. A spokesperson said Thursday night that he would look into it.


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