Oahu homeowners balk after property tax assessments soar

Many said they are seeing 20 percent to 30 percent increases in their assessments.
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 5:40 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2022 at 11:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Connie Irwin received her real property tax assessments for her Haleiwa home last week, she was shocked.

The retiree ― who lives on a fixed income ― said the property tax assessment for her home went from $2,585,000 last year to $3,337,000. Similar increases next year could force her to sell, she said.

“You know, I was mad. I was angry that this is just an arbitrary number,” said Irwin. “It went up almost $800,000 in one year. We’ll probably squeeze by this year ... but if it goes up next year, and the next year, we’re out.”

Irwin is one of thousands of Oahu residents who received their real property tax assessments from the city last week. Many said they are seeing 20 to 30% increases in their assessments.

“I understand everybody’s prices go up ― maybe even 10%. But 26%?” said Philip Brouillet, a Mililani Mauka resident who is experiencing a similar value increase in his home.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he also was shocked by how much real estate values appreciated last year. He said the city will “aggressively” look at ways to reduce the burden.

“This was an aberration. It’s the first year that home sales exceeded $10 billion,” he said.

“We’re going to try to deal with this as responsibly and as thoroughly as we possibly can.”

Andrew Kawano, director of the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, said the city will look into a one-time tax credit or increased exemptions for homeowners.

“Any amount helps taxpayers that are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said.

But some homeowners believe higher tax credits and exemptions aren’t enough. They’re hoping the city will slash the current tax rate of $3.50 for every $1,000 of property value.

“The City and County needs to be proactive in taking care of the their constituents and use a different tax rate and even give everybody a tax break this year to help offset the higher cost of everything else,” said Brouillet.

But the city said reducing the tax rate is going to be a tough sell given that this year’s property value increase seems to be an anomaly and because the city’s costs are also rising.

The assessments mailed out last week are just the first stage of property tax process.

The actual tax bills will be determined after March after the City Council approves the budget.