Condo owner says she's forced to sell after property taxes soar

Condo owner says she's forced to sell after property taxes soar

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For more than 16 years, Karen Okazaki owned a one-bedroom unit in the Executive Centre apartments downtown, renting it out to a long-term tenant.

But the Punchbowl resident said she's now being forced to sell the condo after her property taxes skyrocketed this year.

"We got very surprised -- shocked actually -- when our tax bill went up to $4,000 a year versus about $700 a year. That was a big pill to swallow," said Okazaki.

"We could really use the money for other things like putting it into our three grandchildren's college fund."

Okazaki is one of hundreds of apartment owners whose properties have been reclassified from residential to resort, which carries a much higher rate.

Last year, the city asked owners of units in mixed-use buildings like Executive Centre to answer a questionnaire about how their apartments were being used.

Okazaki told the city that her condo was for residential use since it's been rented to the same tenant for the past 11 years. She said the city rejected her claim, but didn't tell her until it was too late to appeal the decision.

City Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga said the city should be able to show that they provided notification.

"We are sympathetic to taxpayers and constituents who through very extenuating circumstances found themselves on the losing side of their real property tax calculations," she said.

Fukunaga introduced a resolution calling on the city to roll back Okazaki's tax increase. The City Council passed the resolution but the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services rejected it.

It said that giving tax compromises to individuals makes for bad tax policy.

"We really empathize with taxpayers but ... to be equitable to all taxpayers, we need to enforce the deadlines," said Gary Kurokawa, deputy director of the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services.

"There's probably 2,000 or more taxpayers that either didn't respond or missed the deadline for some reason or another. It would be unfair to just to compromise for one taxpayer."

The tax dispute comes as the City Council seeks to give itself the power to approve all tax compromises. The city says it opposed the bill, which will be heard by the council on Thursday.

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