It is a self-serving ordinance designed to minimize property tax increases on the gentlemen farmers (how many of you besides Maui County Councilman Mike White and my across-the-street neighbor fit here?)! It can potentially put some of our small farmers out of business! And, it will increase the cost of locally grown food, which is counter-productive to our goal of increased self-sustainability!
BF-70 raises taxes on farmers and ranchers. Maui County states over and over in charter and planning documents that we support agriculture. If we believe in ag and supporting ag, we shouldn't be raising taxes on ag.
The bill does not clarify what a home site is any more than the existing rules. In fact, it makes the unusable land definition less clear. If you scan the public tax Website, you can see that some people have a quarter-acre home site and some have half-acre. The only way to be certain about a home site is to inspect the property, which is what the Real Property Tax (RPT) people are supposed to do under current rules anyway.
I believe the farmers and ranchers who say their homes are part of their occupation. We heard lots of testimony as to how this is true.
According to Mike White and the RPT, this bill would raise about $950,000 in additional revenue. What is interesting is that that RPT sent out letters last fall to those receiving the ag rate, asking people to validate that they are farming, and only 32 percent of the letters came back with farm information. Sixty-eight percent are no longer going to receive the ag rate, which has been estimated to bring in about $5 million in additional revenue.
Looks to me like following today's existing rules are all that is needed. What the tax increase would be for people with such lack of clarity is still uncertain.
This bill does nothing to clarify agriculture. We need the big picture here, and consistency across all county departments. I think the bill is poorly written. I think Maui County deserves better legislation.