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By Lester Chang

KAUAI, Hawaii (The Garden Island, Apr. 1) – The Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday officially received Mayor Bryan Baptiste's proposed $103.2 million county budget for fiscal year 2004-2005, the largest in the county's history.

Meeting at the historic County Building, council members also received Baptiste's proposed $16.6 million capital improvement budget for the following fiscal year.

Council members were to schedule public hearings for both measures at 7 p.m. on May 6 at a site to be selected.

Both measures were to be referred to the Council's Committee of the Whole.

In the meantime, the council also set a public hearing at the same time and same date for property tax rates requested in Baptiste's budget.

Baptiste asked for a 20 cents reduction for every $1,000 of assessed valuation for the land and building portions for all eight tax categories.

The request has come as property assessments have skyrocketed, due to repeat sales and sales of high-priced homes.

The Kaua‘i County Real Property Tax Task Force has recommended county officials change the taxing structure to help prevent longtime residents from being taxed off their land.

The proposal calls for affluent property owners to be taxed more for big homes they build or own on a piece of property on Kaua‘i, and recommends longtime property owners pay less in land taxes.

The current tax structure puts more taxing emphasis on land than on the building.

The task force was assembled to look at tax reform.

Related to Baptiste's proposed budgets, more than half of the proposed revenues from the operating budget, currently $56.3 million, is projected to come from real property revenues.

The proposed budget is a 6 percent increase from the current budget of $97. 4 million.

Baptiste has proposed adding $1 million to the county's $5.8 million in yearly debt-service payment, as a way for the county to float a bond to generate $16 million.

The funds would be used for pressing infrastructure improvements, including the development of a landfill, Baptiste has said.

Baptiste also proposed an increase of $3.8 million for "uncontrollable costs" such as insurance, collective-bargaining increases for salaries and benefits, health-fund increases and retirement-system obligations.

April 2, 2004

The Garden Island: www.kauaiworld.com/news


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