Special town meeting on possible GET increase

WAIMEA — Waimea Community Association (WCA) has agreed to hold a second March town meeting — from 6 to 8 p.m. March 12 at Anna Ranch — at the request of Mayor Harry Kim to discuss a possible .5 percent increase in the general excise tax (GET).

Facilitated by WCA for Mayor Kim, County Finance Department staff led by Deanna Sako will share data related to the county budget and proposed tax increase at the meeting. There will be time for questions and answers.

The proposed increase was triggered by Hawaii County budget shortfalls coupled with a bill passed by the Hawaii State Legislature during a special session last summer to resolve how the state would fund monumental expenses for Honolulu’s rail system. The bill that passed — over the objection of most Hawaii County legislators — permits a portion of the transient accommodations tax (TAT) collected from Hawaii County hotels to be used by the state to pay for Honolulu’s rail. The bill also allowed each county to opt to increase the GET to make up for the loss of TAT revenue.

Increasing the GET for Hawaii County has been hotly contested at recent county council meetings in large part because the county recently increased both its fuel tax and property taxes. Further, the GET directly impacts individuals and families with low and fixed incomes.

At the March 12 meeting County Finance staff will review the island’s overall budget, including projected costs for hauling trash to the West Hawaii landfill as well as potential funding options for the County Mass Transit Plan that estimates costs to significantly improve the Hele On bus system that has suffered from aging equipment.

The current bill authorizing the county to raise the GET by .5 percent expires the end of March, but the 2018 State Legislature appears poised to extend the deadline to early summer. A bill to do this has passed the State Senate; as amended, the bill would give more leeway in what the increased revenue could be used for in addition to transportation-related expenses.

The Waimea meeting will be the last of a series of community meetings requested by Mayor Kim around the island. There is no charge to attend.

Info: Go to www.WaimeaTown.org, www.Facebook.com/WaimeaCommunity Association, call WCA president Patti Cook at 937-2833 or email cookshi@aol.com