A horse on a South Kohala pasture.

BY LIZ MARTINEZ

LOSS OF AG DEDICATION FOR HORSES

Help to ensure that the horse culture and way of life of horses will survive on Oahu, for ourselves and future generations of horse lovers.

HOW IS THE HORSE WAY OF LIFE THREATENED?

In November, 2011, the City Council voted to remove the Ag Dedication option for horses (Bill 44).  This was done very quietly.   Affected horse owners were not apprised of the Bill.  It was only when Circle C’s owner was looking into her property tax bill, that she found out about  it and alerted people in the horse community.  Loss of Ag Dedication in the property taxation system is a crushing economic blow to horse ownership.

Ag Dedication has been  a process whereby lands in Ag use can be dedicated to Ag for a period of 1, 5 or 10 years and in return obtain a reduced rate of property taxation for the dedicated land.   Until November, 2011, the City and County of Honolulu, recognized horses as a legitimate Ag use of land and permitted landowners to dedicate land used for horses.

We have heard from someone who actually testified for Bill 44. He said that the bill was never presented as a bill to do away with the Ag Dedication option for horses.  It was presented as a bill to do away with the option of One Year Ag dedication and only have 5 and 10 year dedication options.    It did not speak to doing away with gentleman farmers who build luxury houses on Ag land and throw a couple of horses on the land to reduce the property taxes.

HOW AG DEDICATION WORKS:

A 10 year dedication,  would cause the tax bill for the land portion to be computed on 1% of the eligible dedicated land value (instead of 100%):

e.g.   $1,000,000 assessed land value of eligible land would then have a Net Taxable Land Value of  $10,000 instead of $1 million.   The tax on this land would be computed using $5.70 cents per thousand , i.e., 5.70 X 10,000/1000 = $57 instead of the full Ag property tax of $5700.

Understand that any legal residences on Ag  land, and the 5000 sq foot envelope around the residence are taxed at the $3.50 cents per thousand of the full assessed value for that portion.

Any Ag buildings are taxed at the full Ag rate of $5.70 per thousand of assessed  valuation for the building.  So suggestions that the Ad Dedication subsidizes horses are not true.  Homes on Dedicated properties are still taxed at the full assessed value and residential rate and Ag building are taxed at their assessed value and the agricultural rate.

Assessed values can also change.   One stable owner stated at a public meeting that her property assessment went from $3,000,000 to $9,000,000 in one year without explanation and that her property tax bill without Ag dedication would go from $17,000 to $90,000 per year.

WHAT HORSE OWNERS ARE DOING ABOUT IT?

A number of horse people have met with Councilman Ikaika Anderson.  Councilman Anderson’s  family used to own horses in Waimanalo.  Even Councilman  Anderson expressed that the horse way of life could survive on Oahu unless

We believe that the horse industry and horsekeeping on Oahu must be protected.    Valuable culture and traditions will be lost forever, if  horses are priced out of the reach of the middle class by exorbitant property taxes.   If horse numbers are whittled down,  the farriers, vets , stables, feed stores, etc. will be economically crushed.  Many of us who keep horses will be faced with devastating choices.  Many of our children have been raised in the stables, mucking stalls after school and gaining experience with horses.  All of this will be lost.

In order to avoid this, horseowners must stick together and support reinstitution of the Ag Dedication option for horses.  That includes big stable or facilities, smaller stables, and people who have a few horses on their own private land.

Councilman Ikaika Anderson has introduced two Bills, Bill 12 to fix Bill 44, and Bill 30 to rescind Bill 44 if necessary.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Contact all the horse people you know and let them know about this and importance of getting involved.

Councilman Anderson said that have our best chance of success, people should:

  1. Attend the March 21, Council meeting at Honolulu Hale, where Bill 12 and Bill 30 will have their first reading.  Testify regarding your  support for both bills.  If you can’t be there in person, at least submit written testimony.
  2. The bills then go to committees (probably Budget Committee) where revisions to the Bills can be suggested .  For instance, Bill 44 contains restrictions regarding any livestock Ag Dedication to only  Ag-1 and Preservation land with minimum lot sizes of x ands.  In reality many horses are successfully  kept on Ag-2 land on properties as small one acre.  Lot size and Ag-2 inclusion needs to be fixed in Bill 12.

There is a misconception that AG-2 land is 2 to 5 acres.  In fact many Ag-2 parcels exceed 5 acres in size.  In fact the major difference between Ag-1 and Ag-2 lands is that you can only have a piggery on Ag-1 land. The bills will have a second and third hearing.

In order to be successful, we need to follow through on this till the bill reversing this travesty is successfully passed.  We snooze, we definitely lose.

  1. Get in touch with all the Council members and ask them to support the bills 12 and 30 for all the good things that horses bring to our communities  culturally, economically, for health and recreation and for the preservation of beauty in the agricultural landscape.

 

 

Liz Martinez lives in Waimanalo, Hawaii. Reach her at emartinez@hawaii.rr.com

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