Kamehameha Schools asks slack, gives none
There was a dissonance in two stories about Kamehameha Schools over the weekend.
One in the Star-Advertiser by Rob Perez examined how Honolulu’s real property tax breaks for charitable institutions enables Kamehameha Schools, Hawai‘i’s richest landowner, to pay only $300 a year in taxes on its 425-acre Kapalama campus that is valued at $157 million — the same tax a couple pays on a single parking space at their Waianae apartment.
A Kamehameha Schools spokesman said the relief is warranted in recognition of the value nonprofits provide to the public good.
Cut to the other story, about small farmers in Kamilonui Valley protesting an attempt by Kamehameha Schools to push their lease rents 28 times higher — from $15 per acre per month to $434.
Judy Nii, operator of a small nursery, is looking at a rent increase from $1,200 a year to $32,000, which threatens the survival of a business with a small profit margin.
“Basically, they’re asking us to work and give them whatever we make,” Nii said.
Kamehameha Schools was totally unsympathetic in a statement: “We appreciate that the Kamilonui lessees are facing a large rent increase, but we also hope the lessees appreciate that they’ve been paying extremely favorable rents for 38 years for land that has provided their livelihood and also their residence.”
I know there’s no direct connection between the two stories, but it leaves a bad taste when a multi-billion-dollar trust that expects an awful lot of slack on taxes it could easily afford refuses to give any slack at all to honest, hardworking farmers who can’t afford higher levies of the magnitude Kamehameha Schools is demanding.
The inevitable outcome if the hardball succeeds is that the farmers will be driven off the land and another piece of green Hawai‘i will be lost to development.
This is an example of public good worthy of enormous tax breaks?
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