Voters to decide if property taxes will pay for public schools

KITV - April 23, 2018
Brenton Awa

Should the state help pay for public schools through property taxes? That's a question voters will be able to answer in November's General Election.

That question will be much more detailed on the topic when voters see it in November.

Lawmakers want to help fund our public schools through a specific area of property taxes. They're targeting investment properties.

"If you own one home, this is not going to impact you. Even if you own a second home, this is not going to impact you. Unless you own two homes over a million dollars, you won't have to pay," Corey Rosenlee, Hawaii State Teachers Association said.

State Lawmakers are allowing the public to decide on a way to help fund Hawaii's Public School system.

"This is really an opportunity that we present to our voters," Sen. Jill Tokuda said.

"This is probably one of the most important measures, the top three that we are going to be addressing today," Sen. Will Espero said.

The Department of Education says something has to happen soon.

The DOE has more than 1,000 teacher vacancies and continues to lose educators to other states that offer as much as $40,000 more in pay.

"We're losing teachers at a rate that no other state sees," Sen. Russell Ruderman said.

According to state lawmakers, Hawaii ranks 51 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for starting median teacher salaries.

"This is a profession and we have to offer professional pay," Christina Kishimoto, DOE Superintendent said.

If residents vote the proposed constitutional amendment into law, the state would be able to impose a surcharge on residential investment properties to fund public education.

It's an opportunity the HSTA says it's excited about, to give the people of Hawaii a chance to fund our public schools.

"We should be paying our teachers on the same level as what we are paying our doctors and lawyers," Sen. Mike Gabbard said.

Money could go towards teacher pay, technology, equipment, facilities and more. It would come out of property taxes, a place Hawaii typically boasts about being so low.

"Frankly I wouldn't be bragging about that when our keiki and schools are so lagging," Sen. Michelle Kidani said.

The HSTA also calls this bill a win-win, saying the potential amendment targets corporations and investors who it claims, has driven up the cost to live in Hawaii and also indirectly hurt the education of our Keiki.

The Senate voted in favor of the bill Monday.