- Have tax revenues increased in the Town of Kutchan because condos and chalets have increased in the Hirafu area?
- The property acquisition tax, which is borne by the property owner when he/she purchases a new property, is not a town tax but a prefectural tax. The revenues don’t go to the Town of Kutchan.
- Town taxes raised in the Hirafu area
Fixed property taxes (or koteishisanzei): 223 million yen
Local inhabitant taxes (or juminzei): 6.1 million yen
These taxes are used for all the services and projects of the Town of Kutchan, such as education and social welfare. The taxes are NOT directly used for Hirafu-specific local services and projects.
- The registered residents of the town pay the local inhabitant tax regardless of nationality: however, absent property owners do not fully pay that tax. Under the Japanese taxation system, tax revenues for the town don’t increase even when tourists increase. Therefore, our recent increase in overseas tourists has not resulted in increased tax revenues for the town.
- The proposed Hirafu Resort CID/BID is a system in which CID/BID fees paid by Hirafu property owners are used exclusively for Hirafu.
- What projects is the town conducting in the Hirafu area, and how much does the town spend there in investment and assistance?
The FY 2012 budget is as follows:
- Hirafu-zaka St. Renovation Project: 70 mil yen (Town’s portion of the project. From 2011 through the completion of the project, the investment will be much more.)
- Snow removal and hauling: 25 mil. yen
- Subsidies for street light electricity cost: 0.6 mil. yen
- Maintenance of Internet optical fibre: 6.7 mil. yen
- Infrastructure investment by 30-year loans
- Internet optical fibre: 32 mil. yen
- Water supply/sewerage systems: 3 bill. yen
- Why doesn’t the town bear the entire cost of electricity for street lights?
- The street lights in the Hirafu area are so-called “bohan-to” lights. Every such light is installed at the request of a local resident. Therefore the local residents are responsible for paying the electricity cost.
- However, because such street lights are not exclusively used by the local resident but also by others who walk on the road, the street lights benefit the public. Therefore, the town subsidizes a part of the electricity cost.
- The street lights on a large road are called doro-shomei, and these are installed for traffic safety. They’re installed by the town and the entire electricity cost is borne by the town.
- Why doesn’t the town pick up cans, bottles and other street litter discarded by pedestrians, and clean roads and parks?
- The prefectural government and the town government clean and trim grass along the arterial prefectural roads and town roads.
- Because Hirafu is a resort area, the local business owners and residents voluntary clean and pick discarded bottles, cans and litter from the roads occasionally and every spring after the snow melts as a “Hirafu Clean-up Project.”
- Hirafu Chuo Park has been developed and maintained by the town, including cleaning and mowing.
- The chonaikai buys flower pots and plants them in the flower bed.
- Volunteers from Hirafu Shibu of the Kutchan Tourism Association clean the pond.
- In this way, Hirafu residents and tourism businesses have been voluntary working to maintain and upgrade Hirafu as a resort area.
- Does a vacant plot owner on the Hirafu-zaka St. have to pay a share of road heating electricity cost?
- The local share of the road heating electricity cost covers 1.5 m width out of the 3.5 m sidewalk width. The local share is estimated to be 6 million yen per year.
- Because the Town of Kutchan owns about 40% of the land fronting on Hirafu-zaka Street, the committee has been discussing whether to request that the town bear about 40% of the local share of road heating electricity cost (1.5 m width sidewalk portion). The remaining 60% of electricity cost would be borne by the local community.
- Nothing has been decided on the sharing method of that 60% electricity cost among locals.
- I have a vacant plot in Hirafu. Do I need to pay for CID fee for my plot?
- Because in Hirafu the residents and businesses who have been contributing to maintain Hirafu’s resort environment have been decreasing, it has become very difficult to collect sufficient contributions of money and labour. Discussions have been made to collect contributions from a wide range of property owners; however, we have not decided the systems/methods to collect CID fees for CID yet.
- Will Hirafu CID fees be exclusively used for community improvement purposes?
Main CID projects are:
- Maintaining street lights (incl. electricity, installation, repair)
- Cleaning the region (picking up litter, sweeping away leaves at Hirafu-zaka St.) and beautifying parks/streets with flowerbeds/pots
- Supporting community events
- Bearing a part of the administrative expense of Hirafu Resort CID/BID organization.
- Why were the Chonaikai #1 – #3 areas selected for the BID area?
Because tourists accommodations and other tourism facilities predominate there.
- Why can businesses in Chonaikai #4 and the Kabayama Chonaikai choose whether to join the BID?
Because Chonaikai #4 and Kabayama Chonaikai have many members and are well operated, we’re planning to ask the chairpersons of the chonaikais to discuss with the chonaikai members about joining the CID.
- Businesses in downtown Kutchan have benefitted from the increases in tourists to Hirafu, so don’t they have an obligation to pay BID fees?
The Hirafu BID aims to promote the businesses in the BID designated area. Therefore, business owners in other areas cannot be regular BID members; thus, they have no obligation to bear the BID fees.
- Why doesn’t the Town of Kutchan increase services in the Hirafu area, because the tax revenues should have increased from the increase in condos and chalets in the Hirafu area?
The fixed property taxes and other local taxes are used for all the services and projects of the Town of Kutchan, such as education and social welfare. The taxes are NOT directly used for Hirafu-specific local services and projects. In the local government budget system, local taxes from a specific area are NOT directly used for the area-specific local services and projects.
In FY 2011, the Town spent 25 mil. yen on snow removal/hauling, and 6.7 mill. yen on Internet-related maintenance, such as that for optical fibre. Also, the Town has invested more than 3 bill. yen (excluding national government subsidies) in water supply/sewage systems. For the Hirafu-zaka Street Renovation (the Town’s portion of the project), the Town invested 70 mil. yen in FY 2012 (From 2011 through the completion of the project, the investment will be much more.)
- What was the process whereby the locals agreed to bear part of the sidewalk road heating electricity cost?
In 2007, the Association for the Promotion of Hirafu-zaka St. Renovation was organized to request that a sidewalk road-heating system and cable-boxes for burying electric/telephone cables be included in the renovation project for the Hirafu-zaka St. The members were local residents, businesses and other organizations.
It was agreed that the Hokkaido Prefectural Government would install road-heating only on the carriageway where Hirafu-zaka St. intersects with other streets and on 1.5 m width of sidewalks, and that the locals (including the Town of Kutchan) would bear the electricity cost for the 1.5 m width of sidewalks.
When the explanation meeting was hosted by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government in 2010, locals requested that the sidewalk road heating width be increased from 1.5 m to 3.5 m (full-width) and the carriageway road heating be extended from just the intersections to the entire length of Hirafu-zaka St.
Finally, the Hokkaido Prefectural Government agreed to increase their share of road heating electricity cost while the share of road heating electricity cost borne by locals was kept the same as originally planned: 1.5 m width of the sidewalks. The renovation project started in 2011.
- Do the tourism businesses in the Hirafu area need to bear the fees for BID in addition to the several fees they currently pay, such as fees for the chonaikai, Niseko Promotion Board, Hirafu Shibu (Hirafu Branch of the Kutchan Tourism Association)?
We have been working to NOT significantly increase the total amount of fees borne by businesses, through discussions and coordination with relevant organizations on review of their roles and duplicated expenses/projects.
- How will you contact the absent property owners, such as those who own condos?
Currently, over 80% of the buildings in Hirafu are owned by non-resident owners. We will ask the assistance of their tax agents and property management companies to find their contact addresses and e-mails.
- How much is the total budget of the BID? What projects will be conduced by the BID?
The introduction of a BID will make the Hirafu area the first business area in Japan to have such a system.
The project planning and the budget of the BID will be finally decided by locals when the system is introduced to Hirafu. Currently, the Niseko Hirafu BID Preparatory Committee has been discussing the proposal of a framework for the BID system.
The committee understands that the following projects have high priority:
- Area cleaning/beautification
- Event marketing to draw visitors to Hirafu (currently done by Hirafu Shibu and the NPB)
- Information dissemination via Web/SNS (currently done by the NPB)
- Installation of the area guide signs (currently done by the NPB)
- Publication of an area map and accommodation/restaurants/shop guides (currently done by the NPB)
- Bearing of a part of electricity cost for Hirafu-zaka St. sidewalk road heating
- How much in BID fees is charged to businesses?
Currently, various fee systems are being simulated. The principles of the fee allocation method are sustainability, transparency and fairness.
- What would happen if the BID were to find an accommodations being operated illegally?
In the event that the BID found accommodations being operated illegally, the BID would instruct the operator on how to register with the public health centre and would assist to reconciling the legal irregularity.
- I’ve never received rent or fees for letting others use my condo/chalet. Would I need to pay the BID fees?
Assuming certain conditions are met, your condo/chalet would be regarded as a “residence,” and it would be exempted from BID fees.
- I rent out rooms in my property by monthly contract. Would I need to pay the BID fees?
Assuming certain conditions are met, your condo/chalet would be regarded as a “residence,” and it would be exempted from the BID fees.
- When will the CID/BID systems be introduced?
At the earliest, the CID/BID could be introduced to the Hirafu area in April 2014.
- The Niseko Hirafu CID/BID Preparatory Committee will first make a proposal to the Town of Kutchan;
- The Town will modify the proposal to meet the legal requirements and will propose that the Town Council enact a CID/BID municipal law;
- Only then will the Town Council make deliberations and approve the proposed law.
The chonaikai system is Japan's original community management method. For example, because the community members bear the costs of streetlight electricity, installation and repair, the installation of streetlights is limited to locations of high need. Because chonaikai members clean the rubbish stations, every member makes an effort to keep them clean and, thus, to minimize the associated costs and work. As a result, the community management expenses are kept at a minimum while good, clean conditions are maintained.
- Why is the Japanese name “buntankin”?
This is because “juekisha buntankin” system for allocating levies to beneficiaries set by Article 224 of The Local Autonomy Act (1947) will be adopted to establish the Niseko Hirafu CID/BID system. The important feature of the system is that “the beneficiaries are limited to the levy payers." Therefore, community levies collected in Hirafu must be used only for Hirafu community matters. For example, the levy cannot be used for the cleaning of rubbish boxes at JR Kutchan Station.