State improves at tax collection
The state collected $202.9 million in back taxes during the fiscal year ending June 30, an 11.4 percent increase over the $182.2 million collected during fiscal 2006, the state Department of Taxation said.
Tax Director Kurt Kawafuchi attributed the increase, in part, to a new $52 million computer system that was fully operational for a second straight year in 2007.
Kawafuchi also cited a rise in the number of audits of state tax returns conducted during fiscal 2007 and an increase in the number of taxpayers initiating back tax payment plans.
"We're trying to be a lot more vigilant," Kawafuchi said. "It's also a fairness issue."
The increase in delinquent tax collections came despite a $24.1 million jump in the delinquent tax balance to $343.8 million.
Fiscal 2007 saw the Tax Department generating $20.4 million in tax assessments arising from audits of unlicensed contractors working on federal installations.
Taxes are considered delinquent once they are more than 30 days past due, while the Tax Department has three years to audit a return. There is no time limit on how long the department has to collect back taxes.
Big Island schools get funds
The state has released $3 million for a gymnasium at Pahoa High and Intermediate School on the Big Island.
Construction is slated to begin in April with the release of the last increment of funding for the $10.4 million project. The building is expected to be completed in July 2009.
The East Hawaii school has shared a gym with Hawaii County programs, which led to frequent scheduling conflicts for athletic events and physical education classes.
The state also released $30,000 for a chain link security fence at DeSilva Elementary School in Hilo. It will be completed in June.
Hanauma lectures scheduled
Hanauma Bay's continuing Thursday night education program features deep-ocean explorations by the University of Hawaii's Undersea Research Laboratory.
» Thursday: "Images from the Deep Sea Around Hawaii: Cross Seamount to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands," by Rachel Orange
» Jan. 17: "Exploration of Deep-water Macroalgal Meadows in the Main Hawaiian Islands," by Heather Spalding
» Jan. 24th: "Exploration of Deep Seamounts and a Ridge in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument," by Christopher Kelley
The free programs, put on by the UH Sea Grant program, are 6:30-7:30 p.m., with free parking after 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 397-5840 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Middle school seeks mentors
A nonprofit group is looking for 45 adults to mentor students at Pearl Highlands Middle School through Sept. 13.
The Breakthroughs volunteer program, which begins Jan. 14, requires mentors to meet one on one with students two hours per week, three times a month. Mentors also will have one monthly meeting as a group.
For more information, contact Breakthroughs at 247-4375.
Police, Fire, Courts
Family's dog dies in carport fire
A family dog died after the carport of a Waipahu home caught fire early yesterday.
A 44-year-old woman woke up for work at about 3:30 a.m., police said, and found the carport connected to her house at 94-278 Loaa Street on fire. She woke up her husband and three children, and they escaped safely. The family dog was found later and died from smoke inhalation, said Fire Capt. Robert Main.
Fire investigators are determining damage estimates and the cause of the fire, which started in a storage area near the ceiling of a workshop in the carport, Main said.
2 men arrested after argument
Police arrested two men who allegedly dragged another man as their car sped away from the victim's Whitmore Village home Sunday.
Police said that at about 6:20 p.m. the suspects went to the home to talk to the father of the girlfriend of one of the men about a child custody issue. The three men argued, and the father, 40, allegedly punched his daughter's boyfriend through the passenger-side window. The boyfriend allegedly grabbed the man's arm and held onto it while the driver, 18, sped away.
The father freed himself after being dragged for 40 feet, police said. He had injuries to his head, shoulder and foot and was admitted to a hospital, police said.
The two suspects were arrested for investigation of first-degree reckless endangerment.
Condo fire does $6,000 in damage
KIHEI » Maui firefighters contained a blaze in the kitchen of a second-floor unit at Waiohuli Beach Hale in Kihei that caused an estimated $6,000 in damage to the structure and contents.
The woman who lived there was not home at the time of the fire yesterday afternoon.
The woman later sought help from the American Red Cross in finding a place to stay for a few nights, a fire official said.
Fire officials said the cause was accidental.