Tax option benefiting schools
By Eloise Aguiar
Windward Staff Writer
KAHUKU About 500 college students were at the Kahuku High and Intermediate School campus on Saturday to paint, fix and clean, using a special fund created to give taxpayers a say in how their taxes are spent.
By checking a box on their state income tax return, filers can allocate $2 of their taxes $4 for people filing joint returns directly to school repair projects.
The program, adopted by the 2002 Legislature, has begun approving applications for the first distribution of money, and expects to award the approximately $110,000 collected last year.
Although the amount is small compared with the repair and maintenance backlog, Roy Tsumoto of the Department of Education said he hopes this initial round of projects will encourage taxpayers to check the box this year.
"We were hoping for more, but the needs are so great that whatever we can get, we're appreciative," said Tsumoto, with the Operation and Maintenance Section. "The way we're seeing it is, if we can show good results with the money we have, then others will want to contribute."
The tax donation hardly makes a dent in the $450 million backlog of repairs and maintenance on the books, but getting small projects out of the way helps relieve some frustration in the schools.
The program also encourages schools to turn to the community for volunteers to make best use of the dollars they receive.
Kahuku requested $5,000, the maximum allowed, and used it to buy paint, construction materials and cleaning aids, said Principal Lisa DeLong.
Students from Brigham Young University-Hawai'i demolished a guard shack, painted the gym walls with primer and cleaned out some of the landscape area on campus.
Pierce Construction installed a sidewalk in an area that gets muddy when it rains, so students won't have to walk in the road anymore, DeLong said. She said the volunteers made a difference in the amount of work completed.
"We might have been able to complete one of the big projects (with the $5,000), but this way we get to finish more than 50 projects," she said.
Volunteer work also lets the students know that people care about students and the schools, DeLong said. "An attractive campus sends a message to the students that they are valued and their learning is important."
Volunteers from the single-students' stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volunteered from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. They sign on to community projects each year, and for the past two years, about 700 have worked in Kahana Valley, said Dennis Blackhurst, a church organizer.
"There was a lot of painting and a lot of gum scrapers," he said. "I think we had 50 gum scrapers."
Blackhurst said he was excited about the project and looks forward to coming back next year. "There's a tremendous amount of need out there," he said.
Sen. Bob Hogue, who sits on the education committee, said the program and others such as Hawai'i 3-Rs help whittle away at small repairs and involve the community.
"It's outstanding," said Hogue, R-24th (Kailua, Kane'ohe). "You have people showing they care and are willing to invest in the schools. You also get rid of the nagging repair jobs that are an irritant to people."
As of Friday, 13 projects were approved for between $2,000 to $5,000, Tsumoto said. Schools were asking for paint, wood to build lockers and material for walkways and a sprinkler system.
Hana High and Elementary School requested the maximum $5,000 to buy material for an ongoing project to build a 32-by-40-foot building, he said. The money will go toward the $29,000 needed for materials, and the building is being constructed by volunteers.
Money is still available for a few more projects, Tsumoto said, adding that the schools are excited about the projects that get funded and he hopes people will consider making the allocation on their tax returns this year.
"It costs the taxpayers nothing," he said.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at email@example.com. or 234-5266.