Q. Can private citizens request that Hawai'i's state auditor take a look at agencies and departments?
A. Yes, state Auditor Marion Higa said that citizens can and do request audits. But she said most of the audits performed by her office — about 60 to 70 percent of them — are generated by the state Legislature.
Higa said it would be unusual for her office to act on just a single request and her office would generally not disclose that an individual had complained about an agency. But she said her office keeps track of requests.
"We may keep them on file," and watch an issue or agency over time, she said. If the office sees a pattern of requests or complaints, the auditors themselves can and do initiate audits, she said.
For example, the state's Child Support Enforcement Agency is an agency facing scrutiny from citizens as well as lawmakers. Higa said her staff kept track of the many complaints it received and could tap that information when reports were prepared.
For people who do have requests or complaints about state agencies, she suggests writing to the office or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I saw in your Sunday paper that my mother might qualify for a new property tax credit. Where can I get the forms?
A. A new tax credit is available to Honolulu property owners with a household income of $50,000 or less. Forms for the tax credit application are available at Honolulu Hale's Room 115, at all satellite city halls or www.honolulupropertytax.com or call 523-4856.
The credit caps the tax bill at up to 4 percent of the income of the owners listed on the property title as long as total income does not exceed $50,000. That means that a woman whose house is worth $500,000 — who is earning $50,000 a year or less — would end up with her property tax bill frozen at $2,000.
Owners must apply for the new tax credit by Monday, Oct. 2. (The usual deadline is Sept. 30, which falls on a Saturday this year.) That is also the deadline to apply for any change in the homeowner exemption that provides a tax break to owner-occupants.
HOW TO REACH BUREAUCRACY BUSTER:
Write: Bureaucracy Buster The Honolulu Advertiser 605 Kapi'olani Blvd. Honolulu, HI 96813
Call: 535-2454, leave a message, name and phone number.