Schools Not Yet Getting Much 'Credit'

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Longhorn fans stand up.
They stand up at Longhorn football games when Payson High School's small section of home-team bleachers fill up -- something that happens fast and often. The district doesn't have enough money to buy more bleachers.

Fans of the theater may have to stand up in the school's new mini-theater to watch drama students perform. School officials don't have enough money to install permanent seating.

Longhorn fans are loyal.
They stand when they have to, but this year, they can tell the Arizona Department of Revenue to buy them a seat.

The state Legislature passed a bill last year called Credit for Kids that allows residents to pay up to $200 of their state tax liability to local school districts instead of to the Department of Revenue. The schools can use the money for extracurricular activities.

Payson school officials want to buy new bleachers for Longhorn field, seating and other amenities for the high school mini-theater, instruments for the high school marching band and an all-weather track for district athletes.

"The bleachers are the same ones I sat on when I was 7," Bobette Sylvester, business manager for Payson schools and a Longhorn alumni, said. "They're in good condition, they're just not nearly large enough. They weren't big enough 20 years ago and they're certainly not big enough now."

Each project, including the bleacher expansion, will cost about $100,000, Sylvester said. "Our goal is to get 2,000 donors and raise $400,000."

In Pine, school officials want to raise $40,000 to build a regulation-size baseball field.

Both districts, however, are well short of their goals. More than 170 people have shifted a portion of their tax liability to the Payson School District, adding roughly $34,600 to the district's extracurricular-activity budget. In Pine, 38 people have shifted money to Pine-Strawberry Elementary School, adding more than $7,000 to that district's extracurricular-activity budget.

The money is credited dollar for dollar so taxpayers don't pay anything extra, Sylvester said, but time is running out. The deadline to contribute for this tax year is Dec. 31.

"I think there's a strong chance that the Legislature will repeal the bill next year," Sylvester said. "This may be our only chance to collect this money."

To qualify for the Credit for Kids tax program, residents must make their payment, which can be as much as $200, to the school district of their choice by Dec. 31. Donors will be issued receipts, which must be filed along with their taxes.

"We're hoping for a rally," Sylvester said. "Many people do their tax planning at this time of year, and we're hoping for a flood of donations. If that doesn't happen, it will greatly reduce our chance of meeting any of our goals."

Credit for Kids Q&A
Q: Do I have to have children enrolled in school?

A: No. Any individual can pay up to $200 for extracurricular activities.

Q: Do I have to live within the district?

A: No. Any individual who pays Arizona state taxes can participate.

Q: Do I have to donate $200?
A: No. School districts can accept any amount up to $200.

Q: What if I don't owe any taxes when I file my 140 form?

A: If you paid at least $200 in taxes during the course of the year, then you get a refund for the amount of your credit.

Q: Does this cost me anything?
A: No. You are simply choosing who you want to spend your taxes the Department of Revenue or a local school district.

Q: Why the Dec. 31 deadline?
A: School officials are worried the Legislature will eliminate the program next year.

For more information, call Sylvester at the Payson School District, 474-2070, or Mary Jo Licavoli at Pine-Elementary School, 476-3283.

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