School Leaders Counting On Credit For Kids To Ease Budget Crunch

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The time couldn't be better for Rim country residents to think about diverting a portion of their Arizona income taxes to the Payson Unified School District through the "Credit for Kids" program.

"With the big potential budget shortfall the district might be facing next year, this is a great way for parents, grandparents and others to support those extracurricular activities that enrich our kids," Payson School Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said. "It's a real opportunity to help out those special areas of student interest."

Through "Credit for Kids," a household can deduct as a tax credit up to $200 for fees paid to schools for extracurricular activities. Last year, Payson schools received $145,117, more money per student than most districts in Arizona.

Some 75 volunteers gathered at the Inn of Payson last week, to stuff envelopes for a special mailing to all Rim country residents explaining how to participate in the program. That mailing should reach recipients by the end of this week.

The state legislature passed the law enacting the "Credit for Kids" program back in 1997. That law allows up to a $200 state tax credit per household, with all funds required to be allocated to extracurricular activities.

Basically the program simply directs a portion of your tax money to the school district of your choice rather than to the Arizona Department of Revenue. Participants don't have to have children in the district, and do not even have to live in the district.

The program doesn't cost participants anything, and any amount up to the full $200 would be welcomed by the district.

"The money will go for such uses as after-school programs in math, reading and music, for special field trips, and to help us complete the all-weather track at the high school," Weissenfels said. Other projects that Weissenfels hopes will be funded include completing the purchase and installation of full-scale bleachers across the south side of the football field/track, other after-school academic enrichment and intramural programs, and vocational education and career exploration activities.

For the first time this year, donors can specifiy which school their money goes to as well as selecting the extracurricular activity they wish to support. A brochure included in the special mailing indicates what programs each school in the Payson district want to fund with the donations it receives, and a contribution form allows donors to specify how much money goes to which schools.

In recommending that residents take advantage of the program, Town of Payson Mayor Ray Schum said, "Here's an opportunity to put your tax money to use right here at home, and what better place than on our children and our schools."

Donations must be made by Dec. 31 in order to be eligible for the tax credit this year. Complete instructions for participating are included in the special mailing, or call the school district office at 474-2070 for more information.

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