Rim country residents have until the end of the year to divert a portion of their Arizona state income taxes to support local schools through the Credit for Kids program.
The dollar-for-dollar tax credit allows a $200 tax credit for individual taxpayers and a $250 credit for married taxpayers filing jointly. The money diverted to local school districts must be used for extracurricular activities.
Through a similar program, taxpayers can take a tax credit of up to $625 for donations to private schools. The public school tax credit may be taken in addition to the private school credit.
"The contributions given by our citizens pay themselves back many times over in programs for kids that they would not otherwise have," Payson Unified School District Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said. "The money is used for academic programs like extracurricular reading, for orchestra and other music programs, for middle school cross country, just to mention a few."
Donations to PUSD from Payson-area residents totaled $142,212 last year. While this total is more than most districts receive, it was slightly less than the $145,117 donated in 1999.
"The big push this year," Weissenfels said, "is to complete the (all-weather) track at Payson High School. If the program continues, we'll be looking at the stadium lighting and new home-side bleachers."
That's a big if, because the state legislature is taking a close look at the Credit for Kids program as a possible way to minimize projected budget shortfalls.
"It's always something they take a look at," Weissenfels said, "but this year they are really taking a hard look." Any reductions or other restrictions imposed by the legislature would take effect next year.
In a special mailing recently sent to all area taxpayers, the district emphasizes that the stadium project is a priority this year, but that donations can be earmarked for specific schools and programs as well.
"This is a great way for parents, grandparents and others to support those extracurricular activities that enrich our kids," Weissenfels said. "It's a real opportunity to help out those special areas of student interest. It's also money they can directly put their fingers on and know how it's spent, as opposed to just sending their money down to Phoenix."
The state legislature passed the law enacting the "Credit for Kids" program back in 1997. It basically directs a portion of your tax money to the school district of your choice rather than to the Arizona Department of Revenue.
Participants do not have to have children in the district, and do not even have to live in the district. A brochure included in the mailing indicates what programs each school in the PUSD hopes to fund with the donations it receives, and a contribution form allows donors to specify how much money goes to which schools.
Donations must be made by Dec. 31, 2001 in order to be eligible for the tax credit this year. Complete instructions for participating are included in the mailing, or call the school district office at 474-2070 for more information.
Deadline same for Christian schools
The Dec. 31 deadline is the same for donations to the Payson Community Christian School, an 11-year-old K-8 school which offers classes in the upper story of First Assembly of God Church.
According to Principal/Administrator Teresa Purtee, the school offers a well-rounded, Christian-centered education, including music, art and programs that nurture the leadership abilities of its students.
At least 90 percent of the donated funds received will be used for tuition grants and scholarships for students attending the school. Donors who want to recommend their contribution go to a particular student may do so, although state law prohibits designating your own dependent as a potential recipient.
Under the Arizona Private School Tuition Tax Credit Law single taxpayers or married taxpayers filing jointly can make a donation each year up to a maximum of $625 and receive a matching tax credit against the taxpayer's Arizona State income tax. Donations to PCCS are administered by the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, Inc., a tax exempt organization created for the sole purpose of implementing the program.
"There are a lot of Christians out there who want a Christian education for their children, but can't afford it," Purtee said. Donations cards may be picked up at PCCS, 1102 W. Lake Drive in the First Assembly of God Church, or phone 474-8050 to receive one by mail.