Tax Dollars Can Save After-School Activities

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Thanks to Credit for Kids, Payson Elementary School students were able to take field trips to places like the Challenger Space Center and the Desert Botanical Garden.

With her share of Credit for Kids money, Julia Randall Elementary School Principal Ardyth Potter was able to buy music supplies, including microphones and music stands. In fact the Credit for Kids program funds the entire elementary school strings program.

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Students volunteered to stuff envelopes for the big Credit for Kids mailing sent out to Rim country residents last week. They included (l-r) Payson Center for Success students Tabitha Curtis, Michelle Slayman, Jacque McAtee and Hartley Johnson, and members of Rim Country Middle School Builders Club Courtney Kepp, Faith Thompson, Sarah Eccles and Samantha Koch.

At Frontier Elementary School, Credit for Kids donations support a diverse after-school fine arts program that allows students to take classes in subjects like photography and watercolor.

Students at Rim Country Middle School benefit from before- and after-school tutoring, and Credit for Kids money also supports the Outdoor Adventure Club and the music program.

For Payson Center for Success students, Credit for Kids donations meant a science exploration field trip down the Colorado River and a field trip to Kartchner Caverns and the Biosphere.

A wide variety of Payson High School groups received a share of Credit for Kids money -- including the band, theater department and Students Against Destructive Decisions, and the football stadium is undergoing renovations.

It's hard to imagine how the Payson Unified School District would look without the enrichment and extracurricular offerings made possible by the tax-deductible donations of Rim country residents.

"When you see all the extra programs the students still get that we've had to cut because of budget constraints, it is really wonderful," PHS Principal and Credit for Kids 2003 Chairperson Sue Myers said.

The state legislature passed the law enacting the Credit for Kids program in 1997. It directs a portion of your tax money to the school district of your choice rather than to the Arizona Department of Revenue.

"One thing I like about it is that it's my one chance to tell the legislators what they're going to do with my money," Myers said.

Participants do not have to have children in the district, and do not even have to live in the district. Donations must be made by Dec. 31, 2003 in order to be eligible for the tax credit this year.

Money raised through the Credit for Kids program must be used exclusively for extracurricular activities, but academic benefits also accrue.

"It is extracurricular, but Credit for Kids money is also used for academic enrichment and remediation after school," PUSD curriculum secretary Susan Campbell said.

Last year's drive netted $175,000 for Payson schools, down slightly from the $189,000 donated in 2001. In the program's six years of existence, the amount donated to PUSD had increased every year until last year.

Still, the total contributed in 2002, which works out to $62.50 per student, is more than most school districts in Arizona raise. Campbell attributes the support to several factors.

"Our community is very generous, and more and more people realize what a good deal this is," she said. "It's also very easy to participate. It's easy on the front end to give it and it's easy at the back end to get the tax credit."

The dollar-for-dollar tax credit allows a $200 credit for individual taxpayers and a $250 credit for married taxpayers filing jointly.

"But any amount is welcome, even $25, and they still get the tax credit," Campbell said.

Participants can designate which school they want their donation to go to, and, at PHS, which organization, sport or activity. Donations also can be earmarked specifically for the stadium project, a high priority, according to Campbell.

So far Credit for Kids funds have been used to build an all-weather track and for other stadium improvements. Funds from this year's donations will be used to add bleachers to the north side of the field.

"The bleachers will bring a lot to the entire community," Myers said. "There's a group that would bring a track meet here in the summer and 2,000 people would come. That would be good for the local economy.

"Besides the football games, there's high school graduation, and all the schools -- elementaries included -- use the stadium for one thing or another."

Rim country residents received a mailing last week with detailed information about the Credit for Kids program and how to participate. The mailing, sponsored by Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty, Pioneer Title and The Stockmen's Bank, included a convenient participation form and return envelope.

More information also can be obtained by calling the school district office at (928) 474-2070.

As usual, the state legislature is expected to take a careful look at the Credit for Kids program as one source of budget cuts to help make up for Arizona's ongoing budget deficit.

"The state would save about $34 million if they got rid of this tax credit," Campbell said. "That sounds like a lot, but it really isn't in the big scheme and it does so much good.

Pine-Strawberry School District also participates in the Credit for Kids program. Last year, the district raised $50,833, Superintendent Kathe Ketchem said.

A mailer similar to PUSD's has already been sent to Pine-Strawberry residents. For more information on that program, call (928) 476-3283.

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 Dec. 31 deadline is the same for donations to the Payson Community Christian School, a 16-year-old K-12 school.

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.

Donations cards may be picked up at PCCS, 500 S. Mud Springs Road, or phone (928) 474-8050 to receive one by mail.

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