The Payson Unified School District got a Christmas present from the community in the form of an 8.5-percent increase in Credit for Kids donations for the 2003 tax year.
A total of $190,142.72 was received, an increase of $14,930.37 over the 2002 total of $175,212.35.
The 2003 total was the second highest since the program was initiated in 1997, falling just $2,000 short of the all-time high of $192,000 raised in 2001.
"I think we did awesome," Payson High School Principal Sue Myers said. "It's so neat to be able to tell them where to spend your money."
Myers -- who chaired this year's program --as referring to the fact that Credit for Kids donors can specify where they want their contribution to be spent. Donations can be earmarked for a specific school, the PHS stadium, or, in the case of PHS, a specific club, sport or activity.
"That's one thing I especially like about it -- that it's my one chance to tell the legislators what they're going to do with my money," Myers said.
The stadium fund received the most money in 2003. The $57,567 donated for improvements to the stadium was a 42.5 percent increase over 2002.
Schools reporting increases included PHS, which raised $37,689, an 18.5-percent increase over 2002; Payson Center for Success High School, which raised $17,848, a 6.8-percent increase; and Julia Randall Elementary School, which raised $20,951, an increase of 13.5 percent.
Schools that raised less money than 2002 were Payson Elementary School, down 4.8 percent; Frontier Elementary School, down nearly 40 percent; and Rim Country Middle School, which registered an 18.5-percent decrease.
Credit for Kids money funds a host of programs and activities throughout the district that wouldn't otherwise be possible.
"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," Myers said.
The entire elementary school strings program, for example, is funded by Credit for Kids money. The elementary schools also use Credit for Kids money to offer after-school fine arts programs that include classes in subjects like photography, drawing, computers and drama.
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 help fund field trips to places like the Mayo Clinic, 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, chorus, Future Business Leaders, and Students Against Destructive Decisions. A complete breakdown of money donated to each program and activity will be printed once it's available.
The football stadium is being used to accomplish much-needed renovations that the whole community will enjoy. A major priority is to install new bleachers on the home side of the field.
"We don't have enough seats at the football field, and hopefully we can add more so people can come to our football games," PHS assistant principal and athletic director Dave Bradley said. "We use football gate receipts to pay for a lot of our athletics the rest of the year, so it's real important."
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.
Myers praised Susan Campbell, PUSD curriculum secretary; Pioneer Title; Stockmen's Bank; and the Payson Roundup for their efforts in support of the campaign.