The tune ups are over and the crucial games and matches are just around the corner for the Longhorn basketball and wrestling teams.
Of course, those future Class 3A East region battles ultimately lead to the real goal of most any high school athlete -- a berth in the state tournament.
The 3A state wrestling tournament will be held Feb. 10 and 11, and the basketball showdown begins Feb. 14. The wrestling tournament and the final four in basketball will be held in Glendale Arena.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association's decision two years ago to move the hoop finals from a facility built for basketball, the Phoenix Suns' America West Arena, to a building built for ice hockey still strikes some as odd.
Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is among those who wonder about having the state finals in the home of the Phoenix Coyotes professional hockey team.
After Stonebrink's team made an appearance in the state volleyball tournament last fall, the coach returned to Payson saying he thought the cold floor conditions in the arena might have adversely affected his team's performance.
"I know I was cold," he said.
Credit For Kids deadline Dec. 31
In mid-November, students from around the Payson Unified School District volunteered to prepare Credit For Kids pamphlets for mailings to local taxpayers.
The pamphlets, which all taxpayers should have received, provide a background on the Credit For Kids tax program, respond to frequently asked questions, and detail the accomplishments the district has been able to achieve with the funding.
PUSD Superintendent Sue Myers is among those in the district who understands the value of the tax program.
"It's huge. There are so many things we can do with the money that we otherwise wouldn't have been able to," she said.
Myers hopes that even more taxpayers will participate in the program.
"It is the one place in our taxes where we can see where our money is being spent," she said.
Estimates are that only 10 to 12 percent of taxpayers in and around Payson contribute to Credit For Kids.
The tax program was passed into law in 1997 by the Arizona State Legislature. It allows households to deduct, as a tax credit, fees paid to schools for extracurricular activities.
Because the donations are a dollar-for-dollar credit, there is no cost to the taxpayer.
Individual taxpayers may contribute up to $200; joint taxpayers up to $300.
When using the donations, school officials must designate that they fund extracurricular activities.
Last year, the $205,050.41 taxpayers donated to the Payson district was an all-time high. In 2003, the district received $189,377.55.
In past years, the Payson Center for Success used the money for career exploration, cultural awareness projects and the development of a yearbook. At Rim Country Middle School, money has been used by the musical theater, Outdoor Adventure Club and for a Science Olympiad.
Frontier Elementary has purchased musical instruments with the money and funded the Wolf Impressions after-school program.
At Payson Elementary School, the donations have been used for field trips, academic enrichment programs and the orchestra.
Julia Randall School officials have paid for field trips, special assemblies, band, orchestra and after-school enrichment programs.
Of course, the stadium improvement project has relied on Credit For Kids donations for a new track surface and stands.
With even more donations, an artificial surface field similar to the ones at Rumsey Park could possibly be installed on the football field.
With the deadline for donations tomorrow, checks will be physically accepted at the PUSD office, 514 W. Wade Lane, until 4 p.m. Dec. 30. Donations can also be placed in the drop box at the APS office on West Longhorn Road, or in the APS drop box by town hall.
Donations may also be mailed to the Payson School District office at P.O. Box 919, Payson, AZ 85547 (postmarked) by Saturday, Dec. 31, 2005. For more information, call the district office at (928) 474-2070.
To donate to the Pine/Strawberry School District, mail to P.O. Box 1150, Pine, AZ 85544. Call (928) 476-3283 for more information.
Make checks payable to: Payson Unified School District or Pine/Strawberry School District. A receipt for the donation will be mailed back to the taxpayer, so be sure to include a return address.
Hunter safety class
A hunter safety class will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11 at the Payson Police Department. The cost is $7 per person.
For more information and registration, call Milo at (928) 472-4338 or Jim at (928) 472-8543.