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12:19 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Local school districts use tax credit donations to enhance education

PRESCOTT - While the state says school officials can use school tax credit money for extra-curricular activities, Susan Clark, principal at Del Rio Elementary School in Chino Valley, said tax credit money is "really integral-curricular."

Clark said teachers use the money for field trips to places students are studying. This, she said, "makes things come to life; it makes learning really happen."

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the actual taxes owed to the state. Individuals can donate $200 and couples filing jointly can donate $400.

The deadline for making a donation is Dec. 31 of each calendar year.

The most visible use of tax credits is athletics, but school districts use it for a variety of activities.

Prescott Unified School District received $800,000 in tax credit money in 2007.

Lincoln Elementary Principal Bucky Bates said teachers used tax credit money for field trips to Tuzigoot, Montezuma's Castle, Montezuma's Well, the Grand Canyon and the state capital.

At Miller Valley Elementary School, Principal Jeff Lane said school tax credit money pays for the Gold Mine After-School Activities program, as well as other clubs and the Schoolyard Habitat program.

"We are very appreciative of this community's generosity with tax credits," PUSD Superintendent Kevin Kapp said. "Tax credit is used exclusively for students. There is no administrative money, although it takes hundreds of hours to process."

Humboldt Unified School District received $139,452 in tax credit donations in 2007.

"We receive a lot of money from elderly people with grandchildren in the district," Administrative Secretary Sally Rackley said. "They seem to understand the tax credit implications."

To make it easy for their employees, HUSD, like other school districts, offers tax credit payroll deductions.

HUSD Public Relations Director Mariela Bean said before a club or activity qualifies for tax credit money, the sponsors must get approval from the school site councils. If approved, the site council recommends it to the district governing board for final approval.

The Chino Valley Unified School District received $139,344 from tax credit donations in 2007.

School officials said field trips, after-school clubs and music programs lead the non-athletic uses for the money.

At Heritage Middle School, Assistant Principal John Scholl said the district is working with youth football and using tax credit money to renovate a field for community use.

"I think tax credits are one of the things on the legislature's 'hit list,'" CVUSD Coordinator of Student Achievement Cindy Daniels said. "The legislators think the school tax credit is taking money out of the state coffers. However, this is the only thing that taxpayers control how it is used."

CVUSD Superintendent Duane Noggle said that without tax credit money, "schools would be down to just services. We would be able to do just what the state and federal government requires."

"If the tax credit money went away," HUSD Finance Director Cynthia Windham said, "the district would have to look at what it wants to pay out of the Maintenance and Operations budget. The donations are valuable and we appreciate them. Without tax credit money, certain things would go away."

At PUSD, Kapp said that without tax credit money, the regular school budget would have to support all activities.

"Obviously, without tax credit money, students would not experience field trips. The other reality is that after-school clubs would require higher tuition for participation," Kapp said. "Education is more than a classroom."

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com