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Wed, March 20

Tax credit donations reach all time high in Humboldt District

Tax credit money helps pay for educational field trips such as this Bradshaw Mountain Middle School sixth grade trip to the Grand Canyon in 2005.<br>
Courtesy Photo

Tax credit money helps pay for educational field trips such as this Bradshaw Mountain Middle School sixth grade trip to the Grand Canyon in 2005.<br> Courtesy Photo

The Humboldt Unified School District community surpassed expectations with its 2008 tax credit donations.

Public contributions reached an all-time high of $153,025, topping 2007's $139,452 by more than $13,000.

The second highest year, 2006, was only $613 less than this past year, but donations took a dip in 2007.

Tax credit donations help schools pay for extracurricular activities, such as after-school sports and music programs, and field trips. The money cannot go into classrooms.

"A lot of times people want to donate for something that is not appropriate," said HUSD Financial Director Cynthia Windham.

"For example, people want the tax credit to go to Mrs. Jones' first grade class. That's not an extracurricular activity."

The money could help pay for Mrs. Jones' class field trip perhaps, but it can't go towards class supplies, even though parents want to support their child's classroom, she said.

An after-school music program can benefit from tax credit dollars, but the school's regular music program cannot.

If contributors do not select one of the nine categories for their donation, the money goes into a general tax credit account at each school, and the school's site council oversees expenditures.

"By law, any money that comes in undesignated, goes specifically to the school and into the general (tax credit) account," the financial director said.

The law also states that schools cannot use tax credit for solely recreational events. So a field trip to the swimming pool or Freedom Station would use money from a different source, she added.

The Arizona Department of Revenue describes extracurricular activities as those that require students to pay a fee to participate.

"Generally, any educational or recreational activities that supplement the education program of the school are considered to be extracurricular activities," states information in the ADR tax credit publication. Arizona statutes give governing boards the right to set fees and determine which activities are extracurricular.

Teachers and coaches wanting to spend tax credit money go their principals first. If they are requesting undesignated funds, the request goes to the site council. All requests go through the district office, which reviews them for validity and then issues a purchase order.

The most recent HUSD tax credit brochure lists a possible nine categories to donate into: academic enhancements, extracurricular activities, music, athletics, drama, speech, visual art, student field trips, and no preference. Contributors may also check specific school sites.

The district could tweak the brochure for this year, Windham said, adding or dropping some of the categories.

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