The new year is only a few days away, but there is still time for local residents to make a tax credit donation to their local school or school district.
Tax credit donations ensure taxpayer money goes directly to schools - public, private or charter - rather than into the state coffers.
Single taxpayers can donate up to $200 and married taxpayers can donate up to $400.
Residents can make a tax credit donation any time during the calendar year and deduct that amount from their state tax liability. For parents whose middle- or high-school children participate in sports, pay-to-play fees qualify as a tax credit donation.
Anyone wanting to make a tax credit donation before the Dec. 30 deadline should visit the school or school district website.
To make a donation to a CVUSD school, visit www.cvsd.k12.az.us.
The continued economic downturn has taken its toll on tax credit donations at Chino Valley Unified School District and Prescott Unified School District.
A decrease in tax credit donations combined with a reduced marketing campaign has resulted in fewer tax credit dollars.
The financial directors at CVUSD and PUSD are reporting an approximate 60 percent decrease in tax credit donations for the 2010 tax year.
Taxpayers making a tax credit donation to middle schools or high schools typically designate a specific sport, club or activity they want to benefit from their donation.
On the elementary level, most donations are made to a general account for the specific schools. Principals then have the leeway to use the money that most benefits students.
CVUSD Finance Director Valerie Walters reported the district received $126,788 in tax credit donations, including pay-to-play, in 2009.
Del Rio and Territorial elementary schools received a total of $40,630. Heritage Middle School collected $32,995 and Chino Valley High School collected $51,447.
Walters recently checked the tax credit donation for the 2010 tax year and realized how much the donations had decreased.
Del Rios donations decreased from $30,250 in 2009 to $1,184 for 2010 (to date); Territorial went from $10,380 to $1,917; Heritage from $32,995 to $5,753; and CVHS from $51,447 to $12,560.
"At this point, it looks like the only people paying are those paying pay-to-play," the finance director said.
Walter noted that districts cannot accept tax credits for pre-schools. She explained that each donation is deposited into an extracurricular account and must be used according to the donors' wishes.
"The only way tax credit donations in the general account can be used is with site council approval," she said.
Prescott's five elementary schools received a total of $282,089 in 2009. To date, the elementary schools have received $53,787 for tax year 2010.
Raskin noted that fees for all-day kindergarten qualify for tax credit, but the money is not included in the 2010 donations.
During 2009, Taylor Hicks Elementary School received $71,308 from tax credit donations. This was a 67 percent increase from the previous year's donation of $42,458.
As of Nov. 30, Taylor Hicks has received $7,025 in tax credit donations - a substantial decrease from previous years.
Principal Brian Moore said donations for 2009 increased because "we did a large push. In late October, early November, we sent a mailer to everyone who had donated during the past six years. The mailer included a form and a pre-paid return envelope. This year, I got hurt, and that was it."
Moore severely injured his knee in a motorcycle accident Oct. 25. The injury required emergency surgery, and Moore was out of the office for weeks while he recovered.
Moore sent out his tax credit mailers this past week. Although time is short, Moore hopes tax credit donations reach $40,000.
"That may be realistic. We'll have to wait for the final number," he said.
The Taylor Hicks principal said the school is lucky because "we still don't have to charge for field trips." Despite the decrease in tax credit donations, Moore thinks the district, and Taylor Hicks is particular, is fortunate to receive tax credit donations.
"We will make do with what we get, and we are appreciative of what people give. I am not going to complain no matter what we get," Moore said.
However, as donations decrease, principals throughout the school districts know students will have fewer extracurricular opportunities.
PUSD Chief Financial Officer Renee Raskin explained that pay-to-play qualifies for tax credit "because it is an extra that charges a fee."
PUSD received a total of $833,283 in tax credit donations for the 2009 tax year. Prescott High School collected $414,575, almost half of the district total. Prescott Mile High Middle School received $60,859 and Granite Mountain Middle School received $41,966.