Tax credits support extracurricular activities at East Valley schools - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Tax credits support extracurricular activities at East Valley schools

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Posted: Saturday, December 28, 2013 7:30 am

With a week left until the end of the year and the 2013 tax season, school districts across the East Valley are accepting tax donations that will benefit their extracurricular activities.

Per Arizona Revised Statute, residents of Arizona are allowed to donate up to $200 for individuals and $400 for couples filing together to individual public schools that can then use it to support its extracurricular activities. Those programs include obvious programs like athletics and marching band, but also encompass smaller activities like school clubs and even field trips for classes.

“It affords our students opportunities we could not afford otherwise,” said Mesa Public Schools Superintendent Michael Cowan.

Cowan used the term “enrichment” to describe what the tax credit provides to the schools, a sentiment Higley Unified School District Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty shares. Those trips to events for the districts’ athletic squads, as well as a sojourn to compete in state and national competitions for bands, provide students learning opportunities they might not have otherwise.

But there are a few under-the-radar expenses like the field trips for classrooms. One Higley class, for example, took a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum to further their musical education, while other classes enrich their science curriculums through visits to the Arizona Science Center and the Arizona Challenger Space Center in Peoria.

“We give them (residents) a great place to put it,” Hegarty said.

It also accounts for a large sizable chunk of money for the districts, as Hegarty said Higley schools received approximately $650,000 last year.

One of the advantages of the tax-credit program Hegarty cited was the ability to focus the funds on one school or even a specific program at that campus. A band parent, for example, can have his or her tax credit go directly to fund the band’s activities, while a football parent can have his or her money go to support the team.

People who don’t know exactly where they want the funds to go can also check with the respective school districts. At Mesa Public Schools, Cowan said anyone who wants to donate but doesn’t know where he or she wants to give to can call the district and seek recommendations, and the district keeps a list of schools and programs that could use additional funding.

One recommendation offered by Gilbert Public Schools was to contribute to the Gilbert Education Foundation, which provides scholarships, STEM — science, technology, education and mathematics — education, classroom grants and professional development to district students and staff.

Although schools accept the donations throughout the year, the ability to claim it on the 2013 tax return ends at the conclusion of this year. More information about the tax credit program is available by visiting the Arizona Department of Revenue website, http://evtnow.com/632.

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