If you could reduce what you owe on your Arizona taxes or increase your Arizona refund, while helping students, wouldn’t you do it?
It’s easy through Arizona’s Tax Credit, which allows taxpayers to donate up to $400 ($200 for individuals) to any high school in Tempe Union in support of extracurricular programs, and receive every penny back in the form of a tax credit.
In the end, the cost is zero and the impact to students is priceless, giving them opportunities to explore interests and connect with their campuses.
Studies show active students earn better grades and are more likely to stay in school. They make friends, discover new talents, and develop life skills by taking part in after-school clubs, activities, arts, and athletics programs. But many of those programs are not fully funded by school districts. They depend on fees from students, booster clubs and fundraising to operate.
The District uses an average of $1,035,000 per fiscal year in tax credit expenditures to operate 323 student clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities at its seven high schools. About 66 percent was spent on student travel including meals, lodging, transportation and entry fees for camps, competitions and events. Trips allow students to see life outside their campus. For some, it may the first time they ever leave the county or the state. They meet new people, learn about new places, experience new cultures and compete at the next level.
At Desert Vista, tax credit donations are vital to many groups, including speech and debate, band, and orchestra, all of which have traveled nationally in the last year.
“Tax credit allows our students to go to new heights in all travel and competition. We are so fortunate to have the support of our community so that we are able to demonstrate excellence through performance,” said Desert Vista Assistant Principal Tomika Banks.
“We literally wouldn't have a marching band without tax credit,” said Corona del Sol High School’s Band Director David Duplessis. “We use it to fund our drill writer, music arranger, and buy our flags and specialty props for the show.”
Corona was also able to buy marching band drum heads and sticks, operate concert lighting, and send students to an improv comedy workshop. Next year, drama teachers hope to raise significant tax credit funds to purchase microphones to make an annual musical possible.
“Marcos de Niza’s performing arts students were able to travel to Seattle last year and this year they are going to San Diego. The Theater Department was able to buy materials to build sets, costumes and pay for the rights to use scripts and music,” said Assistant Principal Sarah Tolar.
Marcos’ Student Council, Key Club and Best Buddies, which recently earned the title of “most outstanding Best Buddies chapter in Arizona,” have all used tax credit money to send students to national leadership conventions across the country.
Mountain Pointe Robotics was created with tax credit money. A majority of the one-year-old program, which has soared from last place in its first competition to earning a state championship this fall, is funded by donations.
“The robotics students learn so many valuable skills from our program such as problem solving, time management, collaboration, teamwork as well as programming, 3D design, electrical and mechanical engineering,” said Melissa Wendell, Mountain Pointe engineering teacher and the sponsor of Pridetronics Robotics Club. “Our students now have the opportunity to explore real-world hands-on challenges and be inspired to pursue STEM careers in their future.
Across TUHSD, taxpayer contributions also pay for supplies like uniforms, costumes and equipment; assistant coaches who work with student-athletes, and to support clubs that focus on everything from service to social justice.
The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) programs at Tempe High and McClintock, which serve students underrepresented in higher education by teaching skills and behaviors for academic success are also eligible for tax credit funds. So is the successful Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates (JAG) programs at Compadre Academy and Tempe High, which help young people achieve success during and after high school, preparing them for jobs and or post-secondary education. Some of the students in AVID and JAG become the first in their families to graduate high school.
Some of the smaller high schools don’t have the support for booster clubs that other campuses experience, so in many cases the tax credit funds are the only money the programs have to send students to invitational competitions in sports like soccer, basketball, cross country and track and field.
“Supporting these programs can make a real difference in students’ success which can lead to a positive impact on the community. On top of that, our state rewards the taxpayers’ generosity by giving back their money dollar for dollar. Everyone benefits.” said Jill Hanks, TUHSD’s Community Relations Executive Director.
To be eligible for a state tax credit in 2016, contributions must be received by April 15, 2017.