By Raquel Hendrickson
Fans of Maricopa High School athletics contributed nearly $21,000 to the department’s programs last year.
At elementary schools in Maricopa, both district and charter, the big draw for donations is field trip funding.
In contributions and fees for extracurricular activities, Maricopa Unified School District received $58,312. Those donations resulted in tax credits for the donors.
Districts, charters and private schools are all recipients of school tax credit donations. While school officials at most facilities in Maricopa said many people still do not understand the benefits of the program, all are grateful for the donations from those who do.
Across all schools at MUSD, athletics and intramurals were boosted with $25,425. The biggest chunk went to the high school.
“We allow the parents to use the tax credits to pay for the participation fees,” MUSD Athletic Director Mark Cisterna said. “If it’s $75 and the parent wants to pay the participation fee with tax credits, we give them a receipt and they can use it with their taxes the next year.”
At the middle school level, the tax-credit contributions are a rare source of funding for athletics. Cisterna said they used those funds to purchase new uniforms and equipment as well as pay referees.
Desert Wind Middle School received $1,660 in contributions to its athletics in 2014, while Maricopa Wells took in $474.
“That is a big boost, and we really try to encourage parents because it’s a financial burden to play sports. We try to give them as big a break as possible,” Cisterna said.
“We use it to purchase items that are going to help us run the athletic department – uniforms, batting helmets, catcher’s gear, basketballs. Everything’s tight right now. We don’t run a frivolous department, I know that. We just try to make ends meet.”
Tax-credit money is also used to pay some entrance fees to invitational tournaments, Cisterna said.
At Sequoia Pathway Academy, administrative assistant Laurel Gerla said about $14,000 came in from school supporters in 2014. A big part of that was donated for a field trip to Washington, D.C.
Other donations at SPA were marked for assorted field trips, a cooking club and a little for athletics. Gerla said some donors did not specify and let the school use the funds for “areas most needed.” Next school year, the charter school plans a trip to France, so even more tax-credit donations are expected to come through in 2015.
Donations to field trips totaled $10,709 in MUSD schools. Maricopa Elementary raked in the most in donations to field trips with $2,943. Principal Jennifer Robinson said they keep the word out about tax-credit opportunities and give forms to new parents in the school when they register their children, and the forms are left at the front desk.
“The third grade goes to the Science Center, and the first grade goes up the Botanical Gardens,” she said. “We look at field trips as the support and the real-life connection for our students.”
Without the tax credit money, Robinson said the school would look at other resources, “but I don’t think we would be able to fund it. So we’re very grateful to the community and the partners that we have.”
Nicole Mangum, principal at Legacy Traditional School, said there has been increased interest in tax-credit donations for extracurricular activities like athletics, fine arts and music, clubs and field trips. In 2014, the school took in $10,641. Nearly $3,500 went to field trips, and $2,066 went to athletics.
“There definitely has been growth now that they’re seeing where it’s going,” Mangum said. “Our musical gets bigger every year.”
Money has helped support the charter school’s Letters to Soldiers program and the full slate of sports like basketball, flag football, baseball, soccer and cross country.
In 2014, about 20 percent of school families donated to Holsteiner Agricultural School, according to Director Tanya Graysmark. A school with 68 students, it used the extracurricular funds for its afterschool programs.
2014 Tax-Credit Contributions to MUSD
Field Trips: $10,709