Tax credit program will allow Mt. Airy businesses to redirect dollars to public schools
With the help of a state tax credit program, Mt. Airy's civic associations are teaming up to create a fund designed to assist local elementary schools get projects off the ground. The tax program, dubbed Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC), allows business owners to direct their state tax dollars to area schools.
East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN), West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN) and Mt. Airy USA have applied to the Pennsylvania EITC program to fill funding gaps at each of the elementary schools that lie within Mt. Airy's borders: Anna B. Day Elementary School, Emlen Elementary School, C.W. Henry Elementary School, Henry H. Houston Elementary School and Anna Lane Lingelbach Elementary School.
The fund will reactivate the defunct Mt. Airy Schools Committee that existed for twenty-some years until it disbanded about three years ago. The committee brought residents together to meet schools' needs for volunteers or help with activities.
While EMAN, WMAN and Mt. Airy USA have focused more on business development and resident life in recent years, executive director of Mt. Airy USA, Anuj Gupta, noted the area's public schools are just as important.
"Our impact will peak if our schools aren't a viable option," he said.
EITC, a program that has been available through the state since 2001, allows local businesses to contribute to a designated 501c(3) fund and receive a credit to their company's tax bill. The program allows for the money to go to either private and parochial schools or to public schools in their community.
In order for public schools to participate, a local organization must step in to apply and act as an intermediary. That's where the three groups come in.
"This is for our public schools," said Marilyn Cohen, executive director of WMAN. "It will enrich what is already going on and keep this a vibrant and attractive neighborhood," she added.
While the group's application has not been officially approved, they have engaged in preliminary discussions with representatives from the program and are "very optimistic" they will get the OK from Harrisburg, according to Abby Thaker of Mt. Airy USA. They hear final word at the end of April.
How it will work
Applications for interested businesses open up on July 1. There is a limit on the number of businesses that can receive the credit statewide, however, and spots fill up quickly. Last year, 90 percent of businesses that applied on the day the application became available received the credit. Businesses are approved on a first-come, first-serve basis.
All types of businesses are eligible to participate in the program. By making a one-year commitment to the program, businesses can receive a 75 percent credit. The credit is upped to 90 percent by making a two-year commitment. The contributions also qualify to then be applied to federal taxes as a charitable donation.
"If you owe the state business taxes, you have the option for that to go to public schools, rather then having Harrisburg make those decisions," said Gupta.
Funds will be directed to the schools beginning in the fall.
Where the money will go
The group has met with leaders at each of the schools to assess where funds are most needed. At Henry, educators are looking to buy computers that will allow students to use reading and math software the school already has, but is unable to use because they don't own compatible computers.
Emlen would like to expand the performing arts and music programs by purchasing new instruments for students and a recording studio.
At A.B. Day, the school wants to have laptop carts and iPads to allow teachers to utilize supplementary resources available through these platforms while teaching.
Lingelbach is looking to purchase interactive whiteboards to support reading and math lessons.
And Houston is looking to update their library collection to expand its non-fiction and fiction selections and add a multimedia instructional center and an interactive whiteboard to the facility.
"Local businesses have the chance to have a large percent of state tax payments stay in the community," said Elayne Bender, executive director of EMAN. She added the money will go towards shaping the business community's future employees.
Bender noted that "even the best public schools are in need in Philadelphia."