The Jewish Tuition Organization again set a new high in funding, collecting more than $3 million in donations by the April 15 tax deadline, said Linda Zell, the JTO’s executive director.
“We cracked the $3 million mark,” she told Jewish News this week. The $3,072,000 collected this year was roughly $100,000 more than the previous high of $2.9 million set last year. The JTO got that support from 2,464 donors, including 126 first-time donors.
The JTO provides need-based scholarship funds to students in seven Jewish day schools in the Valley – Desert Jewish Academy (formerly East Valley Jewish Day School), Pardes Jewish Day School, Phoenix Hebrew Academy, Shalom Montessori, Shearim Torah High School for Girls, Torah Day School of Phoenix and Yeshiva High School.
“The important thing to know is that we support well over 400 students,” Zell said, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit 500 for the coming school year.”
For comparison, total enrollment in the seven schools as of this week stands at 648 students, so the total number of JTO scholarship recipients is very likely to be more than two-thirds of the total enrollment.
Donations collected in the 2014 tax year will fund scholarships for students in the 2015-2016 academic year.
The deadline for applying for a scholarship from the JTO was April 15, Zell said. “We’re still accepting applications, though. It’ll be ongoing. Anyone who applied as of April 15 and qualifies based on our criteria will most probably receive an award. After that, it will be first-come, first-served” until the available pool of money is depleted.
The amount and number of scholarships to be awarded are yet to be determined. Applications are screened by Tuition Aid Data Service (TADS), an independent group that determines whether applicants qualify for need-based aid.
The JTO is a qualifying school tuition organization (STO) under Arizona’s Private School Tuition Tax Credit, which offers state taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar reduction of state income taxes, up to certain limits, for donations made to an STO. The JTO’s fundraising is thus driven by the state income tax filing deadline, which is the campaign’s deadline to raise money for scholarships to be awarded for the following academic year.
For instance, for the 2014 tax year, a tuition tax credit could be claimed for total of $528 donated to STOs per individually filing taxpayers or up to $1,056 for joint filers. For the current 2015 tax year, those limits have risen to $535 for those filing individually, and to $1,070 for those filing jointly.
In addition, if taxpayers’ donations exceed those limits, taxpayers may file for a second credit. In the 2014 tax year, individual filers could take a credit for an additional $525 donated to an STO, and $1,050 for joint filers. For the 2015 tax year, the limits go up to $532 for individual filers and $1,064 for joint filers.
Besides the individual income tax credits, there is a corporate tax credit. Corporations make a pledge to an STO, and the STO in turn seeks approval of the pledged amount from the Department of Revenue (for details, visit azdor.gov).
New this year, S-corporations will also be eligible to take a credit. This credit allows the S-corp to pass on a prorated share of its donation, which must be at least $5,000 per tax year, to stockholders, who can then take that share as a credit on their individual income tax returns.
“The forms to send in this money will be available from the Department of Revenue mid-June,” Zell said. “That is big because, in the community, there are a lot of S-corporations, and historically, they have not been able to give us their tax dollars, which now they can.”
For more information on the JTO, visit jtophoenix.org.