Pardes head Peter Gordon

Pardes Jewish Day School head Peter Gordon shakes a student’s hand on the first day of class on Aug. 9, 2017. Pardes is one of six Jewish day schools that benefit from JTO’s work.

It was looking like a very good year for the Jewish Tuition Organization of Greater Phoenix and the state’s corporate private school tax credit program.

Sixty-three corporations submitted tax credit applications pledging nearly $2.3 million to JTO this year, a record number of pledges for the organization that provides need-based scholarships to students.

“We were so excited for the schools and for the kids because that all goes to low-income families,” said Linda Zell, JTO executive director.

However, only 43 of those applications were approved by the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) due to the high volume of applications the state received, Zell said. 

The application process for student tuition organizations (STOs) to submit corporate private school tax credit applications to ADOR began at 10 a.m. on July 2.

“We had them all set up and hit send at 10 a.m.,” Zell said.

According to ADOR, the tax credit cap was met by 10:02 a.m. Last year, the cap wasn’t met until December.

Out of the 1,435 applications submitted by Arizona’s more than 80 STOs this year, only 738 were approved before the state’s $89.16 million cap was reached, according to ADOR. 

The corporations whose applications were not accepted “were much more upbeat than we were,” Zell said. “They said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be there for you next year.’ ”

In the end, corporate private school tax credits approved for JTO totaled just more than $1 million.

Those funds will be used toward scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year.

Last year, JTO submitted 40 applications for a total of more than $1.4 million and received approval for 38 applications for $1.35 million.

JTO provides the scholarships to students attending Pardes Jewish Day School, Torah Day School of Phoenix, Phoenix Hebrew Academy, Shearim Torah High School, Desert Jewish Academy and Yeshiva High School of Arizona.

Zell estimates that of the about 700 students enrolled in the six schools, approximately 600 of them receive scholarships. 

“We don’t want [the students] to accept lower scholarships, we don’t want them to not be able to go to the school of their choice,” Zell said.

Still, Zell remains optimistic.

“The hope is that some of the corporations that were not able to get the credit will decide to give us a donation,” she said.

Because the JTO has a 501(c)(3) status, corporations that donate to the JTO will still receive charitable tax benefits, Zell said.

The combination of corporate tax credits and donations helped JTO schools receive $3.4 million for the 2017-2018 school year, up from $3.23 million in the 2016-2017 school year, Zell said.

Donations received from individuals for the 2017 tax year totaled more than $2.8 million, according to Zell. That money will fund scholarships for the 2018-2019 school year. 

As for corporate donors, they continue to support JTO’s mission.

“We are grateful that the corporate tax credit program allows us to invest in the Jewish community and further Jewish education in the Valley,” said Sheeri Avrahami, marketing director of London Gold, one of the corporate donors. “If ever a win-win situation existed, this is it.” JN

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