They provide service to the most vulnerable in the city and county – the homeless, the ill, the elderly, children, the hungry and more.
These nonprofit organizations, say their staff, depend heavily on donations from caring people in the communities they serve, and the need often outweighs the supply of services available.
So, leaders from nearly two dozen nonprofits have banded together to educate residents about that need for donations and that those donations can have a benefit in the form of a tax credit when it comes time to filing taxes for the year.
Called the Flagstaff Tax Credit Coalition, the group’s goal is to “increase awareness of the state tax credits and increase donations to local nonprofit organizations, working to meet the basic needs of low-income households.”
“Bottom line, it’s essential,” said Devonna McLaughlin, executive director of Housing Solutions of Northern Arizona, a participating member of the coalition. “This is the way we can keep helping people.”
The Arizona Charitable Tax Credit, just like the state’s schools tax credit, works like this: Give a dollar to a qualified charitable organization and you get a dollar credit on state taxes – up to $400 for an individual and $800 for couples filing jointly.
And you don’t need to decide to support one or the other, McLaughlin said. Feel free to support both, and the Foster Care Tax Credit, too, and rake in those tax credits in each category up to the amount due to the state at tax time on April 15. Arizona residents are allowed to take advantage of the school tax credit, the foster care tax credit and the charitable tax credit.
The coalition, which is in its fourth year, has increased its donations from approximately $250,000 to nearly $900,000 last year, according to information from the coalition.
“This year, we’re hoping to break $1 million,” McLaughlin said, adding that, in total, there is about $9 million in the community that could be applied toward the charitable tax credit.
Residents can make donations directly to qualified charitable organizations, or they can elect to give through the Flagstaff Tax Credit Coalition’s online donation portal. The portal is operated by the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff, which serves as the coalition’s fiscal agent. Through the coalition’s giving portal, donors can select to split their donation among as many participating nonprofits as they would like to make giving more convenient.
Pat Shriver, regional director of the ACF, stated in a press release, “What we find most common is that tax payers don’t understand they can donate to a school, taking advantage of the public-school tax credit and give to a qualified charity, claiming both tax credits when they file their Arizona state taxes.”
Additionally, donors can also receive added tax credits by giving to organizations that offer foster care in their communities – like Catholic Charities in northern Arizona. Donors to qualified foster care organizations can receive tax credits up to $500 for an individual and $1,000 for couples filing jointly.
Janet Regner, director of Coconino County Community Services, said the tax credits started in 1996 as part of a welfare reform effort made by the Legislature.
“The tax credit directly impacts the people we serve,” Regner said. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Ross Altenbaugh, executive director of Flagstaff Shelter Services, said, “The credit gives people incentive to give. We all benefit. This is one thing Arizona really gets right.”
“These funds leverage other funds and helps keep our doors open for the critical services that are needed in our community,” McLaughlin said.
Dianna Sanchez, executive director of The Literacy Center, said that the coalition serves many of the same people across the spectrum of the social safety net, and by supporting the nonprofits in the coalition, donors are helping the most vulnerable members of the community.
“Flagstaff is a special and caring town and the coalition support is an example of that caring,” Sanchez added.
In a prepared statement, McLaughlin said, “Your donations are needed now more than ever due to changing funding priorities, reducing federal funding support and growing need … Our greatest hope to help more families is that more folks in our community understand how the tax credit works and elect to direct their tax dollars to organizations that make a difference.”
As an example, at the Flagstaff Family Food Center, about 63 percent of their donations qualify for the tax credit.
Regner said that Coconino County has the fourth-highest poverty rate in the state.
“And it’s only going to get worse,” Regner said. “Funding cuts will continue.”
According to the Arizona Department of Revenue, qualified charitable organizations must spend at least 51 percent of their annual budget on meeting the basic needs of low-income households. For more information about qualifying charitable organizations in the state, visit https://www.azdor.gov/TaxCredits/QualifyingCharitableOrganizations.aspx
After months of seeing garbage accumulate on Flagstaff streets and making little progress when asking public agencies to take care of the problem, Hugh Pressman decided to try tackling the issue himself.
On Saturday morning, Pressman and City Councilwoman Celia Barotz gathered a group of nearly 45 people to pick up trash in designated locations around the city.
The city of Flagstaff donated garbage bags and lent neon vests and garbage pickers to the volunteers, who were assigned to areas in the city with the most significant trash problems. The areas included the Rio de Flag, two vacant lots on Route 66 and Fourth Street, along Milton Road and Butler Avenue near the Interstate 40 ramp.
Volunteers were treated to doughnuts before the cleanup and Fratelli Pizza donated lunch for the group after the cleanup.
Rebecca and Nick Maslar brought their daughter, Adalynn, and son, Qunicy, to volunteer at the cleanup to teach them about being responsible community members. Before arriving, Rebecca said she and Nick talked to the kids about helping in their community and keeping the city clean.
“We’ve been in Flagstaff a long time,” Rebecca said. “It’s that season where we want to teach the kids to give back to the community and help keep this place beautiful.”
Gary Schepper brought his grandchildren to come clean up around downtown Flagstaff.
“It’s a chance to do some community service and teach them about giving back to the community,” Schepper said.
Schepper said he and his family often clean up trash along Humphreys Street, near where some of his family members own a business.
Barotz said the cleanup organization took a lot of coordination to get the borrowed supplies and spread the word that people had the opportunity to help pick up trash around the city.
The city has been relying heavily on volunteers to clean up garbage on both private and public property, Barotz said, but the problem has gotten too big to depend on only volunteer labor.
“We are at a point where there is so much trash, it detracts from the city,” Barotz said. “People live here and are getting tired of seeing trash everywhere.”
“It doesn’t matter who is leaving the trash,” she said. “For a town that relies heavily on tourism, we need to make sure it looks nice.”
It is time for the city to dedicate time and money to keeping public spaces along roads and in parks clean, Barotz said. She plans to ask the city council to allocate $30,000 a year to paying employees to clean up litter and address the issues with discarded trash.
The city has a beautification budget, she said, which could be used to beautify the public space by removing unsightly garbage.
“For a city of our size we need a more robust city program to keep up,” she said.