by Sue Ann Rybak

If you own a business and owe Pennsylvania state taxes, you may be able to redirect those funds to Mt. Airy public elementary schools.

Mt. Airy USA and East and West Mt. Airy Neighbors are in the process of becoming registered as an Educational Improvement Organization (EIO), a state program that allows businesses to direct their state tax dollars to support local schools.

“Strong public schools are essential to the diversity of the neighborhood,” said Anuj Gupta, executive director of Mt. Airy USA. “The success of public neighborhood schools is an intricate factor to the health of the neighborhood.”

He said that’s why Mt. Airy USA and East and West Mt. Airy Neighbors have partnered to launch “The Mt. Airy Schools Initiative.”

All businesses that owe Pennsylvania Corporate Net Income Tax, Capital Stock Franchise Tax, Bank and Trust Company Shares Tax, Title Insurance Companies Shares Tax, Insurance Premiums Tax, Mutual Thrift Institutions Tax and Personal Income Tax of S Corporation or partners in a general fund or limited partnership are eligible for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program.

Funds raised through the EITC program will be distributed to five Mt. Airy elementary schools: A.B. Day, Emlen, Henry, Houston, and Lingelbach.

Elayne Bender, executive director of East Mt. Airy Neighbors, said EMAN and their partner organizations are committed to maintaining and improving the quality of life in Mt. Airy.

“Good schools attract young families to the neighborhood, which allows our restaurants, retail and other businesses to grow, and attracts new businesses as well,” Bender said.

She added that several local business owners have already expressed support for this initiative.

“Many [local businesses] are strong supporters of public education and understand that good schools draw people to the community, and they’d like to see their tax dollars put to work right here in their neighborhood,” Bender said.

“As a former public school parent whose children received a fine education at local public schools, I take the public education crisis very personally,” Bender added. “These students are all our children, and we have an obligation to provide whatever we can to lift them all. We don’t know if we’ll be approved as an EITC organization, but we know we have to try.”

Abby Thaker, special projects manager at Mt. Airy USA, said while Mt. Airy USA is still in the process of applying for EIT status, they are confident that they will be approved. She said because there are a limited number of tax credits available and they are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, Mt. Airy USA is working now to identify businesses eligible to participate in the program.

“It’s imperative to note that the application must be submitted on July 1, 2013,” Gupta said. “If they submit beyond July 1, the likelihood of getting the tax credit is almost zero.”

Thaker added that in 2012, 90 percent of businesses that applied on the first day were awarded credits.

She said contributions made through the EITC program are credited toward the company’s tax bill. Businesses receive a 90 percent credit of their contribution for a two-year commitment, or a 75 percent credit for a one-year commitment.

Thaker called the program a “win-win” for everyone in the community. She said the participating schools each identified specific projects that “would allow them to enchance instruction and enrich their curriculumn in a variety of ways.”

Mt. Airy USA hopes to have the funds in place to allocate in September. Thaker said the principals and teachers from participating schools “all had great ideas about programs that they would like to offer.”

“So, we’re hoping this credit will allow them to do that,” she said.

Marily Cohen, executive director of West Mt. Airy Neighbors, said the organization was founded to preserve a core set of values – including the importance of remaining a diverse neighborhood and “being mindful of the quality of life for all.”

“As a community, that means we’re committed to good public schools and enriching educational programs that broaden our children’s minds and open their hearts to caring about others,” Cohen said. “As the adults, we have an ideal opportunity – and a responsibility – to direct our state tax dollars to educational improvement organizations like the one we’re establishing here in Mt. Airy so that we truly honor our neighborhood’s values.”

For more information about how to participate in the EITC program call 215-844-6021 or email athaker@mtairyusa.org.