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TUSD closer to decision on property tax & desegregation funding issue

Posted: 10:31 AM, Jul 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-18 16:31:17Z

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo said he expects the district’s governing board to decide before August what to do next as the district finds a way to fully fund its desegregation programs following a state-level change how districts collect money to pay for those programs.

In May, the state legislature passed a series of bills which paved the way for a 9% pay raise for public school teachers and staff along with millions of dollars in assistance for districts.

To free up more money for schools and teachers, lawmakers ended state subsidies for some of the cost of districts' desegregation programs. That figure is roughly $17 million and roughly a quarter of the district’s total desegregation budget, according to Dr. Trujillo.

Homeowners in TUSD’s boundaries may see a sharp increase to their property taxes as the district makes up for the lost funding.

The change has drawn criticism from community leaders. The Tucson City Council passed a resolution stating the city’s opposition to the new law and tax structure. Some say it violates the state constitution.

Pima County Supervisors recently voted to not collect that tax money -- inviting a possible lawsuit from TUSD.

Dr. Trujillo said if the governing board votes to sue the county it may yield a legal decision faster than if the district simply asks the Attorney General for an opinion.

“I think with pending legal action against the county for not levying the tax, that's certainly the avenue that spark a legal result sooner than later,” Trujillo said.

Dr. Trujillo said TUSD has enough money in its desegregation budget to operate as normal until late in 2018.

“If the matter is not resolved as we get closer to Christmas break we're going to have to start having some very structured conversations with desegregation plaintiff parties, the special master to figure out how to go forward,” Trujillo said.