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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Tucson’s largest school district might miss out on $16 million in desegregation funding.

The funding was to come from what one Pima County official called an “illegal tax” on homeowners in the Tucson Unified School District, the Arizona Daily Star reported .

District Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said Pima County might refuse to collect that property tax, which would be debilitating to the district’s efforts to meet the demands of the court in its longstanding desegregation suit.

“Obviously we would be crippled by a $17 or $18 million deficit in our budget,” Trujillo said.

Desegregation funding is designed to support core initiatives for Latino and African-American students, including maintaining and promoting student diversity, improving academic achievement and ensuring equal access to schools, programs and activities.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said he’s attempting to get an opinion on whether the county can legally implement the tax. At issue is the difference between a primary property tax and a secondary property tax.

The state constitution limits primary property taxes that a city, county, school district and others can collect to 1 percent of a property’s full cash value. But secondary taxes — bonds and overrides — are not included in that calculation, the newspaper reported.

Combined with other local taxes, the school district’s desegregation tax totaling $64 million exceeds the 1 percent cap.

But the state budget this year changed all that.

Instead of offering homeowners a credit, lawmakers moved the desegregation tax to a secondary levy, skirting the 1 percent cap on primary taxes and forcing homeowners in the district to make up the $16 million difference, the newspaper reported.

For homeowners in the district, the change means their property taxes will go up by $126 per assessed $100,000 value, according to the county. That’s revised from an earlier estimate by Pima County Superintendent of Schools Dustin Williams, who originally estimated that tax would cost $240 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Republican lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey argued that it was an issue of fairness, saying the old law pushed the cost of the district’s desegregation orders onto taxpayers across the state, leaving them taxed without representation in the district. But local education leaders argued Republican lawmakers have long taken aim at the district’s desegregation levy simply because they have a grudge against the district and Pima County, the newspaper reported.


Information from: Arizona Daily Star,