The MUSD Governing Board discusses desegregation funds. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

School district leaders could join a lawsuit against the state Legislature.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board discussed the possibility during a meeting Aug. 22.

The issue revolves around desegregation funding changes initiated by the state without including a vote by the people.

It resulted in increased secondary property taxes for Maricopa homeowners. Read more about that here.

MUSD, the City of Maricopa and Pinal County published a joint press release alleging the unconstitutionality of the new law.

Future action against the Legislature would likely happen in partnership with another school district.

Tucson Unified School District also receives desegregation funding. It voted unanimously last week to authorize a lawsuit.

Should the suit be filed, both plaintiff districts would face declaratory judgment action litigation, according to MUSD Board Attorney Denise Lowell-Britt.

That means a judge would determine whether the secondary property tax increase is – or is not – legal.

Board Member Torri Anderson said she’d support MUSD joining suit if Tucson files.

“On the constitutional side, me as a taxpayer, I want to pursue that,” Anderson said.

The impact to local homeowners is central to the controversy.

The desegregation tax alone would cost approximately $45 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

However, Lowell-Britt said the overall estimated difference in the secondary property tax from last year to this year is projected to be only $0.12 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

City Manager Rick Horst, who attended the school board meeting Wednesday, said this is due to market behavior that mitigate the deseg tax.

Anderson argued the lowered projected cost figure on tax bills doesn’t lessen her belief that the law was enacted illegally.

MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the $1.29 million in desegregation funds the district receives “ensures we meet the needs of our beautiful and diverse student population.”

The district has received deseg funds since 1994 after a complaint the year prior alleging access and equality issues for limited English proficient students.

That money pays 25 teacher salaries and other programs for English Language Learners.

 

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