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After state action to restructure the property taxes that fund school districts, Flagstaff Unified School District property tax rates for the year have been finalized.

The total rate, which accounts for both the $75 million bond and property tax override approved in November’s election, is $5.1173 per $100 in property value (or $511.73 per $100,000 house), the lowest overall rate since 2013 and just below last year’s $5.1475.

Scott Walmer, FUSD Director of Finance, said the low rate is due to “healthy” property evaluations: as the value of a house increases each year, the tax rate needed to produce the same amount of money for the school district decreases.

He said current property evaluations were a 7.2% increase over last year.

“That is our biggest increase since the recession years. Our rate of growth has increased every year since 2014, which had a decline of 13.7%,” Walmer said.

Primary property taxes ($3.881 this year) fund FUSD’s general operations budget, while the secondary ($1.2363) covers the voter-approved bonds to fund capital projects as well as the override of the existing FUSD property tax used to fund programs, staff and teachers.

“All of the things that we were unable to get through during the recession, those monies are starting to come back so things like new paint and energy efficient fixtures [will be added]. With the override we’ll be able to maintain all the [programs] we’ve had for the last several years,” Walmer said.

Desegregation

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This year, desegregation funds mandated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights have returned to the primary property tax after a year under the secondary tax.

An Arizona tax court judge ruled this summer that the state acted illegally by shifting the desegregation funds to the secondary tax, thus making taxpayers solely responsible for the cost of desegregation.

Desegregation funds began in 1985 and are still used in more than a dozen Arizona school districts where minority students historically had access to fewer services.

The funds are used for English immersion, bilingual and enrichment classrooms, as well as teachers, specialists, coaches and classroom support personnel.

With desegregation back in the primary tax category, residents will be able to apply it toward their state aid calculation, said Coconino County Treasurer Sarah Benatar, who explained the state aid appears like a credit under the FUSD tax on a local tax notice.

For the 2019-20 school year, the state will pay 47.19% of a homeowner’s primary property taxes – up to $600 – on behalf of FUSD. This applies only to a taxpayer’s primary Arizona residence.

Desegregation was the only fund category moved this year, Benatar said, and previously appeared on tax bills as “SD#1 Desegregation.”

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Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at kolson@azdailysun.com or by phone at (928) 556-2253. 

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