Tucson Unified School District is increasing property taxes on its residents, money that will be used to fund transportation and infrastructure-related improvements at several schools.
TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said the improvements are necessary to ensure student safety, and efficiency at access points to schools.
The TUSD Governing Board voted unanimously Tuesday to increase primary property taxes on district homeowners by about 75 cents per $100,000 of assessed value, which is expected to draw in an additional $250,000.
That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the potential tax increase TUSD homeowners could see under a change to state law that puts the burden of paying $16 million to $18 million of desegregation funding costs on local homeowners. While the legality of that change is still in question, the desegregation cost shift, if upheld, would increase property taxes for district homeowners $126 per $100,000 of assessed value, according to county estimates.
But Trujillo noted that any tax increase, regardless of how small, is an emotional issue — and said the district wants to ensure its officials are transparent about how the money will be used.
TUSD outlined seven projects it wants to complete with the funds, starting with redesigning North Mountain Avenue just south of East Sixth Street, where the slim road, just wider than an alleyway, carries two-way traffic and splits Mansfeld Middle Magnet School from its parking lot.
“You have hundreds of students crossing that thin roadway, not looking both ways, looking at their cellphones, listening to their iPods, not paying attention. It’s definitely a safety concern of mine and an accident waiting to happen,” Trujillo said.
Other projects include redesigning the parent pickup to ease congestion at Alice Vail Middle School, where parents are invading neighborhood driveways, causing bad relations between TUSD and the neighborhood.
The district is also aiming to re-stripe the entrance to Cholla High School parking lot, add speed bumps at Lineweaver Elementary School, add parking spaces at Davidson Elementary community garden and redesign the parking lot at Blenman Elementary to ensure buses can enter safely.
State law allows the school district to levy a “special assessment for adjacent ways,” without a vote of the public, on property in its boundaries to pay for constructing, maintaining or improving any public way adjacent to land owned by the district, or for construction of sidewalks, sewers, utility lines, roadways and other related improvements in or near school property.
“Adjacent ways can do anything from restriping of crosswalks to reconfiguration of parking lots, or the installation of speed (bumps),” Trujillo said.