By Corinne Murdock |
Most school districts have decided to saddle their local communities with a near-$100 million property tax increase, which will hit this month. In 2020, the Transpo Delta tax totaled just over $79 million; this year, it will be $178 million.
The law allows districts to raise local property taxes, called a “Transpo Delta” tax, to make up the difference between their current transportation funding determined by the Transportation Support Level (TSL) formula and the highest amount of transportation funding they’ve received historically, or the Transportation Revenue Control Limit (TRCL). Transportation funding is based on the amount of route-miles driven. Essentially, the Transpo Delta tax is TRCL minus TSL.
As Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) researcher Sean McCarthy explained, this latest Transpo Delta tax won’t hit communities equally.
“Some districts have almost no Transpo Delta tax because their route-mile driven formula in TSL is close to their TRCL,” assessed McCarthy. “Some have massive amounts, meaning they essentially get more funding than others in relative terms. Districts with lower property value incur abusive tax rates to pay for the Transpo Delta in some cases.”
School districts didn’t have to impose this burden on taxpayers. Districts had the option of tapping into $3.7 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
“The one-time decrease in formula monies for transportation is a perfect example of what federal dollars should backfill. It’s not as though this $3.7 billion can be used for permanent pay raises for employees – it’s one-time money,” stated McCarthy. “For most districts, their one-time decrease in formula transportation funding represents a tiny fraction of the federal monies they received.”
According to ATRA, Tucson Unified School District increased taxes by $10.4 million, yet received just under $270 million in federal relief; Alhambra Elementary School District increased taxes by over $1 million, yet received over $93 million in federal relief; and Paradise Valley Unified School District increased taxes by over $4 million and received $64.5 million in federal relief.
Those districts who chose not to increase taxes are Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District, Alpine Elementary School District, Palominas Elementary School District, and San Fernando Elementary School District.