FLORENCE — An Arizona Court of Appeals ruling means Maricopa Unified School District taxpayers will now have to shoulder the costs of desegregation in their district.

A new secondary tax of $0.35 means for every $100,000 of assessed value, a MUSD taxpayer will see another $35 yearly in taxes, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors was told. The board met Monday to approve tax levies and rates for all government entities in Pinal County.

The new desegregation tax was a late revision to the levy and rate sheet, submitted Monday morning. County staff was notified Friday that the appeals court had overruled a lower court decision, “and stated the definition of secondary taxes has been redefined and desegregation should not be included in the calculation for additional state aid,” Pat Beckwith with the Pinal County Treasurer’s Office told the board.

The appeals court ruled that taxpayers are not entitled to state aid for court-ordered desegregation programs, which would have been available if the tax remained as a primary levy. In a unanimous decision last week, the judges said Arizona lawmakers were within their rights three years ago to declare that such expenses were the sole responsibility of district residents.

The judges said lawmakers were entitled to make the policy decision that taxpayers statewide should not have to pay, according to Capitol Media Services. Tucson Unified School District taxpayers and those in a few other school districts are similarly affected. Most districts do not have the desegregation tax.

In better news for all Pinal County taxpayers, the county’s primary property tax levy has increased 3% in the last 11 years, while county population has grown 24%. The Pinal County portion of the tax dollar is approximately 24 cents, compared to 31 cents 11 years ago, Pinal County Budget Director Angie Woods told the board Monday.

Although it has been steadily cut in recent years, Pinal’s primary property tax rate remains the fourth highest in the state. When the county’s secondary rates are added, Pinal has a combined rate of $3.96, which is also the fourth highest in the state, behind Pima ($5.20), Santa Cruz ($4.86) and Gila ($4.43) counties.

Other details Woods provided to the board Monday included:

  • The new Pinal primary tax rate is $3.69 per $100 of assessed value. After steadily trimming this rate four cents per year in recent years, the supervisors opted for a six-cent cut this year. This rate represents 62.7% of the maximum the county could charge, the second-lowest in the state.

Only Greenlee County charges less at 61.6% of its maximum rate. Pima County charges 78.5%, and Maricopa County charges 80.4%. Only Coconino County levies its full maximum rate.

  • Pinal’s primary tax levy per capita is $226, which is somewhat above the state average of $209. However, Pinal’s figure is 17% less than 11 years ago, when it was $272.
  • Eleven years ago, Pinal had the second-highest primary property tax burden as a percentage of personal income in the state at 1.16%. At that time, Pinal also had the lowest income per capita in the state.

Based on calendar year 2019 (the most recent available data), this burden has fallen to 0.71% and the state’s 10th-highest. This was helped by aggregate income increasing by 68%, the primary tax levy increasing by just 3% and population increasing by 24% in the last decade.

When all other taxing districts are included, the total tax rate paid in Pinal County last year was $14.81, the highest in the state and about $2.64 above the state average.


Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at