Your taxes and your kids. Prop 204 affects both
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Your kids and your taxes are both touchy topics. One proposition on the ballot in November touches on both.
Prop 204 asks if you're willing to make a temporary one cent sales tax permanent to help schools and kids.
TUSD says without Prop 204 as many as thirty schools, including two high schools could close.
A tough economy led to state budget cuts that made school budgets even tighter.
But your budget's probably tight too. Are you willing to take a one percent tax that was about to go away, and continue to pay it to help pay for schools?
Prop 204's backers say when it comes to school budgets state lawmakers know how to subtract but don't know how to add.
Nogales School Superintendent Jerry Zimmerman says, "I'm very passionate about this because I am an older, first time parent who has a seven and nine year old and I am scared for them."
Advocates say since 2008 Arizona schools endured the deepest cuts in the nation. State budgets are doing better now, but 204's advocates do not trust state lawmakers to give schools a real slice of the budget surplus.
Now they see an opportunity to lock in some money whether lawmakers like it or not.
The temporary one percent sales tax Governor Brewer convinced voters to approve is about to expire.
Prop 204 would keep the one percent in effect but devote it to schools, with a share committed to transit and roads.
Sunnyside School Board member Daniel Hernandez says, "If we don't pass this, we're gonna need to look at evaluating whether we're going to keep all day kindergarten, which would mean the elimination of 50 teacher positions; eliminating things like school nurses, counselors and also librarians at all of our schools."
State Senator Frank Antenori disputes the claim by Prop 204 backers that their budgets will suffer and deep cuts are inevitable if 204 fails. He says the Arizona state budget calls for increased funding for schools even if the one percent sales tax lapses.
State Treasurer Doug Ducey has been leading the fight against Prop 204. He says keeping the tax in effect would give Arizona the second highest sales tax in the U.S.
He says, "Our economy's hurting. Sales tax hurts the middle class, the working poor and the elderly. It's the wrong thing to do.">
But 204's backers says the economy's weak when school systems are weak, because if businesses don't have a educated work force, they go somewhere else.
Unlike the earlier one percent voters approved, prop 204 does not set a date when the tax sunsets and drops away. That's part of the objection critics have.
The Legislature could not influence how the funds are used. To critics that's a problem. To advocates that's the beauty of the plan. They say local school boards would be in control.