Alameda’s Measure H lawsuit. Devil details.

As you have likely heard (Michele Ellson‘s got a link to the lawsuit) attorney David Brillant has filed suit on behalf of George Borikas in Alameda County Court against Measure H, the Alameda school parcel tax which passed in June 2008.

The suit alleges that Measure H violates the portion of California’s Education Code which stipulates that school parcel taxes must be ‘uniform’ and allows for seniors and people with disabilities to be exempted from them. Here’s the California code:

50079. (a) Subject to Section 4 of Article XIIIA of the California Constitution, any school district may impose qualified special taxes within the district pursuant to the procedures established in Article 3.5 (commencing with Section 50075) and any other applicable procedures provided by law.
(b) (1) As used in this section, “qualified special taxes” means special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district, except that “qualified special taxes” may include taxes that provide for an exemption from those taxes for taxpayers 65 years of age or older or for persons receiving Supplemental Security Income for a disability, regardless of age.
(2) “Qualified special taxes” do not include special taxes imposed on a particular class of property or taxpayers.

And here’s the complaint, which talks about the requirement that parcel taxes be ‘uniform’ and, too, raises what seems to be the issue of seniors or people with disabilities having to actively opt out of the tax:

The qualified special tax set forth in the Election Order and in Measure H, as approved by the registered voters of the District, is not consistent with the uniformity requirement as set forth in Government Code Section 50079. Additionally, the special tax set forth in the Election Order and in Measure H contains exemptions from the qualified special tax yet imposes additional requirements for taxpayers to meet the exeptions that are not contained in Government Code Section 50079. For these reasons, the District’s qualified special tax against residential, commercial and industrial property, as set forth in Measure H, are not a valid or lawful lien on the real property of Borikas herinabove described, and any attempt by defendants to collect unpaid assessments from Borikas would be unlawful and improper.

For some background on why districts rely on parcel taxes as a way of funding education, I found this useful and, too, at least one area district, Albany, has a parcel tax (passed in 2005) with a structure similar to Alameda’s: it’s $250 per parcel and $.05 per square foot nonresidential. Other local parcel taxes with variable levels of taxation include Emeryville, Berkeley, and Piedmont. A quick look at some area parcel taxes and how they handle exemptions for seniors/people with disability/low income people, reveals they operate much like Alameda’s. Here’s San Francisco, Oakland, and Emeryville.


  • John

    If understand the differance, the Cap and the minimum assessment on business is what the attorney is picking out of the tax as non-uniform.

    The section I do not understand is if the district has the option to have a senior exemption. “except that “qualified special taxes” may include taxes that provide for an exemption …” the words may include say to me the district had a choice. If so bad choice, everyone should pay.

  • http://AlamedaJournal Lon Elledge

    These issues were raised before the election and ingnored by the school district. It seemd the school district made choices in drafting the tax to minimize organized oppostion, but that made it at least appear unfair.

    Given the recent spate of small business closings on Park Street (3 have been reported) this tax may help the schools but help make local business districts ghost towns. The businesses have a right to file a suit if they feel the tax is illegal, and not fair, and talks of a boycott of businesses is short sighted, and reeks of vigilantes.

  • Maria Zanetti

    There are two types of exemption: senior sitizens and disable but for me I am not 62 but I am disable receibing social security and my pension therefore According to Luz Cazarez can’t qualify for the parcel because I worked and can’t receive SSI only social security.
    We are 15 Alamedas that we are penalized because we work buy yes we are considerate disable.

  • Stan

    I don’t see it as vigilante-ism. Seems more like an expression of frustration that after a long, public campaign, the business owners are doing an end run around the election results. From what I hear, the people who are talking of “boycotts” are angry that the business owners didn’t bring their concerns to the public before the election. Now the public can’t do much — except express their displeasure with the business owners by not going into their shops.

    Customers make decisions about where to shop based on many different factors. If I don’t take my truck to XX service station because the owner overcharges, does that mean I’m “boycotting?” What if I stay away from XX restaurant because the staff is rude?

    Not sure I understand, Lon, your statement that the AUSD ignored the issue. Who did business people try to talk to? Board of Education members? And what could anyone do once the measure was on the ballot?