Apply Soon for Measure A Exemptions

The deadline to file for an exemption from the Alameda Unified School District’s Measure A parcel tax is June 30, 2014.

Under the terms of the ballot measure, the school district can grant two types of exemptions to Alameda residents:
Senior Citizen Exemption: The applicant must turn 65 years old on or before June 30, 2015, and own and occupy his/her property as a primary residence.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Exemption: The applicant must receive SSI and own and occupy his/her property as a primary residence.

If a resident received the Senior Citizen or SSI Exemption in 2013-2014 and is still the homeowner and currently resides at the same address, he or she does not need to renew your tax exemption. (It will automatically be renewed.)

If a resident sold a home and purchased a new home, however, he or she must re-file for a Senior Citizen or SSI Exemption for the new property.

The Measure A parcel tax rate is $0.32 per building square foot, with a maximum rate of $7,999.

Revenues raised by Measure A help fund the educational programs and activities specified in the ballot text, including small class sizes, neighborhood schools, enrichment classes (such as art, drama, and music), high school athletics and AP classes, technology, and innovative and magnet programs.

There are several ways to access the exemption forms:
– Electronically (senior citizen exemption forms are available online (on the district’s website); SSI exemption forms are online, as well.
– By telephone (call SCI Consulting Group at 800-273-5167 for an application by mail).
– In person at the AUSD offices (2060 Challenger Dr., Alameda) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday (summer hours).

Questions should be directed to the Parcel Tax Administrator: SCI Consulting Group at (800)273-5167.


Alamada Schools Celebrating Parcel-Tax Vote

The Alameda Education Foundation, a fund-raising group for special school programs and resources, is thanking the community for its passage of Measure A on March 8.

“By over a two-to-one margin, you showed your support for continued quality education in Alameda,” AEF said in a statement. “The fact that current economic conditions made this a difficult choice for many indicates our community’s willingness to sacrifice to ensure that Alameda students have the educational resources, programs and conditions they need for success.”

The Alameda Education Foundation says it especially wants to thank members of the business community that supported Measure A, which enjoyed more business support that the failed Measure E last year. “You, like us, realize that thriving schools are necessary for a strong community and a promising future for all of us,” AEF explained.

AEF also praised the Alameda SOS campaign committee for its “exceptional job of galvanizing the community to pass Measure A.”

According to the Alameda Country Registrar of Voters, the majority of Alamedans participated in the Measure A vote: 21,180 votes were counted, representing 50.9% of the Island’s 41,609 registered voters.

Some 14,200 ballots were sent in by mail, and about 7,000 ballots were filled out on election day at polling sites across town.

The “yes” votes totalled 14,342 — or 67.8% — and the “no” votes numbered 6,806, or 32.2%. The parcel-tax measure needed 66.6% or more votes to pass.


Alameda Polls Open for Measure A Vote

Today is the day to vote in Alameda’s special election over Measure A, a new parcel tax that aims to support the Island school district.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8.

There are very heated arguments about the measure, as has been the case recently with other parcel-tax proposals.

The League of Women Voters of Alameda had to cancel its February 3 forum on the measure, as controversies arose over the format and content of the public discussion.

The league has posted the pros and cons it gathered Measure A online, though.

Each and every vote counts, since the Measure A parcel tax needs to pass with 66.6% or more of the votes.

Last summer’s Measure E votes were: 14, 415, or 65.62%, yes; 7,551, or 34.38%, no.

Today’s parcel tax vote should be another close one.


Alameda’s Pro-E Team Vows to Keep Up School Support

The election results for Measure E aren’t yet official, but here’s how they stand:

Yes – 14, 415, 65.62%

No – 7,551, 34.38%

With 66.6% needed, the Pro-Measure E effort appears to be falling ever so short.

Voters sent in 22,029 ballots, representing 52.88% of all registered Alameda voters.

The results are quite telling: The very-close-to-a-super-majority of voters supports the Measure E school parcel tax, even with its defects and despite major economic hardship.

What the 47.12%, or 19,659 residents, believe about this important issue… we may never know. Certainly, their voices could have really made a difference for either side.

As the photo above (of a child near Broadway and Blanding) illustrates, groups pushing for the schools and more financial resources for them will try to re-group in the interest of furthering the educational goals of the community.


Election Day for Alameda’s Measure E

The ballots for the hotly contested school parcel tax are due today, June 22, at the Alameda County Registrar of Voter’s Office: 1255 Fallon Street in Oakland.

Preliminary results we be posted online by the county registrar starting at 8 p.m. tonight, when pro-Measure E supporters will meet at Otaez Mexican Restaurant on Webster Street.

Please share any news on anti-Measure E events, if you can.

Some residents shared their anti-Measure E views recently by posting hand-made signs in their cars, which were parked at Alameda Town Centre.

On Bay Farm, a lot of the homes directly facing the San Francisco Bay have posted pro-Measure E signsin the past week or so, many with the “protect our home values” message.

While most Alameda residents and business want to support the public schools, many have mixed feelings about the size of the parcel tax and the way it is applied to commercial property.

Any bets? With the required 66.6% needed to pass, and the economy still hobbling along, this could prove to be a tough parcel tax for voters to swallow.


Alameda’s Measure E Grabs National Spotlight

Jenny Turcinovic is putting Alameda — and the nasty Measure E-battle — on the map.

The New York Times did a June 11 story on what transpired when Turcinovic put up a “No on Measure E” sign up at her shop, the International Aria Market & Bakery, at Webster Street and Lincoln Avenue.

Now, the New York Times writer (a freelancer judging from his email address) starts off the story by saying that Turcinovic has had the shop open for years, while the Bosnian immigrant has really had the food shop in business for closer to a year or two.

Thus, Turcinovic may not have had any previous experience with such contentious Island issues (and attitudes) when she put up the sign, supplied by her landlord Steve Case.

Still, it’s sad to read that some pro-Measure E folks apparently got very nasty about Turcinovic’s take on the parcel tax.

The shop owner doesn’t feel that she has the money to pay for Measure E, while parents vocally let her know their view on the parcel tax: Alameda schools and students deserve more support — financially and otherwise.

And with tough times today for many families and businesses, it’s really a shame that Alameda leaders and residents alike couldn’t come up with a parcel tax that wasn’t so controversial. Of course, once it involves a tax, it’s generally an automatic controversy.

The nasty debate has made it very clear that we most need on the Island is a parcel tax that makes more sense to more members of the community, is less divisive and offers clear costs and benefits for taxpayers and students alike.

Maybe the New York Times freelancer, Gerry Shig, will come back and shed light on this angle of the Measure E battle before the looming June 22 deadline for voting.

If you want to comment on the NYT piece, go to the writer’s blogsite.


Tentative ruling in Alameda school parcel tax lawsuit

An Alameda County judge has issued a tentative ruling today in Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District, the suit filed last fall against Measure H.

Measure H is the parcel tax that passed last June with the support of more than two-thirds of Alameda voters. The tentative ruling in Borikas is good news for the school district, with the judge tentatively finding that Measure H applies uniformly and therefore does not violate Cal. Government Code section 50079, which requires that school parcel taxes apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district. The court will hear argument on the tentative ruling on Tuesday, March 17.

More info about the lawsuits against Measure H here and here.


Orinda passes $502 permanent parcel tax

While many here in Alameda like to blame fiscal mismanagement, administrator pay, unions, or you name if for the financial challenges facing the Alameda Unified School District, other communities are stepping up and funding their schools as the dollars provided by the State of California continue to fall short of what a community actually requires to provide a meaningful education for a community’s schools. Orinda’s parcel tax passed with 70 percent of the voters saying yes.


Second parcel tax lawsuit in Alameda

A second lawsuit was filed Monday in Alameda County Court against Measure H, the school parcel tax that passed with the support of just over two-thirds of Alameda voters in early June.

The first suit, filed last week by Pleasanton-based lawyer David Brillant on behalf of George J. Borikas is thought to have been supported and funded by several dozen local businesses. The second was filed by the high-powered law firm, Reed Smith, on behalf of local developer, John Beery.

School Board President Bill Schaff:

We’re sad to see another lawsuit. We would like to try to find some common ground with the business community…we still don’t have a state budget, we know we’ll still have an underfunding issue and we have to find some resolution that is good for our kids and that also can work for the business community.

You can look at both cases here, by entering the case numbers. Borikas is VG08405316 and Beery is RG08405984.


“Alamedans for Fair Taxation” say they’ll fight Measure H

Today I was forwarded an email sent around by a group calling themselves “Alamedans for Fair Taxation.” Apparently, they’re working to fight Measure H, the school parcel tax passed in June, which will tax residential parcels $120 a year and commercial properties on a square footage basis. According to the email, they are looking for an attorney to take their case:

We have a strong belief that we have a case against AUSD, in regards to Measure H in the context of not being “uniformly” as defined in California Government Code Section 50079 – B or “Out of Town Owner” representation. At this point we are looking for, and interviewing attorneys.

It sounds like the group is also concerned about a legislative move at the state level to change the threshold a parcel tax needs to pass from the near-impossible two-thirds to the sure-to-pass-possibly-a-higher-tax level of 55 percent.

We will be looking into the bill pending in the Legislature to amend the constitution to reduce the required vote on the school parcel taxes to 55%, this would greatly increase their chances for future parcel taxes.

The group has South Shore address and a dedicated phone number, at which I just left a message. I will hopefully hear from a representative of the group soon and will be able to report more about them. Who is behind this effort? How are they funded? How do they think schools should be funded? Do they think property taxes should be based on the current market value of a property or on the sale price, however long ago it was? These are all things I’m wondering now.