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About those fair taxation folks …

Submitted by on 1, October 13, 2008 – 2:00 pmNo Comment

That lengthy letter in the Sun last Thursday about the tax bills businesses supporting those Measure H lawsuits are facing, signed by Alamedans for Fair Taxation, really sparked our curiosity. We wanted to know who these folks were. So we went and found out.

We typed in the name to the county’s fictitious names database, and found that the name was registered for a brief time in July to one Michael J. Kelley Sr., whose mom Pauline owns Pauline’s Antiques. So there you have it. Mystery solved!

We checked in with Mr. Kelley and heard back from his wife Michelle. Her response to our find? Duh!

She said it’s not exactly like her family has been hiding out: They’ve sent e-mails regarding the suit, and have been named on blogs and in the papers, as have the folks from Pillow Park Plaza. Enough so that Michelle Kelley said they’ve gotten threatening e-mails and in-store visits from folks who are upset about the suits.

Michelle Kelley told us she and other business people are upset because they feel the measure’s language creates huge disparities in business’ tax bills. For example, she said owners of the Coral Reef Inn & Suites by Alameda Towne Centre will pay $9,500 in additional taxes this year as a result of the measure, while the owners of the Dunes apartment complex, which she said is also a business, will pay $120.

Under the measure, commercial properties over 2,000 square feet will be taxed at 15 cents per square foot, up to $9,500 per parcel. The tax will be paid by a mix of property owners, owners who run businesses in the properties they own and businesses whose leases mandate that they will pay some or all of the tax.

Michelle Kelley said fewer than 800 businesses will pay $2.5 million in additional taxes this year, while roughly 18,000 homeowners and 550 apartment complex owners will split the rest of the $4 million to be raised by the tax at $120 per.

“Given these economic times, that tax is really going to hurt people,” Michelle Kelley said. “If it was about $120 (for everyone), it definitely wouldn’t be an issue.”

We contacted the superintendent’s office, and they said they can’t comment on pending litigation. But district officials have said they desperately need this money to fill a huge hole left by state budget cuts (and we hear there may be additional, mid-year cuts ahead). They have said that a supermajority of voters supported the tax, including members of the business community. And they have said that this measure is very similar to many others around the state.

In a statement released last week, district officials announced that they have hired lawyers to fight the suits and that they will “vigorously defend” the measure in court. The district anticipates the tax would raise $16 million to $18 million over the next four years that it’s on the books.

If you’re interested in reading the letter, in which AFT runs through what businesses and property owners will have to pay in taxes post-H, it’s here. You can view the suits here; type in VG08405316 for the original case filed by real estate guy George Borikas and RG08405984 for the one filed by yacht man John Beery.

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