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UPDATED Businesses appeal to public on school tax

Submitted by on 1, July 31, 2009 – 5:50 am3 Comments

Updated 11:48 a.m. Friday, July 31

Facing serious challenges to their lawsuits to invalidate Measure H, local businesses are taking their case against the school parcel tax to the public.

Steve Meckfessel, an owner of the marina at Marina Village, asked the school board and Superintendent Kirsten Vital to consider amending the tax in a half-page advertisement in this week’s Alameda Sun. The “open letter” ad follows a request from local Realtor and onetime public official Hadi Monsef that the board allow businesses to take their lawsuits against the district into mediation.

In his letter, Meckfessel called the tax “discriminatory” because many commercial property owners and businesses pay more than homeowners. Homeowners pay $120 a year for four years; commercial property owners are charged up to $9,500 per parcel.

Meckfessel says his H assessment is $73,371.58 this year, and that the marina has just over $200,000 in cash income on $4 million in gross revenues. He says his property is worth $35 million.

“Whether the courts feel politically compelled to support this measure or not (it couldn’t be a very popular thing to overturn a measure like this and judges do come up for re-election), the measure is morally and ethically wrong,” Meckfessel said. And he said commercial property owners who feel wronged by the measure will continue to press their case until they get the relief they want.

He said in a phone interview that he has the utmost respect for the school board and superintendent and the work they’re doing, and he’d like them to sit down and negotiate with business owners for a fairer deal.

Plaintiffs in both of the lawsuits to invalidate the school parcel tax asked Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Mark Burr to rule in their favor without a trial. But in his rulings against the motions, Judge Burr said he didn’t think the arguments in either case were persuasive – effectively casting a shadow over their chances of prevailing in court.

On Wednesday, at attorney for the school district asked Judge Burr to consider ways to resolved the case without a trial in an upcoming case management conference, scheduled for August 13. The trial had been scheduled to start in September.

“The District believes that there are no issues of material fact that require  trial of any of the plaintiffs’ claims,” David Nied, an attorney for the school district, wrote in a letter to Judge Burr.

District officials were not available for comment.

3 Comments »

  • dave says:

    If he’s earning 200M on a property worth 35MM, he ain’t much of a businessman.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    That should have been property the City gets money for as income on a regular basis, but for another sweetheart mindless deal by the City and its officials. But they are right on Measure H. What is the serious challenge to their lawsuit? Burr won't be the trial judge will he? If they get a jury of their peers, I think they have more than a fair chance of prevailing. The school district ought to be the one negotiating. After this fiasco, what chance does it have of extending any of its parcel taxes again? It is short sighted to do otherwise. The businesses are going to really dump money into the next opposition campaigns.

    • Hi Barbara –

      Essentially, the serious challenge is that the judge has said that he more or less does not buy most of the business' legal arguments in these cases. Each of the plaintiffs – Borikas and Beery – filed a motion for summary judgment, which (for all you non-lawyers) is a motion that asks the judge to decide the case in your favor without ever going to trial. Burr denied the motions, and in doing so, he more or less shot down key legal arguments in the cases. (That said, he also denied the district's motion to strike elements of the cases, though the district has not asked for its own summary judgment motion.)

      As far as I can tell, Judge Burr would be sitting as the trial judge, and I'm not sure whether this would be a jury or bench trial.

      If folks are interested in looking at the progress in the cases themselves, School Board President Mike McMahon has the case numbers and a link to the court website on his site (scroll down for the entry on the Borikas and Beery lawsuits).

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