School board gets parcel tax recommendation
Schools Superintendent Kirsten Vital is set to recommend that the Board of Education ask Alameda voters to approve a new parcel tax to replace its existing taxes, Measures A and H. Vital is asking the board to put the tax on the ballot in June.
If approved by the school board and then, voters, the tax would cost homeowners $659 a year for each of the next eight years and commercial and industrial property owners 13 cents for each square foot of their lot with a $9,500 cap. Owners of condominiums and two, three and four unit residential buildings would pay the same tax rate as homeowners, as would owners of institutional properties like lodge halls. Owners of larger residential buildings would pay the commercial rate.
Seniors and the disabled would be granted a voluntary exemption from the tax, which would generate $14 million a year for the school district if it were approved by voters. Residents would bear 84 percent of the total cost of the tax, while commercial property owners would bear 16 percent.
Proceeds of the tax would benefit all the district’s schools, including Alameda’s charter schools, according to a presentation to be given by Vital at tonight’s school board meeting.
District officials have said they assembled plans for a new tax in order to help pay for Alameda’s schools in the face of declining state funding and also to fund a five-year plan for state-of-the-art schools. The advisory group that recommended the structure to be used for the proposed replacement tax was set up as part of a lawsuit settlement with John Beery, a local landowner and yacht merchant who sued to invalidate Measure H, claiming it was unfairly applied.
The Measure H tax charges homeowners and other residential building owners and smaller commercial property owners $120 each a year for four years, while larger commercial property owners pay 15 cents per square foot with a cap of $9,500 a year. Measure A charges every property owner a flat rate of $189 a year. The taxes both expire in 2012.
Commercial property owners filed two lawsuits to invalidate the Measure H tax, saying it was unfair they have to pay more than homeowners. The judge handling both cases has indicated he doesn’t agree, though Beery and the district suspended their case, and the second case was taken off the court’s trial calendar.
Some of the property owners from one of the cases have said they don’t like the proposed structure for the new tax. Parents who opposed the board’s approval of the anti-gay bullying Lesson 9 have also spoken out in opposition of the proposed tax.
The five-year master plan, which is also on the board’s agenda tonight, would maintain the district’s neighborhood elementary schools and create an elementary school magnet program, and it envisions a series of academies at Encinal High. It also envisions increased class sizes and more students transferring from outside Alameda Unified, because district leaders see them as a possible revenue source. In addition to adding students, the plan also envisions district leaders seeking out philanthropic contributions to fund new programs and streamlining the district office to save money.