COURT RULES FOR DISTRICT IN H CASE; PLAINTIFFS VOW APPEAL
Updated 2:17 p.m. Thursday, June 3
An Alameda County Superior Court judge has ruled as anticipated against local property owners who sued the Alameda Unified School District in an effort to invalidate Measure H, saying the tax is legal.
An attorney for the plaintiffs in one of the two lawsuits said he plans to appeal.
“I am thrilled with Judge Burr’s decision,” Superintendent Kirsten Vital was quoted as saying in a statement from the district. “His ruling is a victory for the students and the entire Alameda community who support and are proud of our quality schools.”
District officials said Judge Kenneth Mark Burr’s ruling is significant because it means the Measure E parcel tax before voters, which contains the same structure as Measure H, is also legal. And they said the ruling will help preserve funding the district needs as the state continues to cut funding.
David Brillant, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, said he’s not surprised by the ruling and that he is already working on his appeal.
“I’ve already prepared my notice of appeal and have been preparing to write my opening appellate brief,” Brillant said in a statement. “I am looking forward to presenting my arguments to the First District and continue the fight against split roll taxes.”
He said the appeal could take 18 months to run its course, meaning it wouldn’t be decided until after Measure H sunsets in 2012. But Brillant said that if he wins the appeal, the district could owe a massive refund to taxpayers.
George Borikas, who owns two apartment buildings and a real estate services company, sued the district in August 2008, claiming that Measure H was illegal because the tax is not uniformly applied. Homeowners pay $120 each under the tax, while commercial property owners pay 15 cents per square foot of lot per parcel, with a cap of $9,500 per parcel. Additional commercial property owners joined the suit later.
A week later, local yacht merchant and landowner John Beery filed a separate suit, making essentially the same claims. Beery and the district enacted a resolution plan in 2009 that put together a committee to create a replacement tax, though Beery was ultimately not on board with the result.
Judge Burr’s earlier rulings on motions made during the course of the combined cases led most case-watchers to believe that he ultimately intended to rule in favor of the school district. The district’s attorneys submitted a proposed ruling to the judge on May 19.