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Measure E opponents to develop parcel tax proposal

Submitted by on 1, July 12, 2010 – 4:50 am9 Comments

Opponents of the Measure E parcel tax, which lost by a slim margin at the polls on June 22, have announced plans to formulate their own parcel tax proposal to support Alameda’s schools.

Alamedans for Fair Taxation’s Ed Hirshberg says the group the committee assembled to work on a new tax proposal will also interview candidates for two school board seats up for grab this November.

“We’ve always said we want to support the schools,” Hirshberg was quoted as saying in a press release announcing the effort. “(B)ut we insist that the tax be fair and uniform across all taxpayers, and not subject the local business community to predatory taxation, as past tax measures have done. By structuring the tax ourselves, and taking it to the public ourselves, we think we can come up with something that a two-thirds majority of voters will approve.”

Hirshberg declined to name the other members of the group without their permission Saturday, citing concerns about potential boycotts of their businesses. The group has not set a hard-and-fast timeline for their efforts.

Hirshberg has said he would support a uniform tax of four cents per square foot for all property owners, but he said he and his group will examine other options for a new tax. Proponents of Measure E had said that amount would bring in less money than the district’s existing Measure A and H parcel taxes, which are expected to net the district about $7 million a year until they expire in 2012.

Commercial property and business owners had said that the Measure E tax was unfair to them because many of them would be asked to pay more than homeowners. If implemented, the tax would have cost homeowners $659 a year for eight years and commercial property owners 13 cents per square foot of lot, with a cap of $9,500 a parcel.

The structure of the Measure E tax was formulated by an advisory group that came out of one of the two lawsuits filed by commercial property owners seeking to invalidate the tax. Hirshberg and others involved in the other suit declined to participate in that group, saying they didn’t think it would provide the outcome they sought.

Superintendent Kirsten Vital could not be reached for comment on the group’s efforts Friday. But the school board decided at its June 29 meeting to direct her to look into putting a new tax on the ballot in the spring of 2011.

In the face of unprecedented state funding cuts, the school board approved $7.2 million in cuts for the 2010-2011 school year. Vital and her staff will also be planning for potential school closures for the 2011-2012 school year.

School board seats held by Tracy Jensen and Mike McMahon are up for a vote in the fall.

At a meeting held Thursday night, representatives from the APLUS Measure E campaign, the Alameda Education Foundation, the PTA Council and the school district determined that the only way to provide the money the school district needs is to ask voters to support another parcel tax, APLUS volunteer coordinator Sarah Olaes said.

Olaes said it wasn’t APLUS’s place to comment on Alamedans for Fair Taxation’s efforts. But she urged people interested in donating money to the schools to send it to APLUS instead, “so that they will have the necessary financial strength to run the next campaign.”


  • Jon Spangler says:

    I will be very interested to see the AFT’s proposal(s) for a “fair” tax. I hope they will commit to raising at least as much as Measure E would have, since the overall need for funding will probably increase rather than decrease, given the trends in Sacramento. I hope that AFT will also help lobby the legislature and the governor’s office in their attempt to “support the schools.”

    Given the trends in school funding since 1978, when business and commercial interests overall started paying proportionally less than homeowners in property taxes, I am concerned by his use of the word “predatory.”

    If commercial property owners have had a much easier time of it since 1978, what will AFT consider to be an “equitable” or “fair” rebalancing of the scales? Homeowners have been carrying a larger and larger proportion of the property tax burden since 1978, so the status quo can be viewed as unfair for homeowners. Will AFT’s proposal be “predatory” towards homeowners? I hope not…

  • Dennis Green says:

    Jon, Measure E was predatory toward homeowners, structured as a Regressive Tax that would have cost a small cottage on the West End the same as a McMansion in the Gold Coast. Hardly fair! And that “Advisory Group” that structured Measure E was headed up by political consultants Erwin & Muir, hired by Superintendent Vital to “sit on” that board at $300 an hour. I am confident AFT’s proposal will be more fair to both homeowners, as a progressive tax based on a flat rate per square foot, and toward businesses, with no cap.

    It will also anticipate, I would imagine, further reforms and economies by AUSD, if cuts to date are insufficient. And, as a number of us have pointed out, if only ALL those who voted Yes on E would simply donate that $659/year to AUSD, (not to APLUS, which has already wasted more than $500,000 on a losing campaign and with Erwin & Muir’s help could gladly lose the next one), there would be no deficit, and no cuts!

    It is doubtful, however, that those Supporters of the School Kids and the Teachers will actually choose to make such a sacrifice voluntarily, unless they can impose their terms on all the rest of us, who voted No or did not vote at all. And how about you, Jon, will you pass or fail this true test of your loyalty and your convictions? Or at least tell us what your school parcel tax would look like. Serioously.

  • David N says:

    Exactly … agree with Dennis Green. Jon’s comments make no sense (given how Measure E was written).

    Inquiring mind wants to know: when will E supporters start sending in their $350 checks??? Probably never!

  • 9er says:

    I’m pretty sure that those homeowners who voted YES are willing to part with $659/year. Considering that is what they were signing up for when they checked the box.

    Unfortunately it is not clear where that money should be directed. APLUS??? PTA??? AUSD???

    If there was a way to keep track of donations publicly (online) where anyone could see the target (classic thermometer style) and see how many contributions were made and where we stand on closing the gap I am sure we could make a difference.

  • Jason Wood says:

    This would be interesting, but once again we need ACCOUNTABILITY on where the money is going.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    As Alameda homeowners from 1997-2009 we paid close to $50,000 in property taxes. And I never felt they were a poor investment. Property taxes support public schools, government services, and much more on the local level, and the investment paid good dividends for the most part.

    As to taking or passing DG’s McCarthyesque “loyalty oath”–no thanks. I want to pay taxes to support my public schools, not donate money that should be contributed through taxation as a community-wide commitment to the next generations. Dennis can put his “true test of…loyalty and…convictions” right back where it came from.

    As to designing a parcel tax, I’m not equipped with sufficient math skills to do that. But I DO want any parcel tax to raise enough money to restore the cuts that have been initiated recently and put AUSD’s students back where they belong in classroom funding and size, so I’d start with that criterion. AUSD has already had enough bone, sinew, and muscle cut from its programs.

  • Dennis Green says:

    Action Alameda News is doing a pretty decent job digging up Superintendent Vital’s expenditures on political consultants, (Erwin & Muir, $300/hr., almost $100K so far; outside attorneys, over $250K; three McMahons on payroll, etc.). And full disclosure, I sometimes publish stories on education there. With all the talk of transparency, there is very little at AUSD. I’m all in favor, but don’t feel some one tangled up with APlus and SunCal, like John Knox-White, should be sitting on the Sunshine Task Force. It’s bad enough that the director of WABA signed to get the SunCal initiative, Measure B, on the ballot.

    Ala,eda politics is more like a cow pasture than a mine field, but you still need a detector of some sort to avoid the cow patties.

  • Please Do Your Homework says:

    Erwin and Muir did not “head up” or “sit on” or attend or otherwise participate in the Parcel Tax Advisory Group.

    AUSD staff attended the meetings to provide information to support the group’s extensive deliberations over many hours and the resulting recommendations they made to the School Board.

    The members of the group were all volunteers from across Alameda. The meetings were all public meetings.

    The comments above seem predatory towards students and towards the long term health of Alameda.

  • Dennis Green says:

    So, Homework, you’re saying that you and other volunteers to the Parcel Tax Advisory Group, without any input from Erwin & Muir, or any reference to the Master Plan, decided to structure Measure E as a regressive tax on homeowners, a split-roll tax on commercial, with a cap on commercial of almost $10,000/year, to exempt seniors while allowing them to vote, and to offer it as a mail-in only ballot? You’ll take responsibility for its composition, not some political consulting firm? Is that why it failed?

    And Jon, would that be Charlie McCarthy or Eugene?

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