Nov 27 2012

OPINION: School Tax Allocation Inequitable and May Not be Deductible

Editor’s Note:  “Like-rate” generally refers to a flat charge,  for instance $100 per parcel.  Legal counsel to the Piedmont school district has advised that, to the extent the school levy is tiered or graduated (based on square footage or otherwise), the levy risks being considered an ad velorem tax, which is illegal and subject to challenge by any taxpayer as unconstitutional.  (See School Board discussion of the tax levy of October 10, 2012.)

Resident concerned about seniors and tax deductions-

Re: Nov. 28 Board Meeting consideration of the  Mar. 6, 2013 School Tax Election

President Raushenbush and Honorable Board Members,

As the Piedmont school tax is already far more expensive than virtually all of the other 245 school support taxes in the 1,045 public school districts in the state, I am troubled that soon this tax will be even more expensive by a likely lack of tax deductibility. Fortunately, the Board can adopt a “like rate” tax. Doing so will allow sufficient funding as the Board deems appropriate, create a far more equitable tax system and most likely maintain the tax’s deductible status.

A “like rate” tax was approved in the recent November election for Measure CL in Los Angeles at 2 cents per square foot. Since 2004, West Contra Costa Unified has Measure G on the books, based on 7.2 cents per building square foot, renewed again this November. Alameda Unified School District Measure A, at 32 cents per building foot, passed March 2011. The “like rate” methodology, especially utilizing the building square foot approach, is far more equitable than our current tiered system which is sharply regressive to small home owners. Another advantage to the “like rate” tax structure is the apparently permanent deductibility.

All taxes mentioned above include a senior exemption, and all high ranking California districts have a senior exemption except for Piedmont, which is alone in denying compassion and equality to those who need it most, seniors on fixed incomes. I urge you to add a senior exemption to Measure A. The lack of a senior exemption is troubling and especially regressive as the Piedmont tax is so much higher than other school taxes. One example is the Piedmont tax being up to 2,493% more than the San Ramon Valley school tax with its accompanying senior exemption. That a person in the twilight of their life would be forced out of the community and home they love because of a lack of a senior exemption, when such an exemption is far more the rule than the exception, I find regrettable.

As to the low-income SSI exemption, quite literally no one can afford to live in Piedmont with the $2,000 SSI resource limit. Therefore the SSI exemption is a meaningless gesture, and the Board should seriously consider a senior exemption and dropping the pointless SSI exemption.

Just and equitable solutions have been presented that leave the Board with sufficient funding and, if enacted, will demonstrate that this Board can both provide Piedmont with a quality school system and equity for all residents.

Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

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