Feb 9 2013

Yes or No on Measure A

Pro and Con Speakers Spark Serious Discussion – 

A lively debate ensued at the February 7 Piedmont League of Women Voters (LWVP) Forum on the proposed school tax, Measure A.  Both the pro and con speakers  presented their arguments, followed by questions submitted from the audience.

Measure A, if approved by voters on March 5, will impose a $2,406 property tax on all Piedmont parcels for 8 years starting in June of 2013.  An additional 2% per year increase can be added by the Piedmont Board of Education, with a potential total tax of slightly more than $20,000 during the term of the tax.

Measure A supporters, represented by Doug Ireland and Jonathan Davis, focused on the City’s schools being the reason families move to Piedmont, the ongoing reduced State funding for schools, and the need for funds to  maintain Piedmont schools at a high performance level.  The amount expected to be generated by the tax in fiscal year 2013-14 is approximately $9.5 million, with the money going primarily to pay for teachers and to retain current programs and smaller class sizes.  The 8-year term was settled on by the Piedmont Board of Education to ensure a stable source of funds for budgeting and planning purposes.  Additionally noted were the expense and volunteer effort required to run a school tax campaign every 4 years, a practice for decades, considered onerous.   All funds from Measure A will be retained in Piedmont.

Measure A  opponents, represented by Tom Clark and Rick Schiller, focused on the inequities of the tax as regressive  for 78% of taxpayers and fixed-income seniors are especially burdened financially, noting that voluntary senior tax exemptions are provided by a number of other outstanding California school districts.   They criticized as inappropriate the jump in tax increases for the smallest residential parcels, while large parcels and commercial properties will benefit from significant tax reductions.  They pointed out the lack of urgency to pass the tax now since the current $9.5 million tax Measure B does not expire until July 2014, 17 months away.  They stated a No vote was the best choice for voters, as it would allow the School Board to await clarity about the progress of proposed school tax legislation pending in the State Assembly.  The School Board could then devise an equitable tax and allow public participation in their proposal.

Much of the debate centered on Measure A’s “senior exemption” as not applicable to Piedmont seniors due to its extremely low SSI income ceiling.  In the Bay Area and throughout the State, school parcel taxes are significantly lower than Piedmont’s and  “commonly” include a  senior exemption.  The Piedmont School Board determined early on that an exemption or lower tax rate for seniors would place too great a burden on non-seniors.  A square footage tax on property and/or on structures was a suggested alternative by the opponents. 

Both the pro and con speakers agreed that the City’s schools are vital to Piedmont and neither side disagreed on the appropriateness of the total amount sought by the District.

If Measure A fails, the current tax (Measure B) will remain  in effect until July 2014.  

To watch and hear firsthand a video of the entire LWV Measure A forum,  click here  or log onto the City’s website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us: on the right hand side of the homepage under the “City Council” heading, click on the “Online Video” link, then search the archive for “LWV Election Forum”, click on the “Argument for Measure A” and/or “Argument Against  Measure “click on the “Video” link and watch.

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A number of written questions submitted by the Forum audience were not asked due to the program’s time constraints.  In the interest of further informing the community,  PCA will seek answers to questions residents may still have.  You may submit a question or comment in the comment area below or submit a question or information to www.editors@piedmontcivic.org.

Editors’ Note:  The Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) is a non-partisan non-affiliated, non-commercial, Piedmont volunteer organization.   PCA does not endorse, support, or oppose ballot measures or candidates for public office.  Participation in PCA is free and open to all Piedmonters.

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