Mar 1 2013

OPINION: Senior Exemption Would Not Cut PUSD Revenue 30%

Resident Asserts: The Piedmont School Budget could have survived a low income senior optional exemption –

How School Districts are funded in California is both arcane and extremely complex. Comparing districts is helpful and #1 academically ranked San Marino is probably the best comparable we have with its 13,161 population, similar affluence and limited but larger commercial tax base than Piedmont. Despite Proponent’s Feb. 7 LWV false comparisons necessitating an unusual School District correcting memorandum, Proponents continue to use this comparison in recent comments here at PCA. 

Since 1980 San Marino has had a lower home turnover rate than Piedmont – San Marion 76.2% and Piedmont 81.5% – so Piedmont enjoys both higher property tax and real estate transfer tax revenue. (Source: Census ACS DP04 2007-11). As San Marino revenue suffers by reduced property tax, the following may help explain how San Marino fills its school revenue needs beyond San Marino’s somewhat larger commercial tax base.

According to Census ACS DP04 2007-2011 the median household income in San Marino is $154,318 while Piedmont is $221,875. (Note: mean incomes are $229,394 and $288,951 respectively). The two San Marino School parcel taxes total $1,169; if passed the Piedmont tax is $2,406. The Piedmont tax is $1,237 more. Despite the significantly lower San Marino median household income, Piedmont’s median is 44% higher, San Marino requests a $2,000 per student private contribution toward their EdFund; Piedmont asks for a $1,000 contribution.

If Measure A Proponents wish to discuss and compare San Marino and Piedmont in good faith, then the significant differences in the per student EdFund contributions are an important part of the public dialogue. San Marino has a modestly larger commercial tax base and that no doubt helps fill other San Marino revenue shortfalls and is useful in comparing the two districts. Piedmont’s very limited commercial tax base is a significant factor.

As to the 30% cut in revenue from an age only senior exemption, according to Census ACS B19037 Piedmont has 24.4% householders over 65. While it is highly unlikely any percentage approaching 100% of seniors in very affluent Piedmont would take the exemption, the 30% cut in revenue stated by Proponents is a numerical impossibility as that is 120% of existing home owning seniors.

I would appreciate Proponents quoting me accurately. Review my comments at the Feb. 7 LWV Forum online or click on   I advocate a Federal “very low income” senior exemption as used in Orinda, Moraga, Oakland and Berkeley. I remain puzzled why our School Board declared this income qualification model legally questionable and then imposed the SSI income qualification. Using B19037 shows this would result in a 2% loss of revenue, if 100% of seniors below $35,000 in income took such an exemption. I believe a 1% to 2% loss in revenue, less than the 2% escalator, is manageable and reasonable.

As Proponent and School District political adviser Larry Tramutola stated online August 2009 ( “We’ve got to be able to show people that we have a local measure that is affordable that’s not going to put anybody in any sort of a bad (or) worse economic situation.” Given the stratospherically high Piedmont school tax, I believe we should follow Mr. Tramutola’s advice and have a meaningful senior exemption for the few that need it in Piedmont. Allowing seniors to age in place in homes and a community they love is good public policy.

Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Editor’s Note:  The Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) does not support or oppose ballot measures or candidates for public office.  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of  PCA.  

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