Feb 22 2014

School Tax Review Committee Structure Avoids Brown Act

 Voter approved school parcel tax requires a tax review committee to evaluate annual school needs for the tax. All meetings of the committee are currently held outside of public view. – 

When Piedmont taxpayers voted to approve the annual parcel tax of $2,406, the ballot measure called for a property owner committee composed of three members to annually review the School District’s need for levying the parcel tax and the level of the tax prior to School District action to impose the tax.
Questions prior to the election concerned whether the appointed  committee would be independent in its evaluation of School District fiscal matters.

Implementation of the approved school parcel tax requires a subcommittee of the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), an amorphous group of individuals composed of teachers, community members, school administrators, and typically a member of the Board of Education.  The Tax Review Subcommittee (TRS), a subcommittee of the much larger BAC, does not open their meetings to the public.  The currently selected subcommittee  members are John Elliott, Peter Freeman, and School Board Member elect Amal Smith.

Jon Elliott, representing the Subcommittee (TRS), noted at the February 12, 2014 School Board meeting, that the structure of the tax reviewing committee avoids the Brown Act. The meetings are not broadcast or recorded, no agendas are created for public review and meetings of the Subcommittee are not open to the public.  Elliott, who had been concerned about the independence of the review committee prior to approval of the parcel tax, voiced his current approval of the process noting his participation on the Subcommittee.

Referring to the Tax Review Subcommittee (TRS),  Superintendent Constance Hubbard stated the School District was relieved of producing agendas, scheduling public meetings and complying with Brown Act deadlines because the TRS is a subcommittee of the Budget Advisory Committee.

The Subcommittee’s recent extensive report recommended levying the full $2,406 per parcel plus an increase of 2% for the 2014-15 tax period.  The report also notes an action to confirm the prior  year’s tax levy. The following are excerpts from the report:

The School Support Tax Advisory Subcommittee recommends that the District levy the Measure A School Support Tax (Parcel Tax) at its maximum level in 2014-15, including assessment of the maximum two percent (2%) increase above the rate in 2013-14. This amounts to $9,408,025 (2013-14 amount) million plus $188,160 (2%) for a total of $9,596,185. Based on the latest available budget projections — including indications that state funding will improve significantly for at least this next year — the Subcommittee recommends that the $188,160 raised by the 2% increase be directed to a parcel tax reserve account to be available during subsequent years during the term of Measure A (through 2020-21). Although financial trends presently are positive, considerable uncertainties cloud these projections, and the District has drawn down its reserves in recent years close to statutory minimum levels.

Review of 2013-2014 Parcel Tax Levy

In order to levy Measure A taxes in 2013-2014, the School Board was required to approve the levy before July 1, 2013. Although this Subcommittee was not formed until October 2013, we reviewed 2013-14 budgeting, revenue and expenditure documentation from the District. The District adopted a budget assuming $31,733,656 in revenue from all sources (including $9,408,025 from Measure A and $1,550,000 in community contributions), and expenditures of $32,630,183, for a deficit of $896,527. This budget continues to include cost- containment and program preservation priorities. As of the First Interim report in December 2013, actual revenues and expenditures are close to these adopted amounts. After this review, the Subcommittee confirms the appropriateness of the Measure A levy for 2013-14.

Read the full report of the Tax Review Subcommittee found on page 10 of the February 12, 2014 School Board agenda packet.  

Article updated February 23, 2014.  Changes are noted in blue lettering.

2 Responses to “School Tax Review Committee Structure Avoids Brown Act”

  1. Has the PCA considered how it is possible for the School Board retroactively to approve an increase in the prior year’s tax levy, without the required TRS recommendation? This seems to be a breach of faith with Piedmont voters, at the very least – and possibly an illegal action under the bond measure.

    Editors’ Note: Article amended in blue above.

  2. The School Board did not “retroactively approve” last year’s property tax levy, nor is there any question whether a TRS recommendation was required. Measure A expressly stated the tax per parcel for 2013-14 and was approved by voters in March 2013. Measure A also states that the TRS would be created in May 2013, if the Measure passed, to provide its recommendation in future years. There was no “breach of faith” with Piedmont voters–it was patently clear what the parcel tax would be in 2013-14 on the face of the Measure. You may wish to re-read Measure A. You can find it at http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/forms/budget/10-2012-13.pdf.

    Rick Raushenbush

    Editors’ Note: Article amended in blue above.

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