May 7 2015

OPINION: School Support Tax is Unfair

                      Piedmont’s School Support Tax

Piedmont’s current school tax is perfectly legal, but is an unfair tax because (1) it increased the tax on smaller lots while reducing the tax on larger lots, and (2) because owners of two-parcel lots pay twice as much as others. This tax was hastily approved for the ballot by the School Board at a Special Meeting two years ago following a State Appeals Court ruling that school taxes must apply uniformly to all taxpayers.

I am proposing a more equitable replacement tax based on the Alameda Unified School District’s successful tax that, with minor changes, is also perfectly legal.

Alameda’s tax is a uniform rate per square foot of building that applies to all taxpayers without regard to size or use of parcel. It was approved more than three years ago by Alameda voters and remains intact to this day. Owners of residential and commercial properties pay in proportion to the size of buildings, which favors the smaller over the larger, the reverse of Piedmont’s regressive tax.

Given the economic vitality of this community, it is unconscionable that we raise more money for our schools from the owners of small lots than from the owners of large lots. There is time now to place a measure on the June 2016 ballot that will enable this “Alameda-like” tax to become effective in Piedmont for FY2016-17, but only if our School Board delays no longer an open public process with unbiased information.

William Blackwell

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

3 Responses to “OPINION: School Support Tax is Unfair”

  1. The issue is not the need for the most expensive school tax in the state. The issue is that given a school tax which is more than double to literally 100 times other school taxes, a progressive, fair and compassionate tax is needed. I hope others step up to support Bill Blackwell’s proposal.

    The current tax may be even more unfair than Bill has stated above as the current tax appears to not be levied by the District as passed by voters.

  2. Please – – – Let’s do SOMETHING to correct this very regressive tax. It’s a real burden on many of us!

  3. Good idea, Bill.

    Question: If basing the tax on a per sq.ft. basis for the building would be considered “uniform,” then why wouldn’t basing the tax on a per sq.ft. basis for the land parcel be similarly “uniform.” The previous parcel tax was tiered, not actually a strict per sq.ft. basis.

    Rick Schiller informs us that some unoccupied parcels are not taxed currently, although they are privately owned and do not have any exemptions. The School Board MUST provide information as to why this is happening. This tax policy violates the “uniform” requirement asserted in the Boricas decision. Accordingly, all school parcel taxes under the current scheme could be ruled invalid.

Leave a Comment