Mar 23 2016

Opinion: School Tax Does Not Adhere to Ballot Measure

Reply to School Board Member Doug Ireland’s explanation of why some properties in Piedmont are not paying the School Support Tax.

With due respect to PUSD Board Member Doug Ireland, there is an obvious misunderstanding. First, the school support tax is a special assessment tax and not a property (ad valorem) tax as defined by the Assessor and the State Board of Equalization. Secondly, the measure approved by the taxpayers on March 5, 2013, is the law and not the resolution approved by the Board of Education. The full text of Measure A unequivocally said there could be an exemption only for homeowners who qualify for SSI.

Regarding Ireland’s four bullets:
• The California Constitution and the Revenue and Taxation Code exempt church-owned properties from the ad valorem portion of their tax bills but not from the special assessments.
• City of Piedmont taxing policy is not restrained by the same rules that dictated Measure A, and is not relevant.
• So-called “minor” parcels can be subsumed by the larger under some circumstances but the owner must have two parcels to begin with (only 22 of the 56 exempted have two parcels) and the owner had to apply to the assessor for this exemption within 90 days after the effective date of the measure. There is no evidence that this was done by any owner. (This exemption was allowed in the resolution but not in the tax measure itself.) To avoid paying the tax twice, owners of two parcels can very simply combine them into one, as Ireland pointed out, and this was done in three cases.
• A dozen or so single parcel lots split by the boundary line have an Oakland address but are partially in Piedmont. The measure says each parcel wholly or partially in Piedmont must pay the tax. There is no exception based on historical precedent or school eligibility. Many of the current exemptions are based on past practices, which the Appellate Court ruled could not be continued. The measure itself would be illegal if it allowed these exemptions.

Bottom line is that voters are entitled to believe in what the measure says. They are also entitled to know why it is worth a million dollars to exempt these particular parcels but not others with similar lots, even those side by side on the same street.

William Blackwell, Piedmont resident

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

Read Douglas Ireland Opinion  <

2 Responses to “Opinion: School Tax Does Not Adhere to Ballot Measure”

  1. Ah, those pesky facts. They sure do get in the way, don’t they?

  2. Doug Ireland states: “We seek to comply with the law while avoiding potential litigation pitting us against the Piedmont residents we serve.” But rather than correcting the issues Bill Blackwell so factually and pointedly raises, the District pushes back knowing the heavy burden for taxpayers of taking legal action to have the District follow the tax as passed by voters. And there are statute of limitations on this, likely only the District can do the right thing at this point.

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