Apr 22 2019

School Board Discussion Wednesday, April 24 of Building Square Footage Tax Basis

Recently I published a letter advocating a progressive per square foot of building tax, that no owner pay more than $4,999, unimproved lots would be taxed at $1099, a SSI/SSIW exemption be included, a 2% annual cost adjustment and an optional income based senior exemption with at most a 2% revenue reduction. Locally the per square foot of building tax is used to support Alameda, Berkeley Emeryville, and West Contra Costa County Schools.

Mr. Raushenbush published a letter opposing my square foot building tax proposal; I first presented this to our School Board Jan. 9. The per square foot of building tax is a more equitable progressive tax than the previous five tier parcel with commercial differentiations levy that Piedmont used for 27 years. Mr Raushenbush also states that a per square foot of building tax is not legally viable despite it being in common use in other School Districts.

This Wednesday April 24, 2019 at 7 p.m. Piedmont School District meeting will include the results of a survey concerning a per square foot of building tax and the existing flat rate parcel tax. The final ballot result at p.15 of the report shows definite/probable yes at 73% for the per square foot and 62% for the flat rate. 67% is needed to pass.

Rick Raushenbush was Chair of the School Board at the Dec. 11, 2012 emergency meeting when the existing 27 year partially progressive tax was replaced with current Measure A flat rate tax. Chairman Raushenbush stated the 27 year tax “had a variety of progressivity to it.” (Dec. 12, 2012 video at 14:40) http://piedmont.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=851

The result of going from the previous tax with “progressivity” in 2012 to a flat rate tax resulted in the following. Of the 3,921 School tax parcels in Piedmont, 76% of Piedmont homes are on parcels under 10,000 square feet (“sf”). The 2012 flat rate “emergency” tax raised their previous $1,989 and $2,260 taxes to $2,406, a 6% to 21% increase. Taxes on undeveloped parcels, another 2%+ of taxpayers, went from $1,009 to $2,406, a 238% increase. Today the $2,406 tax is $2,656. At the same time a small percentage of taxpayers received significant reductions. Owners of large parcels, commercial buildings and multi-unit buildings saw reductions of 7% to 80%. Some large commercial buildings previously taxed at $5,052 went to $2,406, a 52% decrease. Lots of 20,000 sf went from $3,378 to $2,406, a 29% decrease. A multi-unit building went from $11,907 to $2,406, an 80% decrease.

The 2012 Board expressed regret at creating the above inequities. When I presented my square foot progressive tax idea to the School Board earlier this year, the regret was again sincerely expressed. The School Board wants to adequately fund our schools and in the most equitable manner possible. The history of other School Districts and their use of a per square foot of building tax:

I. ALAMEDA’s June 2008 tax Measure H imposed different tax rates on residential and commercial property. Alameda was sued by Borikas (as the case is commonly identified) and Alameda prevailed in Superior Court. Borikas plaintiffs appealed and the Appeals court reversed in favor of Borikas Dec. 2012.

March 2011 Alameda passed Measure A which abandoned the previous Measure H tax and imposed 32 cents “per building square foot.” Measure A also has an annual $7,999 cap and unimproved lots at $299. The same Boricas plaintiffs sued (Nelco, Inc. v. Alameda Unified School District, Alameda County Superior Court, #RG 08-405984 Measure A) to invalidate Measure A. Sep. 2011 Judge Frank Roesch, Alameda County Superior Court . . . rejected all the Plaintiff’s claims and dismissed the petition in the case (Alameda Patch Sep. 13. 2011). The per square foot tax of Measure A remained in place.

Nov 2016 Alameda passed Measure B1 which duplicated and continued the “per square foot of building” tax of Measure A. Alameda was then sued on the same issues by the same Nelco plaintiffs that had opposed Measure A in 2011. In Feb 2018 Alameda prevailed in Superior Court. See May 4, 2018: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/news/view?d=x&id=1525422895157

Since 2011 Alameda School District has used and continues to use the per square foot building tax. Alameda has been sued twice specifically on it’s per square foot tax. Both times Alameda Schools prevailed in court and uses the per square foot of building tax since 2011.

II. EMERYVILLE schools (“Emery”) passed a per square foot of building tax in July 2007. When considering a renewal of its previous 15 cent per square foot building tax, Emery relied on the legal opinion of two attorneys from Fagan, Friedman, Fulfrost, LLP and the opinion of a third legal expert on school tax challenges from Lozano, Smith. A fourth attorney that specializes in litigating educations issues, John Affeldt, was on the Emery board at the time. Measure K passed Nov. 2014 and imposes “fifteen cents of building area per square foot” for 20 years. In summary since 2007 the per square foot of building tax has been and is used in Emeryville unchallenged. Piedmont uses the same legal firm of Fagan, Friedman, Fulfrost, and LLP

III. BERKELEY passed School tax Measure H Nov 2010 which imposed a per square foot of building tax at 6.31 cents and 9.46 cents respectively on residential and commercial buildings. Nov 2016 Berkeley passed Measure E1 which imposed 37 cents per square foot of tax on “all taxable buildings.” Likely Measure E1 eliminated the residential commercial differentiation because of Borikas. Berkeley Schools use the per square foot building tax and has not been challenged.

IV. WEST CONTRA COSTA COUNTY started using per square foot of building tax in 2004; the tax imposed 7.2 cents per square foot of building and $7.20 on unimproved property. An identical tax was renewed 2008 with Measure D and again Nov 2012 with Measure G. 1/4/2013 plaintiffs Bypass 93 Properties & American Standard properties represented by David Brilliant, the Borikas attorney, sued to invalidate Measure G ( Contra Costa 1/4/2013 MSC13-00024). The same plaintiffs also sued the San Leandro School District. The result of the litigation against West Contra Cost is that in 2016 West Contra Costa passed Measure T which retained the 7.2 cents per building square foot and eliminated the unimproved property differentiation. Unchallenged Measure T renewed to 2024 and West Contra Costa continues to use a per square foot building tax. (Legislation AB2954 passed Sep 2018 now allows a different unimproved property rate. The plain language is readily understandable as I am not an attorney.)

Dannis, Woliver & Kelley, a noted Law Firm that drafts and administers Parcel taxes, commented on Donlinger, a Jan. 2019 appeals court decision concerning per square foot of building tax: “Last week (Jan 2019), a California appellant court validated a local agency’s special tax calculated on the basis of square footage of improved structures. In Donlinger . . . the statute involved mirrors the statutory authority used by school and community college district to levy parcel taxes, including the requirements that the tax be “uniform” . . . The court concluded: “We do not read the statute to require a uniform effect or outcome, but rather uniform application.””  https://www.dwkesq.com/per-square-foot-parcel-taxes-upheld-by-court-of-appeal/

Mr. Raushenbush states the per square foot of building tax is legally suspect. The per square foot of building school tax is used in Alameda which prevailed in 2011 and 2018 to legal challenges specific to its per square foot tax. There have been no legal challenges to per square foot school taxes in Berkeley and Emeryville. West Contra Costa after litigation uses a per square foot of building tax. Mr. Raushenbush raised the issue of litigation cost for Piedmont schools; all School Districts take litigation costs as seriously as Piedmont, they will not invite litigation and the per square foot tax is now unexceptional. There is no case of a per square foot building school tax being litigated which forced the School District to abandon the per square foot tax.

The groups of Plaintiffs in the various actions against Alameda Schools are large commercial property owners. In Piedmont a litigant would most likely be a homeowner who would then likely suffer a significant social stigma. With a reasonable cap in place, I suggest $4,999, the very few commercial owners that previously paid $5,052 before 2013 would have no incentive to sue. While virtually anything can be contested with a financially willing client, the likelihood of a per square foot of building School tax being challenged by a Piedmont resident is unthinkable.

Mr. Raushenbush states that unimproved lots should be taxed the same as homes “as the Piedmont schools make those parcels valuable.” A few examples of the 100+ unimproved lots currently taxed at our $2,656 flat rate:

Assessor’s Number       Lot Size             Tax Value                    Address
11-855-28                              nine sf                     $729                           558 Crofton
11-878-40                             21 sf                         $1,056                        1110 Portal
11-882-56                            38 sf                         $1,557                         1370 Sunnyhills
48C-7180-23                       200 sf                        $729                           5474 La Salle

There are at least 40 unimproved lots smaller than 1,000 sf. The owner/taxpayers of these low value unbuildable lots will never enjoy the increase in value created by our schools. Unimproved parcels and especially those that can never be improved should not be taxed at the same flat rate as a home.

Mr. Raushenbush misstates my income based senior exemption proposal by writing that a senior exemption will “impose a significant burden on remaining taxpayers.” A “significant burden” would be concerning to taxpayers if it were true, however Mr. Raushenbush omits key parts of my letter. I wrote: “The tax may (underline added) include an income based senior exemption at a rate to be determined and would not cost the District more than 2% of what the total tax revenue would be without this exemption.” My specific proposal is if the exemption is included, the Board can set qualifying income levels so that the total revenue reduction is no more than 2% or less; or not have any senior exemption which is traditional in Piedmont. Mr. Raushenbush’s concern of a senior exemption “significant burden” is baseless.

While no tax can be uniformly fair to all taxpayers, a per square foot of building tax is the best option Piedmont has to continue providing adequate revenue for our schools in the most equitable manner available. The final ballot results of the Tax Survey P.15 shows definite/probable yes at 73% for the per square foot and 62% for the flat rate. 67% is needed to pass.

I ask the Board to put a square foot of building tax before voters this year.

Rick Schiller Piedmont resident

April 22, 2019

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. 
Apr 19 2019

City of Piedmont

CIP Review Committee Agenda Tuesday, April 23, 2019 7:00 p.m.

City Hall Conference Room, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

  1. Review of Preliminary CIP Wish Lists, Resident Proposals, and Criteria for Evaluating Proposed Projects
  2. Presentation of Resident Proposals
  3. Consideration of Project List for CIP Review Committee Site Tour on Saturday, May 4, 2019

The meeting will not be recorded or broadcast.  The public is welcome to attend and participate. 

Apr 18 2019

City/School Liaison Committee to Discuss Tobacco Grant Funding Possibly for a School Resource Officer or Other Purposes.

Monday, April. 22nd – 4:00 – 5 p.m. open to the public in the Piedmont Unified School District Offices, 760 Magnolia Avenue.

The Piedmont Unified School District and City of Piedmont will hold a meeting of the City/School Liaison Committee to discuss the California Department of Justice Tobacco Grant Award on Monday, April 22nd at 4:00 p.m. in the PUSD offices located at 760 Magnolia Avenue.

Liaisons are appointees chosen from the City Council and School Board. 

The discussions at this meeting will center on how Tobacco Grant funds might be used by the City and PUSD to bolster and/or develop tobacco mitigation efforts and additional health education programs focused on prevention for tobacco related issues and other student health efforts. This conversation is an outgrowth of previous discussions between PUSD, the City, and the community on the initial proposal to establish a School Resource Officer.

The City/School Liaison Committee is not a decision making body, rather it focuses on discussions of issues of mutual interest between the two agencies. The influential discussions are expected to be reported to their elected bodies for potential action and/or information.  This meeting is open to the public.  It will not be publicly broadcast or recorded. 

The agenda is available online at: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/committees/agendas/city_school_liaison.pdf 

Apr 17 2019

Our Piedmont community will soon be asked to renew the School Support Tax that funds roughly 25% of the Piedmont Unified School District’s (PUSD) budget. Because the State does not adequately fund education, the School Support Tax is critical to maintaining the excellence of Piedmont schools.

The current School Support Tax (Measure A), approved by the community in 2013, taxes each taxable parcel the same amount. In recent letters, Mr. Rick Schiller advocates what he terms a “progressive tax” to replace Measure A. Mr. Schiller proposes that the next tax: (1) apply a uniform tax rate to the square feet of buildings on a taxable parcel, rather than a uniform amount to each taxable parcel, thus shifting more of the cost of schools to owners of large homes; (2) impose a lower rate on unimproved lots; (3) include an “income based senior exemption”; and (4) continue to include “compassionate SSI and SSDI exemptions,” which exempt property owners below certain poverty levels.

The next School Support Tax should fairly allocate a community cost and must indisputably comply with the law. Mr. Schiller’s proposal exposes PUSD to litigation risk that I believe would be imprudent to accept. Further, I do not consider Mr. Schiller’s proposed tax to be “progressive.”

I must start with the litigation risk (excuse the detail), which could impose unaffordable costs on PUSD and potentially leave our schools unfunded. Piedmont’s School Support Tax is a “qualified special tax” authorized by California Government Code § 50079, which provides such a tax “means special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district, except that unimproved property may be taxed at a lower rate than improved property.” (Emphasis added).

In Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District, 214 Cal.App.4th 135 (2013), the Court invalidated Alameda’s school parcel tax (Measure H), which taxed residential and commercial properties, and commercial properties above and below 2000 square feet, differently. The plaintiffs argued that Section 50079 “means all taxpayers and all real property must be treated the same, and school districts are not empowered to treat different kinds of taxpayers, and different kinds of real property, differently.” Id. at 147. The Court agreed, holding that Section 50079 “does not empower school districts to classify taxpayers and property, and impose different tax rates.” Id. at 151. The Court found it could “sever” the invalid parts of Measure H, and upheld a parcel tax of $120 per parcel. Id. at 166-67.

Mr. Schiller, and others before him, have argued that Borikas does not bar a tax under Section 50079 based on a uniform rate per square foot (either of land or buildings). Borikas did not expressly rule on such a tax. However, Borikas found it must follow Section 50079’s text, and the text refers to “special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property.” It does not refer to a uniform rate, but to a tax that applies uniformly.

The tax imposed on small vs. large parcels/homes would be different under a “per square foot” tax. Further, looking to Section 50079’s legislative history, Borikas rejected Alameda’s claim that it would be unfair for “all parcels [to] bear the same tax, regardless of size,” noting: “The Legislature was aware, however, that uniform parcel taxes were considered ‘more inequitable’ than ad valorem property taxes because all parcels, regardless of size, are subject to the same tax. … Nevertheless, the Legislature made no adjustments or provisions in this regard.” Id. at 158 (emphasis added); accord id. at fn. 27.

Nothing since Borikas has removed the risk that a Piedmont “per square foot” tax under Section 50079 will be ruled invalid. In 2014, SB 1021 was introduced in the California Legislature to amend Section 50079 to expressly authorize a “per square foot” tax—it did not pass. In 2018, the Legislature adopted AB 2954, which amended Section 50079 to allow school districts to tax unimproved property “at a lower rate than improved property,” but did not authorize a “per square foot” tax.  While the reference to a “rate” rather than an “amount,” provides an argument that uniformity refers to “rate” also, there is no ruling on point.

Mr. Schiller notes that the Alameda Superior Court has twice upheld Alameda School District’s later parcel taxes, which impose a “per square foot” taxes. However, the Alameda Superior Court also upheld Measure H, and the lawsuits against Alameda’s later taxes were settled before the First District Court of Appeals, which issued Borikas, ruled on appeal.

Mr. Schiller also relies on Dondlinger v. Los Angeles County Regional Park, No. B284932 (2019), but that case addressed Pub. Resources Code § 5566, a different statute, which expressly states that a park district may establish a “rate” which “is to be applied uniformly.” Further, Dondlinger is a Second District decision; Piedmont is in the First District, which is governed by the Borikas decision.

Until the First District Court of Appeals or the California Supreme Court upholds a “per square foot” school parcel tax, or the Legislature amends Section 50079 to expressly allow such a tax, I do not think it is prudent for PUSD to take the litigation risk of asking Piedmonters to approve such a tax. Litigation could cost $100,00 to $500,000, depending upon motions, trial and appeals. PUSD does not have that to spare. Moreover, to feel secure in spending the tax revenue, PUSD would have to file a validation action, but that simply ensures any litigation starts quickly.

While it is possible that no Piedmont property owner would challenge such a tax, there is no way to remove the risk. (Note that Alameda’s parcel taxes have been challenged three times). PUSD could not spend the tax revenue until any litigation is resolved, as PUSD would have no way to pay back the taxes collected if the tax ultimately were held invalid. Further, because PUSD cannot fund its school budget without a parcel tax, if the tax was challenged, PUSD would have to run another parcel tax election immediately, at additional significant expense. Under Mr. Schiller’s proposal, PUSD (and every Piedmont family with school children) would take this risk so that owners of small homes could pay less than owners of large homes. There are times when accepting litigation risk is necessary. This is not one of them.

I also believe that the School Support Tax must be fair to Piedmont residents. The Piedmont schools benefit every resident. For nearly everyone, our children have gone, are going, or will go to school. Piedmont residents have shared the cost of public education no matter where they are in this cycle. Moreover, the excellence of the Piedmont schools is why Piedmont homes are so valuable. Further, an available and excellent public education is fundamental to civil society, and we all have a civic duty to ensure it. Asking the owner of each taxable parcel to pay the same amount seems fair to me. I include unimproved parcels as the Piedmont schools make those parcels valuable.

A “progressive” tax generally is perceived as taxing wealthy people more by increasing the tax rate at higher levels of wealth or income, and is supported by the notion that those who have more money can afford to pay more tax toward community needs. In claiming his proposed tax is “progressive,” Mr. Schiller equates a building’s “square feet” as equivalent to wealth or income, and assumes that owners with more “square feet” can afford to pay more. That may be true in some cases, but certainly not all.

Square feet alone does not establish the value of a home (consider age, quality or location). Owning a large home does not establish wealth other than the home itself (it may have been bought long ago) or a ready ability to pay higher taxes (a young family may have stretched to buy a home with sufficient bedrooms, or a retiree bought a large home years ago).

I also do not support an “income-based senior exemption.” Age does not determine whether a homeowner has a ready ability to pay the School Support Tax.  Nor is current income a true measure of wealth or ability to pay.

Moreover, per the last census, roughly 20% of Piedmont residents were over 65. Assuming roughly 20% of homeowners also are over 65 (it could be higher), exempting any significant number would either underfund the schools or impose a significant burden on the remaining taxpayers.

Further, under Proposition 13, those of us who have owned a home here longer (and are usually older) pay less property tax than young families who have bought a home more recently.  PUSD’s existing income-based SSI and SSDI exemptions (see Section 50079(b)) provide relief to those who are truly in severe financial distress, regardless of their age. That seems an appropriate balance between a homeowner’s ability to pay and the needs of the community.

I support the current Measure A structure—each taxable parcel paying the same amount to support our schools, with narrow exemptions for those truly in financial distress.

Richard W. Raushenbush, Former Piedmont School Board Member

Apr 16 2019

Extensive New Recreation Projects May Call for a New Piedmont Tax Measure

Projects being considered by the City are the Aquatic Center with expanded new pool and facilities, Coaches Field reconfiguration and night lighting, Linda Beach Park improvements, and updating of the Recreation Building and Veterans Hall.  

Volunteers with support primarily from sports and recreation enthusiasts may be knocking on your door to learn about your funding ideas for the numerous recreation projects through a voter approved bond measure.  Door knocking, a common election tool used to estimate specific approval or rejection of potential ballot bond measures, is underway in Piedmont. 

Some Piedmont leaders have indicated gaining more knowledge about Piedmont voter preferences for recreation facilities is needed to learn where support or opposition lies. The volunteer knocking on your door may be a neighbor. 

Larry Tramutola, a Piedmont resident and widely known political consultant on taxing issues involving cities, special districts, school districts, etc., volunteered to advise on methods for approaching and convincing voters to support a new recreation bond measure.

Consultants, planners, recreation enthusiasts, commissioners, and the City Council have for years been fashioning various plans for improved or enhanced recreation facilities throughout Piedmont. The City has expended a significant amount of money and time towards the plans.

To date, no bond proposals have reached the City Council. 

Consideration of voter acceptance of a bond measure was studied by the Council over a year ago resulting in insufficient voter support by polled voters for bond funding of the recreation projects. For approval, the bond measure would require approval by 2/3rds of those voting on the measure.

New Internal Revenue Service laws may impact Piedmonters willingness to further tax themselves, as there is a recent limitation of $10,000 on deductibility of state and local taxes.

Mar 28 2019

At a special meeting on March 25, 2019, the City Council interviewed applicants and made appointments to fill vacancies on commissions and committees. Drawing on the talents of twenty two applicants for twenty vacancies, the City Council made the following appointments:

Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee

Chris Kwei

Christina Paul 

Maya Rath

Frank Ryan

*

CIP Review Committee

Michael Henn

John Lenahan

*

Civil Service Commission

Claudia Harrison

David Hobstetter

*

Park Commission

Betsy Goodman

Jim Horner

Brian Mahany

*

Planning Commission

Rani Batra

Yildiz Duransoy

Douglas Strout

*

Public Safety Committee

Shanti Brien

Lori Elefant

Lynne Wright

*

Recreation Commission

Glyn Burge

Jeffrey Dorman

Vincent Fisher

Congratulations to all and thank you for serving Piedmont!

Mar 27 2019
  • Middle School courts repaved for Pickleball purposes
  • Wildwood Gardens streets changed to one way
  • Stairway to Oak Avenue from Wildwood Gardens
  • Fencing and improvements to Blair Park along Moraga Avenue 
  • Improvements to Witter Field drainage and various enhancements
  • Water fountain in Piedmont Park near Witter Field for dogs and people

The purpose of the CIP Review Committee and citizen proposed projects can be read by clicking below:

> CIP 2019

Revised Proposal worksheet can be read by clicking below.

> 2019 Proposal sheet revised

Various City Wide projects are: Aquatic Center, Linda Beach Park, Recreation Center and Veterans Hall improvements, Coaches Field improvements including lights, and Public Security Cameras.

The Committee meetings are open to the public and any resident that wants to attend is welcome. The next meeting is scheduled for April 9th at 7 pm in the City Council conference room to the left as you enter Piedmont City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue.  Recordings of the meeting are not made and there are no broadcasts or minutes of the meetings. 

For more information, contact Nancy Kent at NKent@piedmont.ca.gov

Mar 16 2019

CIP Review Committee Agenda Tuesday, March 19, 2019 7:00 p.m.   City Hall Conference Room, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA

What is being considered for City expenditures?

The CIP meeting is open for public participation. Minutes and recordings are not made of the meetings, and there are no broadcasts of the meetings.  Meeting materials, staff reports, citizen requests have not been publicly distributed. Attendees at the meeting, and thereafter, all individuals have a right to view and obtain copies of all information distributed to the Committee. Meeting attendees may make recordings of the meetings, as long as the meeting is not disrupted by the recording device.

The March 19 meeting agenda includes:

  1. Update on Public Safety Projects from Police Chief Jeremy Bowers
  2. Review of Revised Work Schedule and Tasks for the CIP Review Committee for Fiscal Year 2019-20
  3. Review of Proposed Projects

Materials related to an item on this agenda submitted to the CIP Review Committee are available for public inspection in the Public Works Department during normal business hours. 

As of this writing (3/17/19) PCA has not received agenda information materials for the 3/19/19  meeting. When information is submitted to PCA, it will be published here. 

New CIP member, Recreation Commissioner Conna McCarthy, was chosen to serve on the CIP Review Committee, as the representative from the Recreation Commission.

Mar 8 2019

Deadline for proposals: Tuesday, March, 19, 2019

The Capital Improvement Projects Review Committee (CIP) is soliciting proposals for new city projects which would enhance our community. Ideas submitted by individuals, community organizations and City Staff are all considered. If you have a great idea, the committee would like to hear from you.

Download the > Proposal Form. Proposals are due no later than Tuesday, March 19th at 5:00 p.m.  Completed forms should be returned to the Department of Public Works, 120 Vista Avenue.

All applicants/residents that have submitted proposals will be personally invited to attend the CIP meeting scheduled on April 9, 2019.  At this meeting, applicants will be asked to briefly describe their projects to the CIP Review Committee. The CIP Review Committee will then determine which projects will require a site visit.

The April 9 meeting is a public meeting.  All interested individuals are welcome to attend and participate in the meeting proceedings.

The CIP Site Visit Tour will be scheduled for a Saturday in early May. The tour will commence at City Hall at 9:00 am and then will proceed to CIP tour stops located throughout the City. At each of the tour stops the CIP Review Committee will see the locations for proposed projects first hand.

At noon, a working lunch will be provided at City Hall for Committee members, city staff, and interested citizens. At this working lunch the CIP Review Committee will attempt to compose their list of 2019-2020 CIP projects that they recommend as a part of this year’s budget process. The CIP chair in conjunction with CIP Review Committee members will be asked to prepare a list of recommended projects and narrative that will be forwarded to the City Council for consideration in the budget process.

If you have questions regarding the CIP process, please contact Nancy Kent Parks & Project Manager, at (510) 420-3064.

CIP Committee Roster as of 3/7/19

Michael Henn

Susan Herrick

Bobbe Stehr

Jeffrey St. Claire

PBF Representative – Nancy McHugh

Park Commission Representative – Jim Horner

Recreation Commission Representative – TBD

Mar 6 2019

In 2013, our current flat rate per parcel School Tax was passed by voters to replace the previous Tax based on a five tier parcel size levy, a modestly progressive tax. Our School Board expressed sincere regret at eliminating the progressive tax but believed it had no choice other than to tax all parcels regardless of size at the same rate because of the 2012 Boricas v Alameda USD Appeal’s Court decision.

Of the 3,921 School tax parcels in Piedmont, 76% of Piedmont homes are on parcels under 10,000 square feet (“sf”). These taxpayers previous $1,989 and $2,260 tax became $2,406 in 2013, a 6% to 21% increase.  Owners of undeveloped parcels went from $1,009 to $2,406, a 238% increase. However, a small percentage of taxpayers benefited as owners of large parcels, commercial buildings and multi-unit buildings saw reductions of 7% to 80%. Some large commercial buildings previously taxed at $5,052 went to $2,406, a 52% decrease. 20,000 sf lots went from $3,378 to $2,406, a 29% decrease. A multi-unit building went from $11,907 to $2,406, an 80% decrease.

A progressive tax based on per square footage of building space is used in Alameda and other districts. The current Alameda tax passed by 74% in 2016 was challenged in 2017 on the validity of levying a tax on building square footage. Mar 4, 2018, the Alameda Schools per square footage of building tax was found legally valid in Alameda County Superior Court. Jan 31, 2019, a California appellate court validated a local agency’s special tax calculated on the basis of square footage of improved structures (Dondlinger v. Los Angeles County Regional).

Piedmont Schools previously embraced a partially progressive tax and now has an excellent progressive tax option that is far more equitable by using building per square footage. I propose the following progressive tax:

(1) Tax will be at $1 to $1.05 per square foot of building size. The District will determine the exact rate needed to provide funding at slightly above the current level.

(2) $4,999 will be the maximum tax for any building.

(3) Currently some multi-parcel estates are subject to multiple taxes and some are subject to one tax (GC 53087.4). So that all multi-parcel estates are treated uniformly and given that many multi-parcel estates have large homes that will be assessed at the maximum tax, a contiguous parcel exemption will be included. No property owner for a single home will pay more than $4,999.

(4) $1,099 will be the rate for unimproved lots.

(5) A 2% annual cost adjustment will be included.

(6) The tax may include an income based senior exemption at a rate to be determined so as not to cost the District more than 2% of the what the total tax revenue would be without this exemption.

(7) Compassionate SSI and SSDI exemptions will be included. These are not aged based.

        Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

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