Alameda Unified School District parcel tax, Measure A (March 2011)

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An Alameda Unified School District parcel tax, Measure A ballot proposition was on the March 8, 2011 ballot</noinclude>, where it was approved.

Measure A will tax parcels in the school district at the rate of 32 cents "per building square foot." The tax is capped at an annual amount of $7,999. Parcels without buildings will pay a minimum of $299/year.[1]

On May 6, it was announced that a lawsuit had been filed that seeks to overturn Measure A. Plaintiff Ed Hirshberg said he filed the lawsuit because "Measure A implements the same unfair tax structure as its predecessor."[2]

The Alameda Unified School District board voted to place Measure A on the March 8, 2011 ballot</noinclude> on November 30, 2010.[3]

Measure A is the third parcel tax measure voters in the Alameda Unified School District have been asked to vote on since 2008. In June 2008, they very narrowly approved Measure H; this led to complex litigation which is still underway.[4] In June 2010, voters in the district very narrowly rejected Measure E. Depending on how one views the results, voters rejected Measure E by either 687 (7,551 x 2 = 15,102 – 14,415 = 687) or 263 votes.[5]

A 2/3rds supermajority vote was required to approve Measure A.

Election results

Measure A
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 14,685 68.01%
No 6,907 31.99%


Final election results from Alameda election officials

Ballot text

The question on the ballot:

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

MEASURE A: To maintain high-quality Alameda schools by protecting small class sizes; core academic, art, music and athletic programs; neighborhood schools; and retaining excellent teachers, shall Alameda Unified School District replace two existing parcel taxes with one annual parcel tax for 7 years in the amounts described in the voter pamphlet, with an exemption for seniors, strict accountability measures including oversight by an independent citizens’ committee and an annual audit, and every dollar staying in Alameda schools?

Support

Supporters

  • The ballot argument filed with the Alameda County Registrar of voters in favor of the measure was signed by:
    Marie Gilmore, Mayor
    Ron Matthews, President, Alameda Little League
    Burnham E. Matthews, Alameda Police Chief (Retired)
    Dennis G. Pagones, Business Owner
    Nielsen B. Tam, Member, Alameda Unified School District Board of Trustees
  • The rebuttal statement to the opponents ballot argument submitted to the Alameda County Registrar of voters was signed by:
    Wilma Chan, Alameda County Supervisor
    Harry Hartman, President, Greater Alameda Business Association
    Marjorie Sherratt, Member, Alameda Unified School District Board of Trustees
    Walter Jacobs, Past President, Alameda Chamber of Commerce
    Michael J. Robles-Wong, Chair, Alameda Save Our Schools

Arguments in favor

Measure A supporters made these arguments in favor of their position:

  • "The cap in Measure A keeps the tax reasonable for businesses, protects jobs for the people who work there, and ensures that new businesses aren’t deterred by the tax from coming to Alameda."[1]
  • "Any business parcel hitting the cap will still pay 16 times what the median Alameda house will, and entities like Alameda Towne Centre that have multiple parcels will pay much more."[1]
  • Measure A "provides the most specific provision for charter students ever in an Alameda parcel tax. The proportion was set at a fair level reflecting the fact that charter schools have less overhead and more flexible funding."[1]
  • Mike Levy, a resident of Alameda, writes: "Now is the time to make real the promises to our children and our belief in public education. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of educational poverty to the sunlit path of learning and understanding. Now is the time to lift our island from the quicksands of anti-taxation propaganda to the solid rock of community and collective responsibility. Now is the time to make quality education a reality for all of Alameda's children."[6]

Opposition


Video produced by "No on Measure A" campaign
  • A committee to fight the Measure A tax was formed in December 2010. The group was called the "Committee Against Measure A in Alameda."Alameda business owner Ed Hirschberg was a leader in the group.[7] The committee believes the tax is unfair because the $7,999 cap creates different tax rates for owners of differently-sized parcels.[8]

Opponents

  • The ballot argument filed with the Alameda County Registrar of voters in opposition to the measure was signed by:
    Leland Traiman, Small Business Person/Parent
    Dennis H. Green, Former President of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce
    Adam Gillitt, Small Business Owner
    Stewart Blandon, MD, Parent
  • The rebuttal statement to the proponents ballot argument submitted to the Alameda County Registrar of voters was signed by:
    Barbara M. Thomas, Former City of Alameda Vice-Mayor/Councilmember
    Karen Zimmerman, Marketing Consultant/Businesswoman
    Steve Case, Small Business Owner
    Elizabeth Williams, Healthcare Consultant
    Marshall Cromer, Parent/Business Owner

Arguments against

Opponents of Measure A made these main arguments:

  • "During last year’s parcel tax campaign, we were told that 11 schools would close if the measure failed. It failed and no schools closed. Now they are claiming five schools will close if Measure A fails. Given their history, why should anyone believe them?"[1]
  • "Homeowners and small businesses will pay 32 cents per square foot while big business will pay as little as 1 cent per square foot.
  • "The average homeowner will see their tax increase by 65 percent according to the AUSD."[1]
  • "Tax on a 2,000 square foot home will more than double. Some people will see their tax quadruple."[1]
  • "The $7,999 cap represents a 16 percent tax cut for big corporations, such as Alameda Towne Centre, which has over $100 million per year in retail revenue; the Oakland Raiders, who have over $200 million per year in revenue, and over $100 million per year in player expenses; Nob Hill Foods which is owned by Raley’s Corporation, which enjoys over $3 billion in annual revenue; Svendsen’s Boatworks, one of the top 25 sales tax producers for the City of Alameda, along with the big national retail chains at Alameda Towne Centre. All of these businesses will pay far less than 32 cents per square foot."[1]
  • "Many businesses endorsing the tax won’t pay anything under Measure A, because of a loophole created by AUSD."[1]
  • "The cap transfers the tax burden to local small businesses, which add the most jobs to our economy. Measure A is a job killer, not a job protector."[1]
  • "Measure A discriminates against some students in favor of others. Twelve percent of Alameda’s public school students will be in charter schools next year, but charter schools get only 3-4 percent of the funds. All students should be funded equally."[1]
  • "Our federal tax system is progressive: the more money you make the greater percent you pay. But Measure A is the opposite and is a perfect example of regressive taxation."[1]
  • "Measure A was crafted with secret data that the public is not allowed to see."[9]

Events

Measure A Forum
Encinal High School, Alameda
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2010
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Rebuttal arguments

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters office initially refused to accept Marshall Cromer's signature, claiming that four signatures on the original argument precluded a fifth signature from being added on the rebuttal statement.)[10] The opponents fought this, and also challenged Wilma Chan's signature on the proponents' ballot argument - when she signed on December 22nd, 2010, she had not yet taken her seat as Alameda County Supervisor. The Registrar of Voters office ultimately relented and allowed Cromer's signature to be added to the rebuttal argument but retained Wilma Chan's signature on the proponents' rebuttal argument.[11]

Picket at forum

On Sunday, January 23rd, 2011, the Alameda League of Women Voters announced an agenda for a February 3rd League forum on Measure A that provided for a 30 minute presentation by the Alameda Unified School District before the "pros and cons" presentations by the two opposing campaign teams. The Committee Against Measure A in Alameda objected to the proposed agenda, saying that it was unfair that AUSD - the agency that proposed the parcel tax - would get an additional 30 minutes of time beyond what the opponents of the measure would receive, and threatened to drop out of the forum and picket it instead.[12] Ultimately, both the parcel tax proponent group, Alameda SOS, and AUSD withdrew from the forum, and the opponent group held their own information forum at the same date and time as the original league forum.

Lawsuits

Measure A lawsuit

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2011

Ed Hirshberg filed a lawsuit on May 6, 2011 that seeks to overturn Measure A. In a statement he released to the press about the lawsuit, Hirshberg said, "Measure A implements the same unfair tax structure as its predecessor. The reason the school district continues to choose this structure in violation of state law is to avoid taking steps toward school reform, pension reform and accountability...Measure A maintains the status quo, which we all know is unsustainable."[2]

The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court. It is similar to a lawsuit that was filed against Measure A's predecessor, Measure H. That lawsuit is under appeal.[2]

In addition to Hirshberg, other plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Measure A are George Borikas, Nelco Inc. and Santa Clara Investors II. David Brillant is the attorney who is representing them in this lawsuit.[2]

On September 13,2011 Judge Burr ruled in favor of Alameda Unified School District. An appeal has not moved forwarded.[13]

Campaign finance complaint

In May 2011, Measure A opponents submitted documents to the Attorney General of California's office that they say establish that school employees used district computers and other resources to campaign for Measure A.[2]

Measure H lawsuit

On June 3 2010, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Mark Burr ruled in favor of Alameda Unified School District in a lawsuit that had been brought against the district challenging Measure H, the parcel tax that voters narrowly approved on June 3, 2008.[14]

The plaintiffs in the Measure H lawsuit alleged that Measure H violates state law because it is not "uniform taxation across different commercial property owners in keeping with the legislative interpretations of California Government Code section 50079."[15] To support this assertion, plaintiffs argued that under Measure H, a commercial property owner in Alameda "with 100,000-square-foot parcel would pay only $9,500, or $0.11 per square foot; while a commercial property owner with a 1,900 square foot parcel would pay the minimum $120 per year, or $0.16 per square foot."[15]

The plaintiffs appealed Judge Burr's June 3 2010 decision.[16] The case is A129295 in the California Courts of Appeal:1st Appellate District. The plaintiff's initial brief was filed December 30th, 2010.[17] The original trial case was Borikas et al. v. Alameda Unified School District, case number VG08405316 in Alameda County Superior Court.

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 The Island of Alameda, "MEASURE A: Pro/con," February 3, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Mercury News, "Alameda: School parcel tax opponents file lawsuit," May 6, 2011
  3. Alameda Journal, "School leaders put parcel tax before voters," December 2, 2010
  4. San Francisco Chronicle, "AUSD Lawsuits Update"
  5. Alameda County Registrar of Voters, "June 22, 2010 Election Summary."
  6. The Oakland Tribune, "Alamedans must stand up for education and Measure A," January 31, 2011
  7. IndyBay, "Alameda Committee Against Measure A launches campaign website to fight unfair tax," December 16, 2010
  8. Alameda Journal, "Alameda board approves cuts in case parcel tax fails," December 16th, 2010
  9. Action Alameda News, "Measure A Based on Fraudulent Plan B," February 15, 2011
  10. Action Alameda News, "Alameda County Registrar Refuses Fifth Signature on Rebuttal to Measure A Ballot Argument," December 28, 2010
  11. Action Alameda News, "Registrar of Voters Relents on Fifth Measure A Opposition Signature," January 6th, 2011
  12. Alameda Sun, "Forum Questioned," January 7th, 2011
  13. Alameda School District, "AUSD Wins Lawsuit Challenging Measure A," September 13, 2011
  14. San Francisco Chronicle, "Full text of AUSD press release on Measure H," June 3, 2010
  15. 15.0 15.1 Alameda Sun, "AUSD Parcel Tax Heading to Court," April 8, 2010
  16. Action Alameda News, "Plaintiffs in Borikas v. AUSD Vow to Appeal Trial Court Ruling on Measure H," June 4th, 2010
  17. Action Alameda News, "Attorney’s for Borikas File Appeal Brief in Measure H Lawsuit," January 11th, 2011