If the past is any guide the present, the proposed renewal of Piedmont's hefty parcel tax for schools – Measure A – will pass easily next Tuesday, March 5.
Since the Piedmont Unified School District parcel tax was first adopted in 1984, the voters have renewed it six times by substantial margins above the required two-thirds yes vote. In the past three elections with school parcel taxes on the ballot, voters passed two separate parcel taxes each time.
The larger tax adopted in 2009 passed with 78.4 percent yes votes, and the larger tax approved in 2005 won with 88.1 percent yes votes.
Measure A would tax each residential and commercial parcel in the city the same amount, beginning with $2,406 a year, and provide nearly $9.5 million, or 30 percent of the district's budget, backers say. It would pay for teachers and instruction materials.
If it fails, Piedmont's educational excellence would be badly damaged, with teachers laid off, classes sizes increased and instructional programs eliminated, according to the ballot argument in favor of A.
Opponents say the tax unfairly imposes the same burden on small property owners as it does on large property owners and that it should include an exemption for seniors. Measure A provides an exemption for low-income homeowners on SSI.
Opponents also call for a "truly independent" citizen oversight committee. Backers say the measure already includes one. Measure A would require an annual report from a School Support Tax Advisory Subcommittee, made up of members of the district's Budget Advisory Committee.
The League of Women Voters of Piedmont has endorsed Measure A.
Measure A departs from many past parcel taxes in that it will go for eight years instead of four. The current parcel tax expires June 30, 2014, while Measure A would go into effect July 1 this year and end June 30, 2021, according to an independent analysis by the Alameda County Counsel.
A bigger departure is that Measure A would be a flat tax requiring each parcel to pay the same amount, starting at $2,406 per year, no matter the size and no matter whether it's residential or commercial. The school board could increase the levy up to 2 percent a year.
The current parcel tax varies according to whether it's residential or commercial and also by size. A single-family parcel under 5,000 square feet now pays $2,088, and a single-family parcel between 5,000 and 10,000 pays $2,373, according to a table assembled by Measure A backers.
Backers of Measure A say the flat rate conforms with a recent state Court of Appeal decision striking down variable parcel taxes assessed by the Alameda Unified School District. In the case, Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District, the Court of Appeal invalidated part of the Alameda tax plan in a December ruling, but in January it agreed to reconsider its ruling. The case is pending.