In this case, the first domino to fall was Alameda after losing at the appellate court level, but has been granted a reprieve in the form of a re-hearing at the appellate court level. As I mentioned on Friday, in response to the first Appeals Court decision, Assemblymember Rob Bonta has introduced legislation that would allow for “rational classifications” to be included when structuring school parcel taxes. While some may cynically view this as a self-serving piece of legislation to further Rob Bonta’s political career — and seriously people, I don’t know how some of you go through life thinking the worst of everybody and everyone. I mean, I’m not super naive or anything but the levels of cynicism that exists is breathtaking sometimes, but I digress — this has become an issue that extends way past the borders of Alameda.
The same law firm that took up the Borikas case has gone to practically every single jurisdiction that he could possibly muster and is now suing a bunch of other school district, from the Hayward Daily Review:
On the heels of the precedent-setting court victory, attorney David Brillant is seeking to invalidate four parcel tax measures approved on the November ballot in San Leandro Unified, West Contra Costa Unified, Davis Joint Unified and a group of five districts in Los Angeles County. Brillant filed the suits in the county courts in January, just before the 60-day statute of limitations following the election was up, he said. His clients, which vary from case to case, are commercial property owners in each district.
San Leandro’s Measure L was slated to raise $12 million over five years by collecting $39 per residential parcel, $19 per unit on multifamily units with five or more units, and $0.02 per square foot for businesses.
The West Contra Costa School District had a five year extension for an existing parcel tax to raise $50 million by collecting 7.2 cents per square foot on building size and $7.20 per empty parcel.
Davis Unified School District also voted for a parcel tax extension to raise $12.8 million by collecting $204 per parcel and $20 per dwelling unit for multifamily housing.
And five school districts in West LA approved a 12 year measure to collect $132 million by collecting $0.02 cents per square foot of lot for residential property and 7.5 cents per square foot of lot for nonresidential properties.
So perhaps this is simply political calculus on the part of Rob Bonta, a feel good piece of legislation designed to win over supporters and fans, but even if that is the case, there is a clear need to establish legislative intent on the issue of parcel taxes and whether “uniform” should be strictly interpreted the way that is being suggested that a vacant lot gets taxed exactly the same way as a football stadium would. Or is uniform within different classes such as “residential” or “multifamily” or “business” or “vacant” what the legislature intended, or rather intend if that is something that had not been considered previously.
Right now millions of dollars for nine different schools districts hang in the balance which will affect thousands upon thousands of California students and teachers. We could wait and see what the court decides or leave it in the hands of the California legislature to state, definitively, that “rational classifications” within each parcel tax are okay as long as it is uniform within those classifications. I think that most can see that within the examples above, and within Measure H itself, the classifications of different types can be considered rational and within those classifications the tax was applied uniformly.