PIEDMONT -- Voters overwhelmingly passed Measure A, with 77 percent approving the schools parcel tax in unofficial results posted Tuesday evening.
The measure needed a two-thirds majority to pass. With all six precincts reporting, there were 2,704 mail-in ballots cast and 1,127 election-day ballots cast in favor of the measure, with total ballots cast at 3,831, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. There were 880 votes cast against the measure, or 23 percent of the vote. There are 8,471 registered voters in Piedmont.
The measure will levy a flat tax of $2,406 per parcel, going into effect July 1, 2014. The current Measure B parcel tax expires June 30, 2014. The school board may raise the levy by 2 percent per year if it deems it necessary. The tax will bring in about $9.5 million per year for eight years to sustain Piedmont's schools, which like every other district in the state, has had to deal with cutbacks in state funding. The parcel tax represents 30 percent of the district's operating budget, Superintendent Connie Hubbard has said.
The school board switched gears at the last moment to modify the ballot measure from a tax based on parcel size to a flat tax. A court ruling, Borikas vs. Alameda Unified School District, necessitated the change. The state Court of Appeal ruled that parcel taxes must be equitable, with all taxes levied equally for commercial as well as residential parcels.
School board Vice President Andrea Swenson was delighted with the outcome.
"Once again, I am proud to live in a city that places such a high value on education. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on the campaign and thank you to the voters of Piedmont," Swenson said.
School board President Rick Raushenbush echoed her sentiments.
"Every current and future student, parent and property owner in Piedmont should be grateful to the voters who approved the school support tax. Investing in education is critical to the success of our children and society. My deep thanks to all of the tremendous volunteers who explained the importance of Measure A to our community, in particular Katie Korotzer, Doug Ireland, Jonathan Davis, June Monach, Larry Tramutola and the precinct captains," he said.
Said Ireland: "You have ensured eight years of stable, locally controlled funding for our school district. A heartfelt 'thank you' for demonstrating your strong commitment."
Superintendent Connie Hubbard echoed the statements by Swenson, Raushenbush and Ireland.
"On behalf of the Piedmont Unified School District, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to
the Piedmont voters, community, and Measure A team led by Katie Korotzer and Doug Ireland," Hubbard said in a statement Wednesday. "Your enduring support of the Piedmont school system will have a lasting impact on the lives of Piedmont students, teachers, and support staff now and for many years to come."
Supporters maintained that while parents and foundations contribute heavily to support Piedmont's schools, that money is never "guaranteed." Without the parcel tax, programs such as music and arts could be threatened, as well as classroom sizes and number of teachers.
Opponents charged that the campaign used "scare tactics" to convince voters that the city's schools were in financial trouble, when they were not. Opponents also argued that the school board rushed to put the parcel tax on the ballot, when it should have waited to see the outcome of the Borikas case. Supporters countered that cases in court can take years to resolve.
Under the proposed
tax structure, commercial properties would get a 42 percent tax cut, while smaller residential parcels would get a 5.7 percent tax hike and the largest parcels would get an 18.6 percent cut. Opponents also objected to the lack of a senior exemption, which many other comparable cities have.
"The funding for our schools is not the issue. Opponents believe a tax this high needs a progressive tax based on square footage of dwelling and property, and a federal-based "very-low-income" senior exemption. The school board can keep its promise of putting such a tax before voters to replace Measure A as soon as possible. Our democratic system is best served by an honest process and good faith by all involved in Piedmont's school tax dialogue," opponent Rick Schiller said.
Piedmont has some of the highest school parcel taxes in the state. However, residents have consistently voted for a parcel tax since 1985.