ALAMEDA -- School district officials plan to appeal a recent court decision that invalidates parts of Measure H, the parcel tax that voters passed four years ago, and that clears the way for some property owners to possibly receive refunds.
District trustees voted 4-1 during a special session Wednesday to challenge the Dec. 6 ruling by the Court of Appeals that struck down the measure's rate structure and found only the flat $120 rate that residential owners paid was valid.
The court also called for possible "further remedies" in the case, which school officials said could include refunds of some of the money collected before Measure H was replaced by Measure A, the parcel tax passed last year.
"If the trial court orders refunds of tax revenues already collected and spent, this decision has the potential to be a significant blow to our budget with many negative consequences for our students, teachers and staff," Superintendent Kirsten Vital said Friday.
The ruling also has "significant public policy and budget implications" for school districts throughout the state, Vital said.
George Borikas and other local commercial property owners maintain Measure H was unfair because it taxed them differently than residential owners.
Owners of commercial properties of less than 2,000 feet were taxed at $120 annually under the measure -- the same as residential property owners. But those owning parcels more than 2,000 square feet were taxed at 15 cents a square foot, capped at $9,500 annually.
David Brillant, the attorney who represents the property owners who sued, could not be immediately reached for comment on the school board's decision to challenge the ruling.
Trustee Trish Spencer cast the lone no vote during Wednesday's meeting. The board is expected to review the case again during a closed session on Jan. 15.
On Tuesday, the Piedmont Unified School District Board of Education moved to amend the parcel tax that it will place will before voters in March in response to the ruling in the Alameda case.
For the past 27 years, the Piedmont schools parcel tax has been based on lot size, with differentials for business and multiple dwelling parcels that generally paid more.
Piedmont voters will now consider whether to support a flat tax of $2,406 per parcel.
Alameda's Measure A, which replaced Measure H and passed by more than 68 percent in March 2011, calls for residential and commercial property owners to pay 32 cents per square foot of a building, with a maximum tax of $7,999 per parcel. Owners of properties with no buildings pay $299.
District officials said the ruling by the Court of Appeals does not effect Measure A, and noted that they won a legal challenge against the measure last year that opponents can no longer appeal. Measure A will sunset in five years.
Among those who joined Borikas in the lawsuit against the district over Measure H was Ed Hirshberg, who owns the building that houses the Alameda Journal, a Media News publication.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty/.