PIEDMONT -- It's finally final.

Measure A, the schools support tax, will be on the March 5 ballot. The school board, in its final meeting to gather input, voted unanimously at last Wednesday's special meeting to put the measure on the ballot.

The measure, which will need a two-thirds majority to pass, was not without public discord. If approved, it would go into effect July 1, 2014.

Various speakers questioned the deductibility of the tax for income tax purposes, the formula by which parcels are taxed, the lack of a senior exemption and how dual city parcels are taxed.

"It's an inequitable tax," resident Rick Schiller said. "You should tax (based upon) the square footage of the dwelling, not the size of the lot."

Schiller pointed out that some jurisdictions base their schools tax on dwelling size, that "it was challenged in court and passed. Also, the senior exemption should be the rule, not the exception."

Board president Rick Raushenbush responded, "We can't guarantee (IRS) deductibility in the future. It is presently allowed. But there is no pot of money to make up for the $9.5 million the parcel tax would bring in yearly."

"A senior exemption is not realistic even though it's done in other places."

The term of the tax would be eight years, expiring on June 30, 2022. It includes a 2 percent-per-year escalator and calls for a hardship exemption for those owners living in their home who are eligible to receive the Social Security program's Supplemental Security Income.

The SSI exemption could apply to adults who are blind or disabled with limited income and resources, as well as people 65 years and older without disabilities who meet the SSI limits. Those applying for exemption must submit an application on or before July 1 of each tax year.

The board also agreed to form a parcel tax subcommittee within 60 days of the election, should the measure pass. The volunteers on the subcommittee would work with the district's chief business officer to determine each year's levy of the tax.

Superintendent Connie Hubbard stressed that the parcel tax is for specific use: to retain qualified teachers; protect programs; continue funding for music, visual and performing arts; and keep instructional technology up to date. Every penny of the tax, should it pass, is promised to stay in Piedmont. Hubbard explained that the numerous parcels in town that straddle the Oakland and Piedmont border receive a tax bill from each city, prorated on the percentage of that parcel that lies within each jurisdiction.

The average-sized parcel of 5,000 to 9,999 square feet would cost $2,373; parcels 10,000 to 14,999-square-feet would cost $2,706 per year, with commercial properties up to 10,000 square feet costing $3,547.

Hubbard said the district's budgets are in "OK shape" for 2012-13 and 2013-14, "then in 2014-15 the $1.5 million deficit reappears."

"A concept of compromise is what we have on the table," trustee Ray Gadbois said. "It's not perfect, but sound leadership balances the issues of the community."

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