PIEDMONT -- The countdown is here -- four days until the special school support tax election on Tuesday.
The lawn signs are out, campaign literature mailed, and fingers crossed by the scores of volunteers urging passage of the parcel tax that would bring more than $9 million a year to the schools for the next eight years. The tax needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
Mail-in ballots had to be mailed by Feb. 28 to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters to be counted in time. Voters can check if their ballot was received by visiting www.acgov.org/rov/votebymail.htm. Ballots can also be delivered to any polling place or to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters can check the location of their polling place on the Measure A campaign's website, www.aforpiedmontschools.org.
More than $19,000 was raised in donations to support the Yes on A campaign, according to campaign filings. Parent clubs each donated $2,500 to the campaign from Beach, Havens, Wildwood, Piedmont High and Piedmont Middle School. Millennium alternative high parents club donated $500. The Piedmont Education Foundation also donated $2,500.
Funds raised have been used for design and production of lawn signs, postage, campaign literature and such. The latest campaign filing for the period of Jan. 20 through Feb. 16 shows $4,610 remains in the war chest for Yes on A.
If the remaining money is not spent, Government Code 54964 stipulates only certain uses for the money, City Clerk John Tulloch said. That includes donating the remainder to a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, such as the Piedmont Education Foundation, which in turn would use it to support the schools.
In this election, there is an outspoken opposition to Measure A. Opponents have shared their views at the Piedmont League of Women Voters forum, in letters and in testimony to the City Council. Opponents, such as residents Tom Clark and Rick Schiller, say an election now is unwarranted, as the current Measure B school parcel tax does not expire until June 30, 2014.
"Measure A is bad for the great majority of us, the 76 percent of property owners whose taxes go up," Clark said.
"Measure A is a shell game, a cruel hoax to pick the pockets of most of us. Don't be fooled. Our schools are in no risk," Clark continued. "Vote no. Wait for clarity in the ongoing legal and legislative processes. Get it right. There is plenty of time to devise a decent tax for July 2014."
Schiller claims in his arguments that the 1,000 smallest home parcels will have their taxes raised by more than 15 percent while the 165 biggest home parcels will see a cut of 33 percent. The school board voted at the 11th hour to levy a flat tax of $2,406 per parcel due to a recent court ruling, Borikas vs. the Alameda Unified School District, that stipulated all parcels had to be levied equally.
Opponents also object to the lack of a senior exemption, which many other comparable cities have. The tax, if it passes, has a provision for a low-income SSI exemption, which opponents say would affect few.
Campaign Treasurer Cathie Geddeis, a former school board member, said that opposition is healthy and voters can decide for themselves.
"We are not paying anybody to work on this campaign," Geddeis said. "A political consultant volunteered his time, a graphics designer, many other services. Everybody recognizes the need is there (for the parcel tax)."
Opponents to Measure A neither raised any money for a campaign nor filed any financial statements.