California's Supreme Court has denied the school district's request to reconsider a court ruling striking much of the district's 2008 school parcel tax, a decision that could cost the district more than $7 million in taxes it collected and spent.
The district asked the state's highest court to reconsider an appellate ruling that struck much of the district's Measure H parcel tax, saying lawmakers never intended to give school districts the power to charge different classes of property owners different rates. Under Measure H, the school district charged homeowners a flat rate of $120 a year while charging commercial property owners by the square foot, which for many resulted in much bigger tax bills. But the court declined to consider the case, the district announced Wednesday evening.
"We are disappointed the California Supreme Court declined to review this case," Superintendent Kirsten Vital was quoted as saying in a press release. "The decision of the Court of Appeal that now governs this case could be a significant blow to our budget with many negative consequences for students, teachers and staff here in Alameda, as well as for other districts and local agencies across the state."
The release said the district will provide its best legal arguments at the local trial court that must decide whether the district should refund as much as $7.2 million the appellate court said it illegally collected under the Measure H tax, and that it will seek legislative help as well.
David Brillant, the attorney representing commercial property owners who sued the district over the tax, said he was pleased with the ruling.
"The (Alameda) Board of (Education) went down this road, they never thought this would happen. And it did. Now it's up to an Alameda County Superior Court judge to determine the refund, the interest rate, interest due, and any other remedies that we may need," Brillant said.
Voters approved Measure H by an ultra-slim majority in 2008 and the district collected the tax for three years, replacing it with a new tax, Measure A, in 2011. That tax was also challenged but a local trial court denied that challenge, and the property owners who pursued it declined to appeal that decision.
A trial court denied the property owners' case claiming the district lacked the legal authority to charge different property owners different rates under the Measure H tax, but an appeals court reversed that decision, saying the school district only had the right to charge each property owner a uniform amount. They sent the case back to the local trial court to determine whether refunds and interest would be due, but the district appealed to the state supreme court.
Brillant has filed four other suits on behalf of property owners in other California school districts where similar "split roll" taxes have been approved, and he believes the Alameda ruling is precedent for those other cases.
"Those school districts, they still have an opportunity to make this right. Which would mean collecting a flat amount and not following the classifications they created," he said.