The Measure A ballot proponent rebuttal states, "The opponents simply have their facts wrong. Low-income seniors are exempt from Measure A." Let's look at the facts and see who has it wrong.
Piedmont is California's only top 10 school district with a school tax that does not include an age 65-only-to-qualify senior exemption. Most school districts with a parcel tax use this age-only qualification senior exemption, as do at least 35 regional school districts. View details of this at: http://tiny.cc/36xyqw.
Oakland, Berkeley, Orinda and Moraga add a federal "very-low income" definition of $31,250 to $58,950 to qualify for a senior exemption. Our school board rejected this as likely illegal and instead added a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) qualification for seniors. For most seniors who might be potential SSI recipients, the SSI maximum unearned income is only $8,760 annually or $730 monthly; virtually all income sources count, including unearned Social Security, pensions, disability, unemployment, interest, cash from friends and gifts of food and shelter. In all instances, SSI disqualifies a single person with total resources of more than $2,000, excluding residence and one car.
It is extremely doubtful a single homeowner in Piedmont could possibly qualify for a Measure A "low-income" senior SSI exemption. The SSI annual maximum income ceiling is one-fourth to one-seventh the senior "very-low income" guideline used in neighboring cities. The reality is that Measure A has no meaningful senior exemption.
Should you still believe Measure A has compassion for seniors, consider that the district made no allowance for anyone actually taking the SSI-based "low-income seniors" exemption when calculating the $2,406 parcel tax for 3,920 parcels to generate $9,431,520.
The Measure A flat $2,406 tax, with escalators to $20,651 in total over eight years, hits the smallest homes and fixed-income seniors the hardest. The community responsibility of a quality public education can be in harmony with compassion for needy seniors, as is so common elsewhere in California.
Piedmont has the highest California school support tax. This is partially a result of a limited commercial tax base. Yet all commercial and multifamily properties receive a tax cut from flat-rate Measure A, in some instances up to $10,095. The increased burden falls on the small residential properties with 78 percent paying more under Measure A while the largest homes get an $1,141 tax cut.
Proponents often cite the very low home turnover in Piedmont, yet comparable ranked school districts and other regional affluent communities have a lower turnover rate. Using Census ACS table DP-04, Piedmont shows 3,655 "occupied housing units" with 676 unsold before 1980. Since 1980, 81.5 percent of Piedmont homes have changed hands, with many homes being sold multiple times. Using the same data source, the No. 1-academically ranked city of San Marino has 76.2 percent of homes changing hands since 1980; their school tax is $1,169 tax. No. 2-ranked La Cañada has 75.1 percent of homes changing hands; their school tax is $144. Comparable affluent cities in our region also have a lower turnover rate than Piedmont: Atherton at 76.4 percent and Hillsborough at 78.6 percent. All other districts have far lower school taxes and a voluntary senior exemption.
Measure B expires in June 2014. Vote "NO" on Measure A and ask for an equitable tax based on square feet of improvements and real financial relief to needy seniors.
Rick Schiller is a Piedmont resident.