ALAMEDA -- A recent decision by a state Court of Appeal to reconsider its ruling that invalidated parts of a parcel tax passed by voters to benefit local schools may delay an ultimate resolution in the case, said an attorney who represents property owners who are suing the Alameda school district.
David Brillant also said he was not surprised the court will review its Dec. 6 ruling, which struck down the rate structure of Measure H and found only the flat $120 rate that residential owners paid was valid. Voters passed the tax in 2008.
"The petition for rehearing was expected," Brillant said. "Typically when a party is going to petition the Supreme Court, which the district made known publicly, you first petition for rehearing to make sure all the arguments have been raised and addressed before the Court of Appeal decision becomes final. The district felt they needed to make a few more arguments to the Court of Appeal, especially since they changed lawyers."
Last month's ruling also called for possible "further remedies" in the case, which school officials said could include refunds of some money collected before Measure H was replaced by Measure A, the parcel tax passed in 2011.
"We are thrilled that the court of appeal will reconsider its earlier ruling in this case and we believe our legal arguments are strong," Superintendent Kirsten Vital said in a release. "We are also mindful that the now vacated decision by the Court of Appeal had the potential to be a significant blow to our budget with many negative consequences for our students, teachers and staff."
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.
Measure A, which replaced Measure H, 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.
The ongoing legal challenge over Measure H comes as state lawmakers are set to consider an Assembly bill that supporters say will help clarify the law that school districts use to assess parcel taxes based on uniform property classifications.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta introduced AB 59 on Monday, the same day that Alameda school officials announced the Court of Appeal was reviewing the December decision. The bill was the Alameda resident's first since he won the seat to represent the 18th district and stepped down as the city's vice-mayor.
The bill will help educators know their options as they seek funding, Bonta said, especially as districts up and down the state continue to wrestle with budget cuts.
Among those who have joined Borikas in the lawsuit against the Alameda school district over Measure H is 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/.