Support our schools but not Measure A

Like most Piedmont property owners, seniors as well as non-seniors, I strongly support the schools as a matter of enlightened self-interest. Measure A, however, has several disturbing aspects:

  • At its special meeting Dec. 11, 2012, the school board followed the advice of its legal counsel to institute a uniform flat tax rate that applies to every property. His advice, however, is at variance with the Court of Appeal decision regarding Borikas vs. the Alameda Unified School District. The term "flat tax" is nowhere mentioned or implied in the court's 37-page decision. The 2008 Alameda school measure was flawed because it had one rate for small commercial and industrial properties and a different rate for larger properties in the same classification, not because the rates were based on size. California law governing this tax requires that all taxpayers within a given classification be treated the same.

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    It does not preclude taxes based on square feet or other "reasonable" bases. Had our school board been so advised, it might have opted for a replacement tax similar to Alameda's replacement measure of two years ago, which is legal, valid and a progressive tax uncontested by the court. Instead, we are asked to support our schools by voting for an overly simplistic, regressive flat tax that increases taxes on smaller properties while reducing the tax on larger properties.

  • Our school superintendent mistakenly said the district would need to reduce personnel by one-third without passage of Measure A. If Measure A fails, the current measure (albeit flawed) would still be in effect until June 30, 2014. The board need only increase the existing fiscal year 2012-13 school tax by 5 percent to obtain the same or even greater $9.5 million revenue projected for Measure A in fiscal year 2013-14. Ample time would remain to craft a well-considered replacement measure for the November election.

  • Piedmont's school tax is one of the highest in the state. Over the past eight years, the school tax on our own property has nearly doubled, from $1,174 to $2,260. If Measure A passes, the tax on all properties will be $2,406, which for us would be another 6.5 percent increase. To address this issue, the board has limited the allowable annual increase in Measure A to just 2 percent of the previous year, which may be too good to be true. The annual increase over the past eight years has never been less than 5 percent. It has twice been even more. With little risk, the board can ask the voters to approve a higher allowable increase at any time during the eight-year term of Measure A.

    William Blackwell

    Piedmont

    Temescal not just for yuppie newcomers

    In her Feb. 22 Town Crier column, Ginny Prior refers to the Temescal area as "still a little rough around the edges."

    I'm guessing that she's referring to the low-income immigrants and Oaklanders of color who can't afford to dine at Pizzaiolo or Burma SuperStar, perhaps to the gents on the avenue who seem to be "between jobs."

    Like Ms. Prior, I'm pleased that gutsy people are investing in Oakland, tossing the dice and gambling on success. But, apparently unlike her, I also know that many of the neighborhood's residents have been there for decades and that for many life has been rough and not just around the edges.

    They are not young and hip and able to afford three squares, much less eating out; but they are Oaklanders, and Temescal belongs to them as much or more than to the pioneering newcomers and their patrons.

    Claire Lomax

    Oakland

    Budget showdown is risking too much

    As a former Bay Area federal employee, I'm worried about the consequences of sequestration and subsequent furloughs of federal employees in our state.

    There are thousands of hardworking federal employees in California who won't be able to fully do their jobs, such as safely landing commercial airline jets at the San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose airports or investigating and prosecuting violations of federal laws that protect our health, welfare and economy.

    Sacrificing our nation's federal employees and the services they provide to this country is not an acceptable solution to our nation's budget dilemma.

    I hope Sens. Feinstein and Boxer, along with their colleagues, can find a solution that does not weaken our federal workforce and the vital services it provides us all before it's too late.

    Richard Cohen

    Piedmont

    Bridge celebration to be money wasted

    We hope it is not too late to be counted as being opposed to the Bay Bridge celebration as it is planned.

    What an incredibly monumental waste of our money when not only our schools and services for the truly needy are in such dire straits, but the transportation systems need more support as well.

    Wouldn't opening up only the new portion of the bridge to walkers be the most important and more feasible way to celebrate?

    A fence would not have to be rented, erected and taken back down, and those wishing to make the walk could be charged a reasonable fee to cover the bus ride from a BART station to the bridge entrance and a bus ride back from Treasure Island to designated stops or BART stations.

    I think the majority of Bay Area residents are just happy the bridge is almost done and the bumps (hopefully) gone that warn about the curve ahead.

    Cathy and John Francioch

    Oakland