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Scales of Justice
State Supreme Court Refuses to Consider Legal Challenge to Measure A
The denial means that the structure of AUSD’s parcel tax
is legal and can no longer be litigated.
Alameda, California — October 26, 2023 — The Supreme Court of California has refused to review the Court of Appeal’s recent opinion holding that AUSD’s Measure A parcel tax is legal and valid. The denial means that this measure can no longer be challenged, and the district can continue to use the revenue raised to support AUSD’s high-quality schools.
“We structure our parcel taxes to raise revenue for local programs and salaries while also being fair to our local property owners,” says Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi. “A small group of residents has challenged this structure repeatedly over the years. It is an enormous relief to know that our structure is sound, this revenue is safe, and we can continue to focus our resources on providing high-quality schools and instruction for our community’s children.”
Voters approved Measure A in March 2020. It was designed to raise more than $10 million annually to help AUSD attract and retain high-quality employees by increasing their salaries.  The measure levies a tax of $0.265 per building square foot on all Alameda property owners with a maximum (or “cap”) of $7999. This structure applies to all properties regardless of type (i.e., residential or commercial) or size (i.e., large or small).
In May 2020, Alameda resident Leland Traiman filed a lawsuit against the measure, alleging the cap violates a state law that requires a school district’s special taxes to “apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property.” AUSD argued that the measure was valid because the structure does indeed apply to all taxpayers equally.
In April 2022, Superior Court Judge Julia Spain ruled in favor of Mr. Traiman. AUSD appealed the decision that month. Oral arguments were heard on July 27, 2023, and on August 4, the First District Court of Appeal reversed Judge Spain’s decision. “The Measure A tax applies uniformly within the meaning of section 50079,” the justices wrote, “because every nonexempt taxpayer and every improved parcel in the District is taxed using the same formula.”
On September 11, Mr. Traiman filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeal’s opinion. Yesterday, during its weekly conference, the Supreme Court refused to hear this legal challenge.
A history of litigation
Over the last 12 years, AUSD has placed three parcel taxes on the ballot:  Measure A (which voters approved in 2011), Measure B1 (a renewal of Measure A that was approved in 2016), and the second Measure A, approved in 2020.  All three taxes had the same rate structure: an amount per square footage with a cap on the total amount paid. This structure results in the owners of larger properties paying considerably more than owners of smaller properties, but limits the burden on any one property.
All three taxes have been challenged by local plaintiffs based on concerns about the cap. Trial judges ruled in favor of AUSD with both Measure A (2011) and Measure B1 (which was an extension of Measure A). Judge Spain ruled against the same structure in the 2020 Measure A.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to review the Court of Appeal’s opinion “is the last word on the validity of AUSD’s parcel tax structure,” says Board Member Jennifer Williams, who is an administrative law judge and worked with AUSD’s legal counsel on this case. “It is gratifying to know the legal back and forth is finally over and, in fact, other districts and communities can now benefit from a similar tax structure.”
Local funding, local control
Taken together, Measures B1 and A provide more than $22 million to AUSD’s annual budget, nearly 20% of the total. “Our local parcel taxes provide locally controlled funding that supports our local schools,” says Board President Heather Little. “In the face of ever-deficient state funding, we are grateful to our community for understanding the need for this funding and for generously approving these revenue measures in past elections.”
AUSD is currently exploring options to recoup the costs associated with this litigation. Proceeds from that effort will be used to support AUSD’s students.