After being informed that Santa Clara County Counsel perceives as illegal the Palo Alto school district's inclusion of a sole exemption for seniors in a parcel-tax measure going to voters this May, the Board of Education has decided to hold a special meeting Tuesday to amend the ballot language.
The board approved last month resolution language for Measure A, which if passed would raise the tax to $758 per parcel and includes an exemption for voters who will be at least 65 years old before July 1, 2015.
The board was informed on Friday, Feb. 12, that County Counsel, which is responsible for preparing the impartial analysis that is included with ballot measures, believes that "the exemption was not lawful and that the impartial analysis would have to indicate that the exemption may not be legal and enforceable," a staff report reads.
The exemption is one of three optional additions to ballot measures. The other two are for taxpayers receiving supplemental security income for a disability, regardless of age; and taxpayers receiving Social Security disability insurance benefits, regardless of age, whose yearly income does not exceed 250 percent of the 2012 federal poverty guidelines issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Though Palo Alto Unified has previously included the 65-and-older exemption on its own, as have other school districts, County Counsel interprets state law to mean that a parcel tax must either have none of the exemptions or all three.
"To our knowledge, we have never encountered this interpretation of the statute, which we find to be not only unprecedented but also inconsistent with rules of statutory construction and common sense," the school district's attorney told the board. "We have already confirmed from the legislative history that the County Counsel's interpretation appears to be unduly restrictive, and inconsistent with the intent of the Legislature."
County Counsel issued the same message to the Campbell Elementary School District on its upcoming parcel tax, according to a staff report.
However, facing a tight deadline of end of the day on Tuesday for County Counsel's impartial analysis, Superintendent Max McGee is recommending that the board amend its resolution to include all three exemptions rather than take the time to defend the sole exemption for seniors.
McGee wrote in his report that the fiscal impact of adding the other two exemptions is minimal.
The board will meet Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 12:30 p.m. at district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave. View the agenda here.