Davis Unified drops parcel tax on apartments, settles lawsuit

October 21, 2013

Faced with a losing hand, Davis Joint Unified School District last week agreed to settle a lawsuit challenging its parcel tax, which charged apartment owners a different rate from other property owners. Under the settlement, all property owners will be charged the same: $204 per parcel.

Davis Unified was one of several districts affected by a state Court of Appeals decision invalidating a 2008 parcel tax in Alameda Unified that charged commercial properties a different and higher parcel tax rate than homeowners and small business property owners. Doing so, the court ruled, violated a 1986 law that said parcel taxes must “apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the particular district.” The State Supreme Court declined to hear the case, letting that ruling, Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District, stand.

Davis Unified and three other districts that had passed parcel taxes that also charged different rates to different property owners in November 2012 were vulnerable to similar lawsuits.

Davis’s Measure E charged $204 per parcel and a different $20-per-apartment parcel tax for owners of multi-unit buildings. District trustees plan to use the $3 million from the tax to reduce class sizes, offer more foreign language classes and hire additional counselors. (Update: Davis Unified said that the revised parcel tax, without multi-unit charge, will mean a loss of only $44,000.)

Davis Unified trustees amended Measure E in August and last week announced it would pay $70,000 in lawyer’s fees to a California State University professor and Davis resident Jose Granda, who sued the trustees, charging that they should have asked voters’ permission to amend the tax.

“We basically have prevailed in the case and we made our point, so we didn’t see a reason to beat a dead horse,” Granda told the Sacramento Bee.

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