The Pleasanton School board is backing an initiative that could bring more money to schools by raising taxes for corporate property owners.
On a unanimous vote, with Board Member Valerie Arkin absent, the board approved a resolution that would close a loophole in Proposition 13 regarding commercial property reassessment.
The resolution was brought to the board by Ian Fregosi of Evolve, a Bay Area activist group that's fighting to reform Prop. 13.
"Since 1978, we've seen as huge drop in education funding, and what's worse is that we're not only underfunding our schools, but the tax burden is being passed on to working families," Fregosi told the school board Tuesday night.
He explained that unless a firm owns more than 50% of its property in its own name, the property is not reassessed. Fregosi said many large companies, such as Chevron, divide ownership using shell companies so no single entity owns a majority share.
"For the last 35 years, companies have been unfairly benefiting from Prop. 13 in ways that voters didn't know about," Fregosi said, adding businesses with property in the state "are still paying taxes at 1975 levels."
Chevron alone saves about a billion dollars every year from the loophole, he said, noting that Evolve used a conservative estimate to come up with the figure.
The group's website used estimates from the state Legislative Analyst's Office that said requiring corporations to pay taxes based on the current value of their properties would generate $4.5 billion a year in additional income for the state.
Although they approved the resolution in support of closing the loophole, school board members were not entirely convinced the change would actually bring more money for education.
"We might get increased allotments, because the state has more money," Board Member Joan Laursen said, "but it doesn't necessarily flow to us unless the legislation is rewritten."
Deputy Superintendent Luz Cazares said the legislation in question is Proposition 98.
"How that money gets divvied up, I don't know. I'd have to ask some more questions," Cazares told the board.
Board members said the loophole should be closed regardless of whether it would mean more cash to the district. Board Member Jamie Hintzke said Prop. 13 has been a problem for a long time.
"I guess we have to hope that if the state gets more money, it's good for everybody," Hintzke said. "It stimulates the economy, no matter how you look at it."
The board also approved an agreement with Pleasanton Gateway LLC for nearly $2.9 million in school impact fees.
Pleasanton Gateway plans to develop a 26-acre site along Valley Avenue just south of Bernal Avenue and the Pleasanton Gateway shopping center. The Gateway project recently received approvals for its project from the Pleasanton City Council to build 210 multifamily rental units, 62 single-family row houses and 35 single-family, two-story homes.
Presumably, although not spelled out in the agreement, the money would help offset the extra cost to the district as families with children move in. The school district would receive the money in phases as each part of the project is built.
The school board voted on the agreement without discussion as part of its consent agenda, in which items not requiring a public hearing are voted on in one package.