In November voters in the San Leandro Unified School District barely mustered the two-thirds margin needed to enact Measure L, a parcel tax intended to raise $2.4 million a year for public education.
But that amount could be cut to about $700,000, according to one estimate, depending on how the California Court of Appeals decides a case that first arose in neighboring Alameda.
The Alameda case hunges on the concept of a "split roll" tax.
A split roll levvies different assessment on single family homes as opposed to apartment buildings and/or commercial properties.
San Leandro school officials did the same thing with Measure L, which is why local school funding will be affected by the Alameda case.
What happened in Alameda?
In 2008 Alameda voters passed Measure H, which charged homes and small commercial properties one rate, and larger commercial properties a different rate for school support. In legalize the tax split the rolls.
Measure H was challenged. On December 6, California's First District Court of Appeals overturned that split roll assessment arguing that it violated state law requiring that parcel taxes be uniform, according to an article in EdSource.
But last week the California Court of Appeals said it would reconsider that ruling -- a relief to school officials in San Leandro and an aggravation to large property owners who will have to pay more if the split is upheld.
Measure L split the roll three ways, according to Tom Silva, a director of the Rental Housing Association of Southern Alameda County, which opposed the tax before its passage.
Measure L assessed homes up to four units $39 per parcel; apartments with 5 units were assessed $19 per unit; and commercial properties were required to pay an additional 2 cents per square foot of land.
Silva said his group is studying Alameda's Measure H case and mulling whether to challenge San Leandro's Measure L.
San Leandro school superintendent Cindy Cathey said school officials are also reading the Alameda decision and awaiting the appeals court's second review.
She said local officials knew that the Alameda tax had been challenged before they asked San Leandro voters to split the rolls. They opted for the split roll because their polling suggested such a tax had the best chance of clearing the difficult two-thirds hurdle neeed for passage, she said.
While the appeals court takes a second look at split roll taxes, newly-elected Assemblyman Rob Bonta -- who lives in Alameda and represents that city, San Leandro and much of Oakland -- wasted no time addressing the issue.
On Monday Bonta announced his first bill, AB 59, which would make clear that "school districts are allowed to assess parcel taxes in accordance with rational classifications among taxpayers or types of property within a district, as long as the taxes are applied uniformly within those classifications."
In other words, split roll taxes are okay, so long as the splits makes sense, and all taxpayers within each roll get the same treatment.
Measure L is supposed to be added to San Leandro property tax bills in December 2013, Cathey said. How much gets added depends on all these legal wranglings. If the split roll tax is struck down, and all parcels within the school district are required to pay just the $39 rate assessed on homeowners, the tax take would shrink from about $2.4 million to about $650,000, according to one school board member's estimate.