With increasing frequency in the last several years, school districts around the state have been relatively successful in obtaining voter approval of parcel taxes. The First District Court of Appeal's recent decision in Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 135 is significant because absent legislative action it will constrain the ability of school districts, special districts, and counties-but not cities-to get parcels taxes approved by the voters.
Borikas involved a parcel tax imposed by the Alameda Unified School District. The tax, which received the requisite two-thirds voter approval, was levied on property at differential rates: residential parcels and commercial parcels of less than 2000 square feet paid $120 per year and commercial parcels of greater than 2000 square feet paid $0.15 per square foot per year, capped at $9500. The plaintiff commercial property owner argued that the District's tax measure violated Government Code section 50079's requirement that school district special taxes "apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property." The Court of Appeal agreed with the plaintiff and held that Government Code section 50079 does not authorize school districts to impose special taxes that differentially tax property within the district.