Senior Citizens Forced to Re-apply Annually for Tax Exemption, in Violation of City Law

February 3, 2010

To Boot: Annual Reminder Letters Supposed to Go Out, But Seniors Say They Never Received Them

By Shirley Enomoto

Call it the Benjamin Button effect. Emeryville’s School Board is forcing senior citizens to prove they are not getting any younger—every year.

Measure A, the Emeryville school parcel tax, was passed by the voters in 2003. In 2007, it was extended another 10 years to July, 2019.

The text of the measure reads:
“(iii) an exemption from the special tax will be made available to each property owner in the District who will attain the age of 65 years prior to July 1 of the assessment year, who owns a beneficial interest in the parcel, who uses that parcel as his or her principle place of residence and who applies to the District on or before July 1, 2007, or July 1 of any succeeding assessment year. Any one application from a qualified applicant will provide an exemption for the parcel for the remaining term of the assessment so long as such applicant continues to use the parcel as his or her principle residence. Senior exemptions granted during the term of the current special assessment will continue. In addition, should state law ever permit, there shall be an extension for property exclusively rented or leased to those age 65 years and older.”

The application for a waiver is available through the office of the Superintendent of Schools, John Sugiyama, at 4727 San Pablo Avenue, Emeryville, 94608.

A letter of explanation from NBS, a consulting firm in Temecula, CA, states:
“this exemption must be renewed by application each year and must be received at the Emery Unified School District offices by noon on July 1, 2009, to be eligible for the exemption. Please note that this exemption must be requested and renewed each year.”

Mr. Sugiyama says that this letter is sent to all property taxpayers every year, ever since the the passage of Measure A. But the requirement that an application for the exemption must be filed every year following the age of 65 is in direct conflict with the text of the ballot measure.

While I have always supported the school parcel tax, and in fact, have volunteered at the Anna Yates library for four years and annually raise money from family and friends to purchase books and magazines for the library, I feel that this is a devious manner of collecting taxes. I have lived in Emeryville for 13 years and have never received this letter from NBS, nor has anyone else I’ve asked.
Since this reduction in school parcel taxes directly affects Emeryville’s schools, please do all you can to support the schools and by volunteering.

Shirley Enomoto moved to Emeryville 13 years ago, just before the real estate boom, and is now retired. She has seen various buildings demolished to make room for high rises. She has seen how the City appears to give preferential treatment to hotels and commercial developers, while holding small businesses to strict standards over minor issues like signage.

13 Responses to Senior Citizens Forced to Re-apply Annually for Tax Exemption, in Violation of City Law

  1. Anonymous on February 3, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    How many of Emeryville's seniors have been tricked into paying this parcel tax by forcing them to jump through bogus hoops? We'll never know but shame on the School Board for collecting taxes on these fixed income people in an unethical manner like this. I too am all in favor of the parcel tax we voted in but it needs to be collected in a fair manner, not by deceiving our seniors, those who can least afford it. One gets the feeling that the agenda is to maximize the tax collection. Shame!

  2. Anonymous on February 3, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    who is benjamin button?

  3. Anonymous on February 3, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Perhaps the school district has discovered the fountain of youth and that's why they need to verify people's age every year—-that or they figure a certain percentage of elderly residents will forget to send in the paperwork, a certain percentage will fill out the paper work wrong making them ineligible, and a certain percentage will miss the deadline and some will get lost in the mail or by a clerk. Oh well, more money to build Nora's dreamhouse (ECCL).

  4. Anonymous on February 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I just heard about this story. This is so unfair! They just shot themselves in the foot if they ever want to pass another voter approved tax. They're not going to get MY vote. I can't believe they're picking on the seniors like that! My father is old and I know he'd have problems getting this paperwork in on time every year. He'd end up paying a tax he might not be able to afford otherwise. He'd probably have to cut back somewhere else, maybe food or medication. Luckily, he doesn't live in Emeryville. Shame on the Emeryville School District.

  5. Anonymous on February 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    So basically the voters approved the tax with the provision that seniors only need apply for a waiver once and then the School Board did a switcheroo and made it so they have to re-apply every year, against the will of the voters. Why put our senior citizens through this? And the added insult that a lot of them never even received the letter telling them they need to re-apply! This is a breach of the public's trust… Preying on the weakest among us. I hope the School Board corrects this egregious error immediately, or they will feel the residents wrath, and not only from the senior citizens.

  6. Anonymous on February 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    "Any one application from a qualified applicant will provide an exemption for the parcel for the remaining term of the assessment so long as such applicant continues to use the parcel as his or her principle residence." How does the 'tax collector' verify that the applicant still has the parcel as their principle residence each year?

  7. Anonymous on February 3, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Speaking of ECCL (the Emeryville Center of Community Life), the School Board is going to ask voters to pony up tens of millions of more dollars in a bond initiative, probably this fall. I mean, since they've done such a bang up job with the Parcel Tax, i'm sure Emeryville voters will be in a really giving mood. Maybe they can soak the seniors again in the Bond initiative so it won't cost the rest of us so much. Maybe that was the plan with this Parcel Tax scheme all along…maybe it's a test run for the big one this November….

  8. Anonymous on February 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    So we can either trust the senior citizen when they sign the waiver that the info is true and that they will abide by the provisions one time or we can make them do it year after year. Why not just one time, to make it easier on everyone?

  9. Anonymous on February 4, 2010 at 1:45 am

    to some senior taxpayers, the annual amount could be the difference between groceries or their prescriptions or turning on the heat.

  10. Anonymous on February 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    It's pretty outlandish that these 'reminder letters' were not received by so many people. I mean, how difficult is that?

  11. Anonymous on February 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    nbs the consulting company administers parcel taxes for many other calif. cities. it would be interesting to see how many other calif. school districts paid for services not performed.

  12. Will Leben on February 5, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Thanks for this post! I've been paying this tax for a couple of years without knowing about the senior exemption.

    The bright side: Last night I wrote school superintendent John Sugiyama at and before 9 this morning he responded with a PDF of the exemption request form.

  13. Anonymous on February 5, 2010 at 2:13 am

    it's unfortunate that mr. sugiyma had this mess dumped into his lap. he wasn't here in 2003. he assumed this position in oct. 2008

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