Davis school district settles parcel tax lawsuit

Davis school trustees settled a lawsuit Thursday that had challenged a $3 million annual parcel tax expected to reduce class sizes and fund academic programs.

Under the agreement, the Davis Joint Unified School District will move forward with its recently amended $204 per parcel tax in a city where voters have long backed supplemental school funding measures.

The district also agreed to pay $70,000 in lawyer fees and litigation costs for the plaintiffs, according to David A. Soldani, an attorney for the school district.

In August, Davis trustees revised their parcel tax after the state Supreme Court let stand a decision in a comparable Alameda case that was unfavorable to the district. That decision took issue with an Alameda tax that charged different rates based on parcel type, ruling that it violated the state constitution.

Davis’ Measure E similarly charged a different per-unit rate for apartment owners than it did for other property owners. In hopes of preserving the tax, Davis trustees eliminated the apartment provisions and imposed an across-the-board $204 tax per parcel.

Jose Granda, a California State University, Sacramento, professor and Davis resident who filed the Measure E lawsuit, said afterward that the school board was trying to “cheat the electorate” by changing the tax on its own and not asking voters to approve an entirely new measure.

But Granda said Friday he was satisfied enough.

“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 said. “We provided a public service by making the district comply with the law.”

In a statement, the district said the settlement ends the litigation and “results in validation of Measure E as previously modified by the board.” The district plans to spend about a quarter of the money on class-size reduction and another quarter on “core classes,” according to a consultant’s report. The next biggest shares will fund foreign language classes, electives and counselors.

“The district is pleased this matter could be resolved and that Measure E may now be implemented according to the will of the voters to support the district’s educational programs,” the district said.