The San Francisco City Attorney’s office filed a preemptive lawsuit Friday asking the court to validate the passage of Proposition G, an annual parcel tax that is set to increase the salaries of San Francisco educators over the next two decades.
Placed on the June ballot through a voter signature drive, Prop. G authorizes the city to collect a $298 parcel tax from property owners to fund a 7 percent wage increase for San Francisco Unified School District educators. It passed with a majority vote of 60.76 percent.
Educators have been receiving the pay hike since August, but the tax has yet to be enacted, placing the onus of fronting the wage increases of some 3,600 educators on the district.
Concerns for Prop. G’s validity have been raised due to legal challenges against another measure that passed with a simple majority in June that raises gross receipts tax on commercial rents to subsidize child care in San Francisco.
In August, business organizations sued The City to prevent the implementation of proposition C, the Universal Child Care for All measure that was also placed on the ballot through a voter initiative. They argued that the tax is a special tax and therefore subject to a two-thirds majority requirement rather than the simple majority threshold to pass.
The city’s lawsuit asserts Prop. G was passed and enacted in a lawful manner and is being filed for the purpose of judicial examination. It asks the court to confirm its validity and post notices in daily newspapers and at public libraries.
“In the absence of prompt validation of Proposition G proceedings described in this complaint, The City’s ability to ability to collect the parcel taxes authorized by Proposition G, and to thereafter fund the SFUSD educational measures specified in Proposition G, will substantially be impaired,” The City contends in the lawsuit.
Prop. G is expected to raise $50 million annually, but payments haven’t gone into effect as The City has not yet authorized collection of the tax.
“This is part of the process to validate the proposition,” said Susan Solomon, president of the United Educators of San Francisco. “It’s a good thing.”
Solomon said that the school district started paying teachers the increased wage in late August, but the money being used for the raises right now is district money, which they will not hold the city liable for if Prop. G is invalidated.
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“As this saga unfolds, assuming the best happens, the taxes will start coming into the school district in January,” she said. “But this was a wonderful, good faith act on the part of the district to make sure that educators started to see the raise when they came back to work.”
Last year, the City Attorney’s Office issued an interpretation of a Supreme Court ruling that argued that voter driven initiatives are subject to a lower threshold than initiatives placed on the ballot by legislators.
“The California Supreme Court recently clarified that certain restrictions bind local officials but do not bind the voters themselves. San Francisco is confident that when voters act through the initiative process, a simple majority vote is required, rather than the two-thirds majority required when local officials act,” said John Cote, a spokesperson for the City Attorney. “We proactively brought this case to get the certainty that a court order will provide on this issue in order to uphold the will of the voters.”
Michael Toren contributed to this story