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July 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, July 02, 2004

Judge ready to toss lawsuit Judge ready to toss lawsuit (July 02, 2004)

Case questions legality of parcel tax election

By Julie O'Shea

A Santa Clara Superior Court judge indicated Tuesday that he was inclined to throw out a lawsuit that challenges the validity of Mountain View-Whisman School District's $1.6-million parcel tax election.

The judge is set to hand down his final ruling on the matter this week or early next week.

If the case is dismissed, Aaron Katz, the Saratoga man and independent attorney who sued the school district, says he will appeal.

Katz sued the district and the Santa Clara County elections office, claiming the Measure J election was illegal and should be rerun. Measure J -- a tax based on the square footage of property owners' land -- will cost most residential property owners $75 a year and is capped at $600. Katz said he will have to fork over $750 annually for the tax.

Superintendent Jim Negri maintains that the district did nothing wrong. He is asking the lawsuit be scrapped, and that Katz pay Mountain View-Whisman's legal bills, expected to cost $50,000.

Katz, through a partnership, owns 10 condos within school district boundaries, but was not allowed to vote in the March election because he lives in Saratoga. He said only property owners should have been allowed to vote in the tax election. Had this been the case, Katz claimed, Measure J would have lost by thousands of votes. The tax was approved by 69 percent of the voters and the election has been certified by the county.

While many -- including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the state's biggest anti-tax group -- said this case will have a hard time holding up in court, Katz said he has had a number of people step up in support of the lawsuit. He declined to disclose any names but did add that he received an e-mail Tuesday from a Mountain View resident pledging her support.

Katz said he has no problem taking this all the way to the state Supreme Court. However, he admitted it will be a tough "up-hill battle."

"I got bad vibes from the judge," Katz said. "He was really indicating that he was inclined to sustain (Mountain View-Whisman's) objection."

Negri said: "We'll wait and see."

E-mail Julie O'Shea at [email protected]

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