After Proposition 218 was passed and enacted on July 1, 1997, a local government’s ability to charge and assess fees and taxes became restricted.
Now, no property-related fees, such as water and sewer fees, may exceed the cost attributable to the property-owners land. Furthermore, these fees may not be used for purposes other than providing the property-related service — for example, for fire, police, and ambulance services. Regardless, residents must be notified, in writing, 45 days before the rate increase goes into effect and given the opportunity to protest at a public hearing. If a majority of rate-payers object, the fee may not be charged.
Assessments and Standby Charges:
If a local government charges an assessment for projects that benefit specific properties only or imposes “standby charges” for water or sewer services to fund new households or developments, it must first obtain a majority approval from the affected landowners via an election based on weighted ballots. It must also ensure that no property owner pays more than the cost to provide the improvement or service to the owner’s property. Furthermore, some of the assessment must be borne by the schools and public agencies.
Until recently, many local governments took the position that sewer and water fees were not property-related fees. In 2006, a California Supreme Court decision clarified this issue in favor of the landowners. Because of this erroneous interpretation, these local governments may be violating Prop. 218’s directives.
On December 6, 2006, the Firm achieved a $40 million settlement with the City of San Diego for violating the constitutional mandates imposed by Prop. 218. Click here [sewerrefund.com] to learn more about the case.
If you are a taxpayer or property-owner and believe your local government has imposed fees, charges, and taxes in violation of Prop. 218, please contact us for a fee consultation.