Attorney Support Services for San Diego County and the Temecula Valley.

Eviction Services

Iron Law Eviction Services for San Diego County and Riverside County.

City of San Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation District

Filed 12/4/17 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA CITY OF SAN BUENAVENTURA, ) ) Plaintiff, Cross-defendant ) and Appellant, ) ) S226036 v. ) ) Ct.App. 2/6 B251810 UNITED WATER CONSERVATION ) DISTRICT et al., ) ) Santa Barbara County Defendants, Cross-complainants ) and Appellants. ) Super. Ct. Nos. VENCI 00401714, ) VENCI 1414739 ____________________________________) The California Constitution, as amended by a series of voter initiatives, places limitations on the authority of state and local governments to collect revenue through taxes, fees, charges, and other types of levies. (Cal. Const., arts. XIII A, XIII C, XIII D.) This case concerns the application of these constitutional limitations to a particular kind of local government charge: a statutorily authorized “ground water charge” imposed on well operators by a local water conservation district to fund conservation activities such as replenishing groundwater stores and preventing degradation of the water supply. (See Wat. Code, § 75522.) By statute, charges for pumping groundwater for nonagricultural uses generally must be at least three times the charges for pumping water for agricultural uses. (Id., § 75594.) SEE CONCURRING OPINION The City of San Buenaventura (more commonly known as the City of Ventura) (City), which pumps large quantities of groundwater for delivery to residential customers, contends that the groundwater pumping charges it pays to its local water conservation district, United Water Conservation District (District), are disproportionate to the benefits it receives from the District’s conservation activities. It also contends that it pays a disproportionate share of the costs of those activities by virtue of the three-to-one ratio in Water Code section 75594. The City argues that the charges therefore violate article XIII D of the California Constitution (Prop. 218, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996)), which provides that a charge imposed “as an incident of property ownership,” including a “charge for a property related service,” may not “exceed the proportional cost” of the service that is “attributable to the parcel” on which the charge is imposed. (Cal. Const., art. XIII D, §§ 2, subd. (e), 6, subd. (b)(3).) In the alternative, the City argues that the charges violate article XIII C of the California Constitution (as amended by Prop. 26, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 2, 2010)), which provides that local government charges are taxes that generally must be approved by voters, but exempts from this category those charges that are limited to the reasonable costs of providing a special benefit or service and that bear a “fair or reasonable” relationship to the benefit to the payor of, or the payor’s burden on, the government activity (Cal. Const., art. XIII C, § 1, subd. (e)(1) & (2)). The City argues that the groundwater pumping charges do not satisfy the criteria for exempt charges, and therefore should be considered unapproved taxes imposed in violation of the Constitution. The Court of Appeal rejected both arguments. We conclude, as did the Court of Appeal, that article XIII C, as amended by Proposition 26, rather than article XIII …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court