Welcome to the Harris & Associates blog, where we discuss A/E/C industry issues related to construction management, engineering and public finance for the municipal, water, transportation and education markets.


Case in Point - To Fee or Not to Fee: The Prop 218 Mystery

I enjoy helping communities take advantage of existing law, but first these laws have to be interpreted, and sometimes that process is opaque.

Prop 218For local agencies in California, navigating the complexities of Proposition 218 can be especially daunting. Which property-related fees require voter approval? Recently, two court cases were decided regarding groundwater pumping fees under Proposition 218. After reading and analyzing these two cases, the only thing that’s clear to me is that the decision factor is unclear. They seem to contradict each other.

In City of San Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation District, the appellate court held that the groundwater pumping fees charged by the District were not subject to Proposition 218's property-related fee requirements.

However, in Great Oaks Water Company v. Santa Clara Valley Water District, a different appellate court found that groundwater pumping fees were subject to Proposition 218. If your agency is establishing these types of fees, the only thing that’s certain is you will need to articulate in detail the circumstances of your unique fee program.

If you haven’t read these court cases yet, I highly recommend doing so. You may find some similarities between these agencies and yours that can help you navigate your own process.

Download the court cases

Let me know what you think about these cases, or about the challenges your agency is facing with Proposition 218. Add your comments below.


Dennis A. Anderson

For over 25 years, Dennis has helped communities throughout California and Nevada overcome legal hurdles and fund projects. He draws from an encyclopedic knowledge of the statutory and constitutional procedures and requirements for the formation and administration of public financing districts. Dennis knows how to work within the bounds set by Prop 218, the Mello-Roos Act and numerous other bond and district-creating laws so that agencies can deliver vital public infrastructure and services to their constituents. He is a member of the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers and the California Special Districts Association.

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