I enjoy helping communities take advantage of existing law, but first these laws have to be interpreted, and sometimes that process is opaque.
For 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.
Let me know what you think about these cases, or about the challenges your agency is facing with Proposition 218. Add your comments below.