I attended the May 30, Idyllwild Water District workshop on the rate changes to be voted on at the June 20, board meeting, but came away with more questions than answers.
First, why were the property owners and tenants not sent a ballot, as required by Proposition 218? [Cal. Const. Article XIII C § 4].
Second, what impact will these new rates have on the district’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan? If the new rates are approved, will the drought plan become invalid and will the district then need to do a new 218 rate study, notice and ballots when there is another water shortage in the district?
Pursuant to all of our rights under the Brown Act, I have emailed the district my 218 protest (name, reasonable identification of the parcel where I pay the water bill, and my opposition or support to the proposed assessment). I also requested that the two above questions be put on the agenda and answered by the board and/or their attorney before voting on the proposed rate changes.
I hope that many affected landowners and tenants can attend the June 20, meeting. If you cannot attend, you can email your comments to District Secretary Erica Gonzales at firstname.lastname@example.org, and ask that your comments be included in the board packet for the meeting.
Note by editor and general counsel: Ms. Nash cites Proposition 218 as now being Cal. Const. Art. 13C, §4. As no such section appears to exist, we assume she intended Cal. Const. Art. 13D, §4. The whole of Art. XIIID defines and distinguishes taxes, assessments and fees or charges. Assessments are dealt with under Art. 13D, §4, upon which Ms. Nash appears to rely. But water rates do not appear to fit under the definition of “assessment” at Art. 13D, §2, subdivision (b). Art. 13D, §6, deals with “Property Related Fees and Charges,” and subdivision (c), is entitled “Voter Approval for New or Increased Fees and Charges.” That section provides: “Except for fees or charges for sewer, water and refuse collection services, no property related fee or charge shall be imposed or increased unless ... by a majority vote of the property owners of the property subject to the fee or charge or, at the option of the agency, by a two-thirds vote of the electorate residing in that affected area.” Art. XIIID, §2, subdivision (g), defines “property ownership” as including tenancies where the tenants are directly liable to pay the assessment, fee or charge in question. Of course, lawyers’ differing views are decided by litigation.