Thursday, August 6, 2009

Water Charges Are Fees Not Assessments

In Paland v. Brooktrails Township (here), the Court of Appeal has clarified the scope of Proposition 218 as applied to water charges. The plaintiff claimed that a minimum monthly base rate imposed by a special district for water service that was available but not used constituted a "fee" that is required to comply with the requirements of Article XIII D. Section 6, rather than an "assessment" required to comply with Article XIII D, Section 4. The difference is important because, among other things, an assessment requires a vote of the assessees, while a fee (for water service) does not. Here's the holding: "[W]e conclude the water and sewer base rates imposed on parcels with water or sewer connections regardless of whether they are active or inactive, and whether or not the property owner uses the services, is a fee subject to the provisions of article XIII D, section 6, not an assessment subject to the requirements of article XIII D, section 4." Ungrammatical, but correct, in light of prior Supreme Court authority holding that water charges are fees.

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