The City Council of Crescent City wants to increase our water rates. They have come up with a number of reasons why with the most recent reason being, “because we have not raised rates in years and we have the cheapest water in the state.” The truth of the matter is this, the city will not be able to make their payment for the water loan in January. So in their infinite wisdom, decided to take it out on the residents by increasing their water rates. I guess they thought it would be ok to take the extra money and place it in their general fund to use as always to their discretion. However, this case below extends an entirely different outlook on what you can and can not do with that extra income you are generating. Guess our city council members better buck up and take responsibility for the fine mess they have placed the city in.
For all you noble customers who feel they can afford the increase of water rates and county taxes that have been imposed on us I say this to you; God has been good to you and your many blessings, why not pass it on to others way less fortunate with something as simple as a signature on the protest circulating. It would cost you nothing and would be giving people in poverty an absolute gift.
City of Los Angeles v. All Persons — Slam Dunk in the Trial Court
As background, we sued the City of Los Angeles in 1999 over its water rates because the City historically set rates at an amount significantly above its cost to provide water. The overcharges resulted in a surplus of over $20 million each year, which the City transferred to its General Fund for the City Council to spend at its discretion.
Our 1999 lawsuit alleged that the overcharges violated Proposition 218. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal sided with the City, ruling that metered water rates are not fees for a property-related service and therefore are not subject to Proposition 218. That was the state of affairs for six years. Then, in 2006, the California Supreme Court decided Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency v. Verjil which overruled the decision six years earlier in HJTA v. City of Los Angeles.
Now that the law is clear under Bighorn that water rates are subject to Proposition 218, it is also clear (at least to us) that the City of Los Angeles must adjust its water rates to comply with the law. Unfortunately, the City – feigning “confusion” as to the current state of the law – recently filed suit against all of its water customers, asking the court to “validate” the continuation of its historic practice of padding water rates, accumulating a surplus, then transferring the surplus to its General Fund.
We alone filed an Answer to the City’s lawsuit and defended the case on behalf of the City’s water customers. After a trial on stipulated facts, the court ruled in our favor. The court’s decision states, “Proposition 218 prohibits the City and its Department of Water and Power from transferring surplus revenue derived from water service fees to the City’s…General Fund, or any other fund for expenditure on non-water related purposes.”
Crescent City, Ca. 95531