Citizens Allege Proposition 218 and Statutory Violations
Town And Special Interests Receive Lower Water Rates
Yucca Valley,Ca.-Citizen ratepayers of the Hi-Desert Water District are exploring all options in filing court action naming HDWD, President Sarann Graham, General Manager Ed Muzik, Chief Financial Officer Frank Luckino, Does 1-30.
The ratepayers will seek several hundred thousand dollars they allege HDWD illegally collected from them and local businesses by not charging the same rate for water from the largest water consumer accounts for the past 15 years.
The HDWD ratepayers may also seek declaratory and injunctive relief.
The ratepayers allege their charges would have reflected a lower water rate if they were not subsidizing the large water consumers listed as the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) accounts. The largest consumers receiving 40% reduced water rates are: Town of Yucca Valley; Tri-Valley Little League; Basin Wide Foundation and Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel.
It is expected during the discovery process, other businesses and nursing homes have been subsidized by receiving lower water rates.
The ratepayers allege lack of uniform rate structure constituting illegal taxation pursuant to Proposition 218 resulting in residential and commercial water users subsidizing the benefits received by CIMIS account water users.
The HDWD Board of Directors ignored the 2009 Brown and Caldwell water rate study recommending to eliminate the tiered approach for the CIMIS accounts and the advice of their counsel at their board meeting of April 1, 2009, to phase in the increase of water rates in annual 10% increments for these largest water consumers.
This subsidy violates Proposition 218, which was passed by the California voters in 1996. Proposition 218 prohibits imposition of property related fees that exceed the costs associated with providing the service for which they are imposed.
The Court of Appeal has held that fees or charges for groundwater pumping fees are subject to Proposition 218 (found at Articles XIII C and D of the California Constitution) and that an agency must comply with 218′s procedural and substantive requirements before imposing such fees or charges. This Citizens lawsuit will follow a number of other cases around the State successfully challenging water fees, taxes, assessments and charges on Proposition 218 grounds.
The lawsuit includes allegations of mismanaged funds and wasteful spending by HDWD, which directly affects all water users who ultimately pay their HDWD bill. The ratepayers allege HDWD incurs costs higher than similar water districts due to mismanagement and inexperienced staff. The ratepayers cite deferred maintenance of the HDWD water tank reservoirs in excess of $2 million dollars with several in critical structural condition as one example of negligent mismanagement.
This action will call for a forensic audit to include all grants, loans and expenditures to develop a wastewater treatment plant which has never materialized.The Class Action lawsuit will also take issue with tens of thousands of dollars in expenses such as excessive advocacy and lobbying, Board of Directors travel junkets and sponsorships of organizations completely unrelated to HDWD authorized functions, excessive and unnecessary Board committee and ad-hoc meetings.
The case is of significant importance to the future of Yucca Valley rate payers, residents and local business served by Hi Desert Water District because the Town of Yucca Valley is exploring a joint venture with the Basin Wide Foundation to build additional soccer fields adding projected costs of $350,000 or more for additional water needs and maintenance of grass areas.
If the Citizens are successful, HDWD may be compelled to return all money collected demonstrated violating Proposition 218.
Moreover, a declaratory judgment by the Court would clarify the issues raised by the ratepayers objections to HDWD special discount water rate charges authorized by a Public Advisory Committee as arbitrary without documentation or authority.
To join this action, please email your name, address, Hi-Desert Water District Account #, telephone contact information to:
Incoming search terms:
- hdwd Special Charges