Judge Sides with Jarvis: Padding of Water Bills is Prohibited
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association achieves another Legal victory
Sacramento ÛÒ Los Angeles water customers will benefit from a judgment issued in a case litigated by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA).
In late March the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a tentative ruling in Los Angeles vs. All Persons finding unconstitutional the City’s plan to take $30 million derived from 05-06 water rates and transfer it to the City’s general fund to balance its 2006-07 budget. Proposition 218 a constitutional amendment passed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in 1996 provides that revenues derived from fees or charges “shall not be used for any purpose other than that for which the fee or charge was imposed.”
Uncertain at that time was whether the Court would limit its ruling to the proposed 2006-07 transfer. Court papers filed by the City admitted that water rates produced a surplus not only for the 2006-07 fiscal year but for subsequent years as well and that the City planned to make similar transfers to balance its budgets for 2007-08 and 2008-09 etc.
Jarvis Association attorney Tim Bittle argued that if it was illegal to pad water bills to pay for unrelated City expenses in 2006-07 then it would be illegal to do it in other years.
Last week the Superior Court agreed with HJTA and AAGLA and issued a Judgment prohibiting the City from transferring water revenue to the general fund for any of the years in question. The Judgment further orders the City when calculating future water rates to limit the rate to the amount needed to provide water service.
This ruling sends a strong message to local governments across the state not to try to circumvent the taxpayer protections contained in Proposition 218 because they will lose in court.