Laws, Regulations & Annotations
Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2015
California Constitutional Provisions
Article XIII D Assessment and Property-Related Fee Reform
Sec. 4. Procedures and requirements for all assessments. (a) An agency which proposes to levy an assessment shall identify all parcels which will have a special benefit conferred upon them and upon which an assessment will be imposed. The proportionate special benefit derived by each identified parcel shall be determined in relationship to the entirety of the capital cost of a public improvement, the maintenance and operation expenses of a public improvement, or the cost of the property related service being provided. No assessment shall be imposed on any parcel which exceeds the reasonable cost of the proportional special benefit conferred on that parcel. Only special benefits are assessable, and an agency shall separate the general benefits from the special benefits conferred on a parcel. Parcels within a district that are owned or used by any agency, the State of California or the United States shall not be exempt from assessment unless the agency can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that those publicly owned parcels in fact receive no special benefit.
(b) All assessments shall be supported by a detailed engineer's report prepared by a registered professional engineer certified by the State of California.
(c) The amount of the proposed assessment for each identified parcel shall be calculated and the record owner of each parcel shall be given written notice by mail of the proposed assessment, the total amount thereof chargeable to the entire district, the amount chargeable to the owner's particular parcel, the duration of the payments, the reason for the assessment and the basis upon which the amount of the proposed assessment was calculated, together with the date, time, and location of a public hearing on the proposed assessment. Each notice shall also include, in a conspicuous place thereon, a summary of the procedures applicable to the completion, return, and tabulation of the ballots required pursuant to subdivision (d), including a disclosure statement that the existence of a majority protest, as defined in subdivision (e), will result in the assessment not being imposed.
(d) Each notice mailed to owners of identified parcels within the district pursuant to subdivision (c) shall contain a ballot which includes the agency's address for receipt of the ballot once completed by any owner receiving the notice whereby the owner may indicate his or her name, reasonable identification of the parcel, and his or her support or opposition to the proposed assessment.
(e) The agency shall conduct a public hearing upon the proposed assessment not less than 45 days after mailing the notice of the proposed assessment to record owners of each identified parcel. At the public hearing, the agency shall consider all protests against the proposed assessment and tabulate the ballots. The agency shall not impose an assessment if there is a majority protest. A majority protest exists if, upon the conclusion of the hearing, ballots submitted in opposition to the assessment exceed the ballots submitted in favor of the assessment. In tabulating the ballots, the ballots shall be weighted according to the proportional financial obligation of the affected property.
(f) In any legal action contesting the validity of any assessment, the burden shall be on the agency to demonstrate that the property or properties in question receive a special benefit over and above the benefits conferred on the public at large and that the amount of any contested assessment is proportional to, and no greater than, the benefits conferred on the property or properties in question.
(g) Because only special benefits are assessable, electors residing within the district who do not own property within the district shall not be deemed under this Constitution to have been deprived of the right to vote for any assessment. If a court determines that the Constitution of the United States or other federal requires otherwise, the assessment shall not be imposed unless approved by a two-thirds vote of the electorate in the district in addition to being approved by the property owners as required by subdivision (e).
Construction.—Proposition 218, Articles XIIIC and XIID, requires the use of weighted voting schemes in all referenda on proposed assessments, defined to include "special assessments" and "benefit assessment," among others, in Article XIIID, Section 2. Not About Water Committee v. Solano County, 95 Cal.App.4th 982. There is nothing in the language or the intent of Proposition 218 that would per se prevent an agency from levying an assessment to fund the future acquisition and maintenance of unspecified real property. Subdivision (a) of this section does not prohibit the use of projected costs to calculate an assessment. Silicon Valley Taxpayers' Association, Inc. v. Santa Clara County Open Space Authority (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 1295.
Assessment.—An assessment within the meaning of this article must not only confer a special benefit on real property, but it must also be imposed on identifiable parcels of real property. Thus, when a local water district did not impose a capacity charge on identifiable parcels of real property, but only on individuals who requested a new service connection, the capacity charge was not an assessment within the meaning of Art. XIII D. Richmond v. Shasta Community Services Dist., 32 Cal.4th 409.