Wilde v. City of DunsmuirAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court held that the exemption in Cal. Const. art. II, 9, subd.(a) applies to measures setting municipal water rates, and therefore, municipal water rates and other local utility charges are not subject to referendum.
To prevent the referendum process from disrupting essential governmental operations, the California Constitution exempts "statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for usual current expenses" of the government. See Cal. Const. art. II, 9, subd.(a). After the City of Dunsmuir passed Resolution 2016-02 establishing a five-year plan for a $15 million upgrade to the City's water storage and delivery infrastructure Plaintiff submitted a petition for a referendum seeking to overturn the Resolution. The City declined to place the referendum on the ballot, and Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to compel the City to place the referendum on the ballot. The trial court denied the petition. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the exemption did not apply because the water charges were a "property-related fee" and not a "tax." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the City's water rates, adopted in the Resolution, fall within the exemption for "tax levies" and therefore are not subject to referendum.