City demands $3 million refund from Water District

PALMDALE – The City of Palmdale has filed a claim seeking more than $3 million in financial reimbursement from the Palmdale Water District (PWD) from charges that were collected through the Water District’s rate hike, which began in July 2009, according to a statement from the City Monday.

“The Palmdale Water District has been illegally overcharging thousands of customers for over 2 years and they all deserve a full and complete return of their money,” said Palmdale City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy. “The fig leaf approach that the PWD attempted last week with its so-called ‘fix’ of one part of the wholly invalid rate increase and the paltry refund of about $9 to maybe a fifth of its ratepayers was laughable.”

In its claim, dated August 26, 2011, the City sites the recent ruling by the California Court of Appeals that “… the PWD has failed to carry its burden to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of Article XIII D [California Constitution],” commonly known as Proposition 218 or “The Right to Vote on Taxes Act.”

At the request of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and attorney Jack Cohen, one of the drafters of Proposition 218, the Court of Appeals agreed to publish its opinion in order to provide guidance to other water districts and public entities on the application of Proposition 218.

“Now that the court has determined what the Palmdale Water District has failed to comprehend, despite repeated efforts by the City, that its rate increases were unconstitutional and invalid, it should do the right thing and immediately refund the overcharges to its customers,” said Ditzhazy. “Refunds should be made to all rate payers, including the City.”

The City’s claim seeks reimbursement for the PWD’s “erroneous” billings, as well as damages caused to City parks brought on by water reductions in response to the rate hike.  The City of Palmdale began reducing the amount of water being applied to all City parks and landscaping located in the PWD service area in July 2009 following the rate hike.

The City is also demanding that the Palmdale Water District return to the rate structure it had in place prior to its price hike.

“If after returning to the legal rates pre-July 2009, the Palmdale Water District intends to increase their rates, they should do so in full compliance with the law as outlined in the California Constitution,” said Ditzhazy.

Read the entire PWD Claim here. Read the requests from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and attorney Jack Cohen for the Court of Appeals to agree to publish its opinion here.