On June 8, 2021, County of Riverside Superior Court Judge Jackson Lucky ruled in favor of Benink & Slavens, LLP’s client in his challenge to the City of Canyon Lake’s EMS Subscription Fees. In 2020, Canyon Lake began placing an annual $192 charge on residential trash customers’ property tax bills unless customers notified it that they wished to opt-out. The charge is intended to fund EMS services provided by the city.
Benink & Slavens, LLP argued that placing the charge on the property tax bills of trash customers violated Proposition 218 (article XIII D of the California Constitution). Specifically, Proposition 218 prohibits the imposition of property-related fees and charges on parcels or upon persons as an incident of property ownership unless certain conditions are met, which Canyon Lake conceded it could not meet. Judge Lucky rejected the city’s chief argument that because customers could opt-out – by sending written notice within a narrow window of time – the fee was not subject to Proposition 218. He ruled, “To the extent the ordinance automatically enrolls residents, the ordinance establishes a fee under article XIII D.”
Canyon Lake collected approximately $792,576 from residential trash customers in Fiscal Year 2020-2021. The ruling requires the City to cease the automatic collection of the fee. Businesses – which are not automatically enrolled – may continue to subscribe to the program.