California Court of Appeals, Third District, San Joaquin
MANTECA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Appellant,
RECLAMATION DISTRICT NO. 17 et al., Defendants, Cross-complainants and Appellants.
from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Joaquin County,
No. 39201100273848CUMCSTK Bobby W. McNatt, Judge. Reversed.
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, Michael J. Baker,
David A. Soldani and Jennifer D. Cantrell for Plaintiff,
Cross-defendant and Appellant.
Williams & Sorensen, Megan A. Burke; California School
Boards Association, Keith Bray and Joshua Daniels for
California School Boards Association Education Legal Alliance
as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and
Freeman Firm, Thomas H. Keeling and Michael N. Morlan for
Defendants, Cross-complainants and Appellants.
Brand, Scott L. Shapiro, Andrea P. Clark and Amanda M.
Pearson for California Central Valley Flood Control
Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendants,
Cross-complainants and Appellants.
Neumiller & Beardslee, Daniel J. Schroeder and Caitlin R.
Dwelley for Reclamation District No. 1608 and Reclamation
District No. 1614 as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants,
Cross-complainants and Appellants.
core, this case involves the interpretation, and application
of Water Code section 51200 and articles XIII C and XIII D of
the California Constitution, as approved by California voters
in 1996 as Proposition 218, and the interplay between
them. Defendants and cross-complainants
Reclamation District No. 17 and Governing Board of
Reclamation District 17 (collectively Reclamation) maintain
levees and other reclamation works within the district's
boundaries. Plaintiff and cross-defendant Manteca Unified
School District (School) owns real property within
Reclamation's boundaries. School filed an action for
declaratory relief, arguing section 51200 exempts it from
paying assessments to Reclamation and Proposition 218 does
not confer such authority. School also sought recovery of
over $299, 000 previously collected by Reclamation.
Reclamation answered and cross-complained for declaratory
trial court found the assessments levied by Reclamation were
invalid under section 51200 but denied recovery of assessment
payments made during the pendency of the action and concluded
School's action was not barred by the statute of
limitations. Reclamation appeals, arguing section 51200 and
Proposition 218 allow assessments against school district
property unless the district can show through clear and
convincing evidence that the property receives no special
benefit. School cross-appeals, contending the trial court
erred in denying recovery for assessments paid during the
pendency of the case.
trial court erred in declining to apply the constitutional
mandate of Proposition 218 to the statutory exemption from
assessments provided by section 51200. Accordingly, we
reverse the judgment and dismiss the cross-appeal.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
facts are undisputed and are set forth in the joint statement
located in San Joaquin County, annually assesses properties
for which it provides flood control and drainage benefits.
School is a public school district that owns real property
within Reclamation's boundaries.
the Legislature adopted section 51200, which was derived from
former Political Code section 3456c. Section 51200 states, in
pertinent part: “The assessment levied by a
[reclamation] district shall include all lands and rights of
way within the district, owned by the State or by any city,
county, public corporation, or utility district formed under
the laws of the State other than public roads, highways,
and school districts.” (§ 51200, italics
California voters approved Proposition 218, entitled
“Voter Approval for Local Government Taxes. Limitations
on Fees, Assessments, and Changes. Initiative Constitutional
Amendment.” The proposition added articles XIII C and
XIII D to the California Constitution. Section 4, subdivision
(a) of article XIII D states: “Parcels within a
district that are owned or used by any agency [or] the State
of California... 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
1 of article XIII D provides: “Notwithstanding any
other provision of law, the provisions of this article shall
apply to all assessments, fees and charges, whether imposed
pursuant to state statute or local government charter
authority. Nothing in this article... shall be construed to:
Provide any new authority to any agency to impose a tax,
assessment, fee, or charge.” (Cal. ...