What this publication is

This book intends to serve as a primer on local property-based revenue mechanisms in the state of California. The intended audience is local public agency staff, community leaders, property owners, and other interested parties.  The book provides a general review and discussion of these revenue sources, which fall under the basic heading of “Special Taxes and Special Assessments” as provided by California statutes, and which are collectively termed “Special Financing Districts.” (Note that this book was first published in 2006, updated in 2011, 2014 and 2015. The information contained herein is subject to change.)  

Examples of property-based revenue mechanisms in California are: a Landscape & Lighting District assessment that finances the maintenance of parks and parkways within a specific area (Special

Assessment), and a tax levied on all properties within a city to fund police services (Special Tax). Most other states in the U.S. maintain similar revenue systems, albeit through different processes (and employing different terminology).

What it is not (the disclaimer)

This publication is not a technical how-to guide, and is not to be construed as legal or technical advice. This book is to be used for general informational purposes, and is not meant to replace the services of experienced attorneys, engineers, finance professionals, or consultants with expertise in this field. In particular, a number of legal challenges have been filed in recent years challenging
assessments. One is advised to seek out good technical and legal advice.

Note that Proposition 26, known as the “Stop Hidden Taxes Initiative,” was approved in the November 2010 election by the voters of California. Proposition 26 was aimed at a certain class of government “regulatory fees,” but it contained broad local government revenue language.

In summary, there are seven categories of exceptions, and it is the current understanding that Special Assessments and Special Taxes (and generally Property related Fees) as covered under Proposition 218 constitute one category of these exceptions. Proposition 218 is discussed further within this book.