Former Oxnard Financial Director speaks out on allegedly illegal taxes

ColumnLogo-1By Phil Molina

 

 

Elected Officials and Friends,

At tomorrow’s  city council meeting the ELECTED council members will once again be asked to make their annual approval of the DISTRICT 1 taxes against every property in Oxnard, unless you received a special exclusion from that tax by a prior City CoTaxesuncil.  Most of us regular city dwellers pay that tax.

1. The staff of course uses the Carmen v. Alvord, 31 Cal 3d 318 1982 case to justify taxing us even though we never approved that tax. Each year the City imposes the DISTRICT 1 tax on property owners based on the 1951 vote. This year staff has decreased the tax rate but continues to ask the Elected Council to IMPOSE that tax anew. Note that the “Carmen” case was decided before Proposition 62 and Proposition 218 were approved and indeed those 2 proposition were the result of the State Supreme Court’s decision in Carmen v. Alvord.

A1. The California Taxpayers passed Proposition 218 in November 1996 and voted that all taxes imposed on your tax bills in 1995 and thereafter must go back to the taxpayers and ask that they approve THE TAX, not just a contractual obligation, unless the original ballot measure specifically provided for that tax on the ballot. (LAO’s Office):

 Local governments must bring their existing taxes, assessments and property-related fees into conformity with Proposition 218.

 The deadline for each of these actions is:
–  July 1, 1997—for assessment and property-related fees.
 –  November 6, 1998—for taxes.
 

Questions

Are general taxes imposed before 1995, without a vote of the people, safe from challenges?
 
 No. Our review indicates that general law cities and counties that imposed general taxes in the early 1990s, without a vote of the people, continue to be vulnerable to a challenge that they did not place their tax on the ballot as required by Proposition 62. In 1995, the California Supreme Court reversed earlier lower court decisions and found Proposition 62 to be constitutional.
 

2. Staff claims we voted in October 23, 1951 to both cover safety staff with CalERS retirement AND to add a property tax to our property to pay for that costs.

A2. Their statement is not correct. According to the City of Oxnard official minutes of the October 31, 1951 meeting the only item that the public voted for was to contract with CalPERS to provide those benefits for police and fire staff BUT there is nothing in the ballot language that even implies those same voters approved a special or general tax.(Oxnard City Council official minutes; and LAO REPORT worth repeating.)
 

“3. That there was one measure voted upon, worded as follows:                                                                                               

 “Shall an ordinance of the City of Oxnard authorizing a contract between the City Council of Oxnard and the Board of Administration, California State Employees’ Retirement System providing for the participation of the City of Oxnard in said State Employees’ Retirement system making its local firemen and local policemen members thereof be adopted?””
 

3. Are we impacting the CalPERS contract for public safety?

NO. That contract is binding and the City will need to continue to pay for costs associated with the employer’s share of PERS retirement benefits provided to every city employee.
 

4. THE SOLUTION:

  • The City Council ought to direct staff to place on the next regular election a ballot measure asking the taxpayers to approve a special tax to pay for the public safety employee cost paid by the employer.
  • The City Council must vote down the request to place the unapproved property tax aka DISTRICT 1 tax on Oxnard taypayer’s property.
5. Can you do anything about this improper tax? YES
 (LAO Office REPORT)

 May Residents Overturn Local Taxes,Assessments, and Fees?

Proposition 218 eliminates any ambiguity regarding the power of local residents to use the initiative by stating that residents of California shall have the power to repeal or reduce any local tax, assessment, or fee. In addition, the measure forbids the Legislature and local governments from imposing a signature requirement for local initiatives that is higher than that applicable to statewide statutory initiatives.

____________________________

Phil Molina is an Oxnard resident, former Oxnard Finance Director and “whistleblower,” who exposed alleged corruption, was fired, sued and won a large award, after many years of litigation.

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