JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
ANTHONY S. DA VIGO Deputy Attorney General
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
January 10, 1984
STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD has requested an opinion
on the following question:
State of California exempt from that part of a charge for
sewerage service, determined in accordance with a schedule of
rates applicable to all users, which is charged by a county
for the retirement of revenue bonds issued to finance the
expansion of a wastewater treatment plant?
State of California is exempt, in the absence of express
legislative authorization, from any charge for the retirement
of revenue bonds issued by a county to finance expansion of a
wastewater treatment plant.
order to finance its share1 of the costs of upgrading and expanding
an existing sewerage treatment facility, a county derived
funds in equal parts from the sale of previously authorized
general obligation bonds, of revenue bonds, and from existing
resources. Thirty-two and one-half percent of the plant
capacity is utilized by a state hospital. Seeking
participation from the state for the repayment of the revenue
bonds, the county proposes to charge all users of the
facility, including the state hospital, a one hundred ten
dollar per year per equivalent single-family dwelling charge
which includes repayment of the revenue bonds.
inquiry presented is whether the state is exempt from that
part of a charge by a local agency for the retirement of a
debt incurred for capital construction. As distinguished from
a sewerage service charge based solely upon the extent or
nature of the use made of the facilities (see 19
Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 195, 197 (1952)), the proposed increment is
directly attributable to the cost of capital construction.
XIII, section 3, of the California Constitution provides that
property owned by the state is exempt from property taxation.
As distinguished from a tax levied for general governmental
or public purposes, however, the constitutional exemption
does not apply to special assessment. (Inglewood v.
County of Los Angeles (1929) 207 Cal. 697, 702-703.)
(A special assessment is generally defined as a charge
imposed on property owners within a limited area to help pay
the cost of a local improvement, such as a sewerage facility,
designed to enhance the value of the property within that
area.) (Regents of the University of California v.
City of Los Angeles (1979) 100 Cal.App.3d 547,
549.)2 Nevertheless, while publicly owned and
used property is not exempt from special assessments under
the constitution or statutory law of this state, there is an
implied exemption of...