Finding # 16: Placing sewer fees on the property tax bill increased the sewer fee collection rate and may allow parcel owners to claim a deduction on their federal income tax.
This is true. By having the sewer rate on the property tax instead of the water bill means property owners can write off the sewer fee but with it on the water bill they cannot. Additionally, billing sewer fees via the property tax means that every parcel that is connected to the sewer system will be paying their fair share.
Cut and dry, straightforward. I actually think the Kern County Grand Jury is attempting to shine light on past practices with an eye on future sewer rate surveys.
Finding # 17: The current Board voted to rescind the previous Board’s action and combine the sewer bill with the water bill.
In the spirit of keeping a campaign promise, the three of them didn’t waste any time taking care of this promise. Under the “Vote for Us, We are a majority” plan, this issue was critical to the very core of their effort. Therein lies the question.
Internalized Question # 3:
Why would any politician vote to take an action that would 1) result in the town losing valuable tax revenue, 2) end up raising rates on the very constituents that elected them?
The current board ran their election on removing the sewer fee from the property tax fulfilling a campaign promise but why was the promise made in the first place?
Time for another history lesson:
Let’s go back to March 31, 2014. This was two years prior to the vote to put the sewer fee on the property tax when it was first discussed at an RCSD Board meeting and the Board room was packed with apartment owners, landlords & motel owners (you can find the copyright protected article from “The Rosamond News” at this URL: http://aadpb.com/ros20140331week5/Cover.html ) and the related video located at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVxay-xg8Rw
The apartment owners, investors and landlords were very loud and Mr. Daniel Landsgaard was very vocal against putting the sewer fee on the property tax, as was Mr. Pan Patel owner of Devonshire Inn & Carl’s motel. Almost all of those protesting were claiming the same thing: Adoption of this plan would wipe them out, if they had to be responsible for the sewer fees. One woman present stated she was a retired school teacher and had three rental properties and if the sewer fee was put on the property tax she would lose her homes because she would not be able to pay the extra money.
Needless to say, back in 2012, all of these stories persuaded the majority of the board to not put the sewer fee on the property tax. At that time, Mr. Steve Perez was still new on the job and the board did not have the lost revenue argument before them (as Mr. Perez had not explored that aspect) at that time. It appears from face value that in 2012 the board was more focused on finding a more efficient method to collect the sewer fees.
Now let’s come forward to March, 2014 and the vote that was held to place the sewer fees on the property tax bill. The people who opposed the sewer fee on the property tax had changed their approach. Again, led by Mr. Landsgaard (a very heavily outcome impacted private citizen, businessman, lawyer, and shrewd businessman) who was claiming that the board had violated Proposition 218 by not giving the public enough notice prior to the vote. He also argued (using a scare tactic) that seniors would lose their homes because they would spend the $40 per month usually allocated for the sewer fee and not set it aside for the property tax bill whenever it would come around.
Internalized Question # 4:
How dare Landsgaard play upon the fears of our aged citizens?
Additionally, snuggling up to selected business owners, Mr. Landsgaard and Mr. MacKay (pulled out their all-time favorite tactic) and claimed that apartment and motel owners were saying that they should not be saddled with the responsibility of paying the sewer fee on their property taxes.
Time for the facts:
The Public was not notified: this is simply, not true. The notice was posted 72 hours prior to the meeting, it also made “The Rosamond News” in their March 24, 2014 edition (well in compliance the state laws.)
Proposition 218 was violated: This is not true sewer fees are not considered a tax or fee increase. It was simply a new way to collect the sewer fee all customers would be paying the same amount not a penny more.
The vote was illegal because the public was not given enough notice: this is untrue the public was given the 72 hour posted notice which is all that is required by law for board agendas
Mr. Landsgaard and Mr. MacKay stated seniors would lose their homes because they would not save $40 each month and seniors sometimes forget to pay their taxes: This is an absurd statement. 1) Seniors are some of the most responsible savers anywhere and to say otherwise is an insult to seniors and to say that seniors sometimes forget to pay their property tax and they will lose their homes because of an unpaid sewer bill, well the part that seniors can forget to pay their property tax might be true but if this happens they will not lose their homes because of an unpaid sewer bill; they will however, lose their homes because they failed to pay their property taxes.
Putting the sewer fee on the property tax is unfair to business owners: This is not true whether you own a motel, apartments or rental properties these are business establishments and should have no expectation to be subsidized by the rate payers of Rosamond Community Services District. The action of placing the sewer fee on the property tax now makes the property owner responsible for the sewer fee; not the person renting the property or the customer using the property.
The action taken by the board on March 26, 2014 simply closed up a loophole that was allowing landlords to pass on the $150,000 in lost revenue onto the RCSD ratepayers. Yes, this action would have cut into the profits of business owners and landlords unless they raised their rents to cover the $40 a month. They will now be responsible to pay, just like every other property owner in the district.
The fact that Mr. MacKay claimed to be so concerned for seniors is a real laugh because back in the 1980-1990’s when he was on the RCSD board, he voted for and passed the assessment districts 1988-1, 1990-2 and 1991-3 that were used to sell $30,000,000 in improvement bonds. These bonds resulted in property defaults that still exist today and have cost the rate payers of RCSD tens of thousands of dollars in foreclosure and attorney fees. When you get your next tax statement, please notice that you will find right next to your 1% property tax is the largest bill on your statement. This amount for my property is almost $400 per year and I have been paying it for almost 4 years…many other long-term residents of Rosamond have been paying that bond back for other 23 years. The fact is those assessment districts did cause people to lose their homes…many of which were especially vulnerable seniors living on fixed incomes.
Let’s wrap this up! The $40.00 homeowners currently pay each month for water and sewer fees and having it transferred to property tax accounts has no effect on the money in resident pockets as either way the fees are collected residents pay the same amount. The same cannot be said of the actions taken by Mr. MacKay when he was on the RCSD Board in the 1980-1990’s; his action negatively affected those who live on fixed incomes.
Internalized Question # 5:
I wonder, how seniors felt when Mr. MacKay in the 1980s and 90s (the same Mr. MacKay of today) voted to INCREASE THEIR PROPERTY TAX by $400 per year? His reasons for raising those property taxes $400 equates to the pot calling the kettle black, when he argues against a funding “shift” that does not affect a person’s annual income.
Overall, voters’ response to the $400 Ed MacKay-sponsored tax increase was a mutiny. The Rosamond Town Council was formed to replace the RCSD Board members at the time. Eventually the Town Council became the Rosamond Municipal Advisory Council and when Mr. MacKay’s seat came up for reelection he was ousted. A leopard can’t change its spots and neither can Ed MacKay change his “tax and spend” ideology and even though he tried several times to get back on the RCSD Board, it wasn’t until 2014 when voters’ memories had faded; he was returned to the Board and judging from his activities to date in 2015, he has not changed a bit.
====================== Finding # 16 states: “Placing sewer fees on the property tax bill increased the sewer fee collection rate and may allow parcel owners to claim a deduction on their federal income tax.”
The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 16: “The Board is without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of this finding and on that basis disagrees wholly with this finding. Answering this finding would require the Board to improperly provide tax and/or legal advice to the District’s consumers. The Board notes that the Kern County Tax Assessor has opined that sewer fees on the tax bill may be claimed as a deduction on customers’ Federal income tax returns.
====================== Finding # 17 states: “The current Board voted to rescind the previous Board’s action and combine the sewer bill with the water bill.”
The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 17: “The Board partially disagrees with this finding. The Board does not agree with the characterization that the Board “rescinded” the previous Board’s action. Instead, the Board ordered the District to reassume responsibility for the collection of the sewer service fee.”
To read the next section click here: The Midnight Writings: Finding 18 – “Drip…Drip…Drip, is that water or money disappearing…or both?