‘We want you to keep your hands off our property tax!’

Resident Kim Mattersteig expressed her disapproval with The District’s intent to tax property owners to fund its Pipeline Replacement Program.
Photos by Lynn SHER

Residents let loose with similar sentiments on the Crescenta Valley Water District.

By Lynn SHER

Crescenta Valley Water District (CVWD/The District) hosted a public hearing on Tuesday night regarding a proposed capital charge on the property tax roll. People arrived in disgruntled droves, with attendees spilling out in two different directions toward the street.

Distrust and animosity by most of those attending the public hearing was apparent before the meeting began as Christy Colby, The District’s Regulatory & Public Affairs manager, tried to make general announcements and introductions and review the processes of the hearing. People were concerned that the Zoom link wasn’t adequately circulated for people wanting to attend the hearing virtually. Attendees were also concerned that notices for the public hearing weren’t mailed out as widespread as they should have been.

Concern was voiced on what many felt was the way The District intentionally kept information from the public regarding Proposition 218. Under Prop. 218, “in order to raise a new tax, assessment, or property-related fee, or to increase an existing one” a majority of the affected property owners must agree to the increase. For an extensive explanation regarding Prop 218, which was approved in 1996 by voters, visit the information on the Legislative Analyst’s Office website at

To put it plainly, most of the people at the meeting were not pleased with The District. Most at Tuesday’s meeting felt like something wasn’t “right” with their current water bills and that they were being charged too much. Now, The District wants to impose a charge on property tax bills in order to fund its “Pipeline Replacement Program.”

Resident Kyle Studebaker, a 40-year homeowner, said, “I gave up my lawn six years ago … but my bill has not changed. If anything, it has continued to increase.”

Another homeowner of 30 years said, “This is just too much.” She continued, “My water bill for the last two months was $49, my actually water usage … however I was charged over 120 bucks from that bill … $60 a month more for infrastructure.” She emphasized, “You can’t keep burdening the residents and expect them not to break.”

James Lee, director of Finance and Administration, emphasized the need for the Pipeline Replacement Program.

James Lee, director of Finance and Administration speaking to the frustrated residents.

“[We need] to ensure water service reliability and fire safety, which are critical,” he said. He cited a handful of reasons why the charge on their customers’ property tax is critical.

“CVWD experienced more than a 15% reduction in metered revenues due to its customers’ response to a historic drought,” he said. “The historically wet winter last year further compounded the downward pressure on revenues by reducing water demand.”

According to the “Supplemental Study for Determining a Capital Charge for the District’s Long-Term Pipeline Replacement Program” on the CVWD website, “Roughly 86% of the District would see an [additional] annual charge of $404.30.” The District does plan to offer for those who qualify some kind of economic hardship assistance for this increase.

Residents at Tuesday’s meeting made it clear that they are not ready to accept this tax. Many accused the board of directors of being overpaid and of mishandling the amount of money collected from its customers. Many concerned residents called for a public audit of The District’s finances. One homeowner said, “We need to know how much money these board of directors are making every year … what we need next is injunction.”

Jonas Williams was a member of an advisory board in 2022 that was formed with The District.

“To help improve the relationship between the community and the water board,” explained Williams of the purpose of the advisory board. “There seemed to be a lot of problems, and they worked together [to solve them].”

There have been some successes and solutions found for infrastructure funding, like floating bonds.

“You guys ended up with an 8% increase for three years,” he said, “and that was supposed to cover part of the infrastructure. Three years later…and nothing’s improved.” He challenged the board by saying, “Put your cards on the table.”

Lee then explained The District didn’t receive enough protest letters to override the decision of the board. Proposition 218 states, “the local government must tabulate the ballots [protest letters], weighing them in proportion to the amount of the assessment each property owner would pay. The assessment may be imposed only if 50% or more of the weighted ballots support the assessment.”

The proposition defines an assessment as, “A charge levied on property to pay for a public improvement or service that benefits property. Assessments are usually collected on the regular property tax bill.”

“The board is not going to take action tonight because [the board needs] to deliberate,” Lee said adding answers to attendees’ questions from the public hearing will eventually be posted to the CVWD website.

But this assurance seemed to add to the attendees’ questions and tempers continued to flair even as people began to filter out the hearing.

Brook Yared, right, senior engineer for the water district, was on hand.
An overflow crowd spilled into the water district’s courtyard.
“Do you care what we’re saying?” It was hard to tell, from the set faces of the board members.
Concerned homeowners gathered at CVWD to express their concerns about the impending tax roll.
Christy Colby, The District’s Regulatory & Public Affairs manager, making announcements as the public hearing began.
A homeowner expresses his concerns.
CVWD Board President Sharon Raghavachary tries to explain the board’s silence during the proceedings.