Kern Co. suit alleges hidden tax to pay for new waste law

Lawyers claim the fee hikes enacted by Kern County Supervisors are a hidden tax requiring voter approval.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in Kern County Superior Court challenging land-use fee increases approved by the county Board of Supervisors in 2021 and 2022 partly to fund organic recycling.

Kern County, like much of California, is in the throes of implementing a new law, Senate Bill 1383, aimed at reducing climate change-causing pollutants in organic waste.


Driving the news: The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Kern County taxpayers, claims that the fee increase, tacked onto property tax bills, violates Proposition 218, a state constitutional amendment that requires voter approval for certain local taxes and fees.

  • According to the suit, the county violated Proposition 218 by imposing fee hikes without giving property owners the opportunity to protest them.
  • The lawsuit also alleges that the county failed to provide adequate justification for the fee hikes and that the funds generated from the fee increases were not used for their intended purpose of funding organic recycling.
  • The fee increases in question are part of the county’s efforts to fund a proposed organic recycling facility next to the Shafter-Wasco Landfill.
  • The proposed facility would use a micro-pore structure made by Gore to capture volatile organic compounds and ammonia, which would then be recycled back into the composting process and broken down by microorganisms.

Inside the filing: The complaint claims that the county’s fee increases were not necessary to fund the proposed facility and that the county has other sources of revenue to pay for it.

    • The county has not yet responded to the lawsuit, but a spokesperson for the county said that the fee increases were necessary to fund the proposed facility and that the county is confident that it will prevail in court.
    • The lawsuit seeks to represent all property owners in Kern County who were subject to the fee increases.
    • The lawsuit is one of several legal challenges to the county’s efforts to fund the proposed organic recycling facility.
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