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Lawsuit Seeks to Delay Vote on City of Riverside Excess Utility Charges

Electric power lines
Ken Kistler | Public Domain Pictures

A group of residents is suing the city of Riverside to stop a November special election on Measure C. If passed it would continue a long-standing city practice of charging utility customers more than the cost of providing power.

The lawsuit follows an October court ruling that the city's practice is an unlawful tax and a May settlement that requires voter approval in a November special election.

The lawsuit says Measure C functions like a tax and so it has to be voted on during a general election according to the state constitution. Voter turnout is also typically higher for general elections.

Voters will get to decide if the city can continue its decades long practice of transferring 11.5 percent of utility revenue to other services. That ends up amounting to $40 million a year which is around 14 percent of the budget. And it funds things like police, fire, parks, street maintenance and libraries.

Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson is supportive of keeping the measure in place and described the funds are critical to maintain vital services during pandemic recovery.

The group, Riversiders Against Increased Taxes, wants the practice to end. They told the San Bernardino Sun the extra cost on utility bills is a hardship to the city’s elderly, poor and disabled.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for this Friday.