Taxpayer group sues Carmichael parks district to block new assessment

A taxpayer group is suing the Carmichael Recreation and Park District in an attempt to block an assessment narrowly approved by voters last year.

The assessment is expected to raise almost $700,000 a year and be used to fund construction and security at the district’s parks.

The petition filed by the Sacramento Taxpayers Association says the district violated state law by failing to specify exactly how some of the money would be spent, proposing illegal spending and intending to shore up its budget instead of specifying actual needs.

“I would be willing to spend some additional money on the district,” said Pam Pinkston, who lives in the district and is one of the petitioners in the case, “but the way they did it was underhanded.”

District Administrator Tarry Smith did not return a message seeking comment.

In a response filed in Sacramento Superior Court, the Sacramento County Counsel’s Office, representing the county and the parks district, denies the allegations by the taxpayers association. The response does not contain detailed arguments, something the office’s attorney will be expected to do in court at a scheduled Oct. 2 hearing.

In May 2014, 51 percent voted in favor of an annual assessment of $45 for a single-family home and more than $1,000 for some businesses. The vote was weighted by the amount of property owned.

The petition adds details to the complaints raised by members of the taxpayers association during the campaign for the assessment. The petition says the district violated Proposition 218, which voters approved to protect against “taxes disguised as assessments” and would otherwise require approval by two-thirds of voters.

According to the petition, the district failed to follow the law from the start, in that it based the assessment on a survey that measured how much voters were willing to spend, not how much the district needed.

The district did not provide enough details for how it would spend about $445,000 a year on capital improvements and improperly dedicated $200,000 a year on security, when its assessment can be used only for construction and maintenance of facilities, according to the petition.