Yuba County supervisors Tuesday voted to appeal a Superior Court ruling delivered Monday finding that Measure K, approved by rural county voters in 2018, should have been classified as a special tax.

That special tax classification would have meant that a two-thirds majority was needed. The measure to raise the sales tax by one cent in the unincorporated portions of the county passed with only a simple majority.

Yuba County Superior Court Judge Stephen Berrier made the ruling.

 Measure K passed last November with 53 percent of rural Yuba County voters in favor of increasing the sales tax in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Berrier found issues with the wording on the Measure K ballot. The ballot said the revenue from the tax would fund “public safety services” and listed examples, which Berrier said, “clearly identifies specific purposes.” The ballot also had language about the tax being used for “essential services” which the judge found to be specific instead of general – denoting a special tax.

Brian Hildreth, an attorney representing the plaintiffs -- the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Yuba County citizens Charlie Mathews and John Mistler, said the ruling was a victory for Yuba County taxpayers.

“This tax has been clearly and unequivocally established as a special tax,” Hildreth said. 

County officials disagreed.

“We respectfully disagree with the ruling of the court, as it is certainly a disappointment to our community that supported the measure,” said Yuba County Administrator Robert Bendorf. “It’s unfortunate that out-of-town organizations and an ex-politician felt they had to twist the purpose of Measure K in order to undo the will of our voters.”

During the appeal process, County public information officer Russ Brown said, the tax will continue to be collected and placed in a holding trust – where the funds have been kept since the tax went into effect April 1 while the lawsuit, filed in December 2018 was pending. The measure has collected $1.2 million dollars so far according to Appeal-Democrat records. 

“The collection in a trust was being done during a time when we were awaiting a final decision, and because we are moving it to the appeals process it will continue to be put in a trust,” Brown said. 

Hildreth said since the tax has been declared invalid, what’s critical now is whether the county will still collect the sales tax during the appeals process. 

“If the county continues to collect the tax during the appeal this should shock the conscience of every Yuba County taxpayer,” Hildreth said. 

There is no further information regarding Yuba County’s appeal at this time.

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