Jennifer Hennessy says utility rates are about to go up to offset your conservation efforts, you dummies!

16 Mar

City Finance Director? Jennifer Hennessy, in her Preview of the FY2012-13 Preliminary Budget, reports that utility rates are about to go up.

It’s your fault, Stupid – you’ve been altogether too good at cutting down on your energy and water usage, Doh! So PG&E and Cal Water will just have to raise your rates!

I found it in next week’s city council agenda, available here  – get out your waders,  Folks, it’s thick and deep. And it stinks:

On page 4 of the Preliminary Budget Preview, Hennessy reports,

“Utility User’s Tax – growth rate of +1%

Currently the city is experiencing growth in Gas and Water services, but declines in electric and Telecom are offsetting this growth. PG&E is projecting up to 1% increase in electric rates, and between 1-5% increase in gas rates. However, they are projecting gas usage to decline. Cal Water is projecting a rate increase but is unable to provide the amount at this time. Telecommunications are also difficult to project because of the many changes in this industry. The city has seen a decline in cell phone companies’ remittances due to interpretations of our ordinance, as well as the exclusion of telecom companies taxing data plans.”

Points of interest:

1) your electricity is about to go up 1 percent and your gas 1 to 5 percent (but you won’t notice the gas increase til about next November)

2) your water rates are going up

3) the city, while they’re not mentioning it here, will have to get us to vote by 2/3’s majority to tax our own cell phones or they are going to lose that revenue altogether

4) despite the projected decrease in gas usage and the decline in cell phone tax revenues, Hennessy predicts a 1 percent increase in the UT based on the 1 percent increase in electric rates. Your pain is the city’s gain!  

This is why, try as you might to be a good steward and cut down on energy usage, your bills continue to go up. I always keep mine, so I know.

My family has moved from a big house into a tiny apartment. We’ve decreased our living space by roughly 38 percent, but our PG&E bill has gone down less than 20 percent. That’s because, over the last two years since my family made this sacrifice, PG&E has lowered the gas  “baseline” by almost 14 “therms,” while raising the baseline price per therm from 94 cents to $1 per therm. So, you get less at the cheap price, and the cheap price ain’t so cheap no more!

Your water rate just went up too  – in fact, Cal Water has instituted strange new “tiers”  – two “Tier 1” and two “Tier 2”? Look at your bill – your baseline for water just went from 10 ccf at 83 cents/ccf, to 9.31 ccf at 87 cents/ccf! And after that first 9.31 ccf, the price goes up to the second “Tier 1” – .69 ccf at 88 cents/ccf.  That’s less than one ccf for more than you paid for a whole ccf yesterday. And then there are two “Tier 2” prices – 1.86 ccf at 93 cents/ccf, and then .14 ccf at 94 cents/ccf.

No, I’m not going to tell you what a ‘ccf’ is, I’m trying to get you to look at your bill, dammit!

I’d also like to point out, that while the city is supposed to work for the citizens, to protect us against this kind of wanton price gouging from “public” utility companies, they are instead helping Cal Water and PG&E to screw us blind.

Don’t forget to save your PG&E and water bills and apply for your Utility Tax Rebate – available in May.  I’ll let you know as soon as I nag the Finance Dept into putting the form on the website.

3 Responses to “Jennifer Hennessy says utility rates are about to go up to offset your conservation efforts, you dummies!”

  1. Mark Sorensen March 17, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Utility Users Tax has become quite the cash cow.

    This year it is expected to bring in $6.4 million. Compared to $5.3 million seven years ago. That’s almost a 20% gain in revenue. That is a tax on basic life nececesities..

    Even though some wireless companies have ceased to apply the City’s Utility Tax to your cell phone bill, UUT revenue on telecom has risen from $1.2 to $1.5 million. If the change is made to expand the tax to wireless phone service, then that revenue will add almost another $1 million to UUT revenues.

    Quite a few annexations are included in those gains.

    But…. your point is correct. As those utilities rise in price, the City’s 5% utility tax take also grows.

    Same is true of sales tax on gasoline. That alone should bring in around $2 million for the City this year. The total tax load on gasoline sold within the city should be over 30 times that number.

    When gas prices go up….. so do the tax revenues that are a percentage of the sale price.

    • Juanita Sumner March 17, 2012 at 8:31 am #

      Thanks Mark.

      Here’s what I do about the gas tax – today my family will drive both of our vehicles to a hockey tournament I’m attending in Ham City, and I will top off both tanks.

      When I go snowboarding with my family once a week, we fill up in Penn Valley.

      Today there is a fiddle contest in O’ville – go for it!

      Whenever you go out of town for some reason, be sure to check out the gas station and the retail sector. Then start sending the receipts to the council, and tell them, “this could become habit-forming!”

      • Juanita Sumner March 18, 2012 at 9:15 am #

        well, snip, I forgot to get a receipt when I bought my gas yesterday – oh well, I’m really just trying to establish a habit of buying gas outside of town. This is a habit I will keep regardless of a sales tax increase – they already get our gas tax Downtown, and instead of fixing potholes with it, Jennifer Hennessy has reported they use it to pay salaries.

        Yesterday I came home via the west side of town – unbelievable – the streets over there are SHREDDED!

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