At least 15,000 households eligible for UUT rebate, but only 110 apply? Why?

8 May

In his May 1 report regarding the “update to the Telephone Users’ Tax,” city mangler Dave Burkland tells us that lowering the phone tax from 5 % to 4.5 % would save the average user a whopping  twenty-five cents a month.

Mr. Burkland must think we just fell off the turnip truck. What he’s not telling us, is that while they will lower the phone tax by half a cent, they will expand it to cover your cell phone, with charges depending on your usage. Oh, great! There goes my 25 cents, and then some!

There are those of us now, in fact, who AREN’T PAYING ANY PHONE TAX, and we like it just fine, thank you very much. That’s why we dumped our land lines –  compared to the convenience and reliability of a cell phone, I need a land line like a moose needs a hat rack, Mrs. Goldfarb.  My family realized, why have the additional expense of something that only seems convenient for the people who want to sell you something at dinner time?

So we dumped our land line to save money, and now here they are, coming after our cell phones! There’s no rest for the wicked Honeybabe.

Cell phones can be very inexpensive, you can pay for your actual use instead of paying a flat rate even if you don’t have much use for it. That’s why they’re great for low-income individuals and families – it’s AFFORDABLE.

This is a “regressive” tax, meaning, it hits the lower-income people the  hardest.  During the council discussion, Scott Gruendl actually had the nerve to tell us, it’s no big deal, he’s GLAD TO PAY $2.50 a month to “help my community.” 

He’s talking about the minimum charge, the flat charge. For families it adds up. There is a charge per phone – I still have my AT&T bills – our UUT on those bills was closer to $4 a month. That comes close to $50 a year – and while that may not sound like much to a guy who yanks in over $100,000 in taxpayer money out of one of the poorest counties in California, it adds up to almost $50 a year to pay for the “privelege” of owning a phone. In addition to the $1000+ that you have to pay the phone company. 

Again, imagine life without a phone. I’ll never forget how potential employers acted when my son was looking for a job and we didn’t have a separate cell phone number for him. Having your mom answering the phone for potential employers is like some kind of rat poison. They treated him  like a deadbeat! One fellow was even rude to me! While I’m disgusted with the mentality, I realize, you can’t fight it, especially when you’re the one who needs the job. Going out looking for a job without a car and a phone is like wearing a t-shirt that says, “I don’t really want this job I’m just filling out my unemployment application…” 

So, Mr. Gruendl, living like a pimp on the taxpayers’ dime, can stuff his “community” spirit as far as I’m concerned. He’s not a member of my community, although, if you ask around Glenn County, I think you’ll find, they don’t want him either!

I know they’re sensitive about this aspect of the tax Downtown because Burkland informs us that low-income people can always reclaim their money, if they’re that petty, by way of the Utility Users Tax Rebate program. Do tell Dave! 

“The refund offers a partial refund of UUT  paid on all UUT services to income-eligible participants. “

If you look at the schedule below, you see what he means by “partial” – there is a refund maximum, regardless of what the participant paid in UUT, he/she can only get so much back. And it’s kinda whacked – one person can get up to $105, but eight people can only get $198? 

Burkland ends his report with some interesting statistics regarding the Utility Tax Rebate program. “Historically, the City has refunded between $800 and $1200 in UUT-Telecom refunds to an average of 110 households per year.” 

Well,  if I actually believed for one minute that the city had set out to return this UUT money to it’s rightful and underprivileged owners, I would call that a miserable failure Dave. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21.2 % of Chico’s roughly 86,000 residents live BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL. Do the math – that’s over 18,000 people.  If you divide that by the number in the average Chico “household,” and you find there are roughly 7,613 Chico households living BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL. This is actually more than the California average, by a quite a bit! 

But Burkland informs us, only 110 households get a UUT rebate? Well, what’s the problem Dave? 

Has anybody ever seen this program advertised beyond the city website? No, you haven’t, they don’t advertise it, they don’t even take out a notice in the paper. It is not even mentioned on the city website until the two month period during which they will give you a refund. I have had to ask the Finance Department to post it two years in a row now, and I firmly believe they would’n’t do it if I didn’t faithfully e-mail them every April and bitch about it. 

I have to ask, why isn’t the information posted all year? I mean, in order to collect the rebate, you have to keep ALL YOUR BILLS, so it would be nice if the information was out there more than a month before the collection date. 

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question, I’m just a compulsive question asker, even when I know the answer. It’s always funny to hear the answer come out of THEIR mouth. Tell the truth and shame the Devil, Flakcatcher! As if it does any good – that’s why they’re the Flakcatchers! 

I have posted all the rules and regulations for getting your UUT rebate below. Tell me they’re not onerous, and I’ll give you a wet willy. 


CITY OF CHICO
UTILITY USERS’ TAX REFUND & EXEMPTION PROGRAM
GENERAL INFORMATION
A refund or an exemption from City Utility Users’ Tax, for utility services provided may be approved when the following conditions are met:

(1) City of Chico resident files an application with the City of Chico Finance Office for a refund or an exemption.  The application is a spreadsheet on which you have to write down the amounts of UUT from each bill, twice, and add them up in different directions. Then the clerk makes you sit while he/she adds them up. Once the clerk actually found a mistake on mine – in my favor, ginchee! 

(2) The application is approved by the Finance Office as being in conformance with Section 3.56.190 and/or 3.56.200 of the Chico Municipal Code. Only one member of each household may file an application and only one application may be filed for each household.   Meaning, make sure all the bills in your household are under one name. 

(3) The combined annual income of the household in which the applicant lives for the 2011 Federal and State Personal Income Tax Year was less than the maximum annual income limits in the following schedule:  These actually seem fairly generous to me, and I can’t understand why only 110 households claim the rebate.

Household Size   Maximum Annual Income     Maximum Refund
1                                $32,900                                        $105
2                               $37,600                                        $120
3                               $42,300                                        $135
4                               $46,950                                        $150
5                               $50,750                                        $162
6                               $54,500                                        $174
7                               $58,250                                        $186
8 or more              $62,000                                       $198
(4) The applicant shall be the person in whose name the bills for utility services were rendered.  Meaning, even if you and your spouse have the same name, they will only take the application from the exact name on the bills. 

Applications for Utility Users’ Tax paid will be accepted from May 1, 2012 to June 30, 2012 for tax paid between May 1, 2011 and April 30, 2012.

The application must be accompanied by:
• Proof of household income (2011 Tax Return, Disability Statement, Social Security Letter, etc.)  You can show them your tax return, you don’t have to let them keep it. And I’d use a copy with all the SSN’s blacked out if I were you.
• Copies of the utility bills including Water bills, Gas & Electric bills and Telephone bills paid by the applicant. Here’s probably the most onerous part. If you go into the office, you can just show them your bills, they don’t have to keep copies. But if you want to mail this in, it’s going to cost you in copy money and postage – good luck! 

Refunds will be processed as follows:
• No refund shall be made on any application filed or postmarked later than June 30, 2012.
• All applications for refund sent through mail will be paid with a check from the City of Chico.
• All applications for refund delivered by the applicant to the City of Chico Finance Office shall be processed the same day when possible. I think they have a rule, they’ll pay anything under $50 in cash, maybe $100, I can’t remember. This is the sweet payoff Babee – green money to exchange for sugary treats at Shuberts! 

Applicants for the Exemption Program shall have attained the age of 60 years prior to making the application for exemption. Eligibility for tax exemption for applicants 60 years or older shall be based on the maximum income for a two-person household as set forth above ($37,600 for 2011). Applications for exemption are accepted any time during the year and must be accompanied by:
• Proof of household income (2011 Tax Return, Disability Statement, Social Security Letter, etc)
• Age of the applicant as documented by driver’s license or birth certificate.

I feel they should give an exemption to anybody who’s successfully applied more than two years in a row, and then that household should have to re-submit their eligibility every five or so years. Once you’ve proven you’re eligible, they shouldn’t be able to take the tax off your bills anymore, but this way, they get to collect the interest on it all year. Remember, it’s not just you, they’re doing it to probably 15,000 or more households that are below the income requirements, that adds up to a few bucks in the bank. 

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3 Responses to “At least 15,000 households eligible for UUT rebate, but only 110 apply? Why?”

  1. FourthGeneration Chico May 8, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Jeez Louise! So they create so much bureaucracy and red tape that us poor folk won’t even have the means or the time to actually receive the refund. This stinks to high-heaven.

  2. dave June 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    I applied for the exemption today and received excellent service from the nice lady at the Finance Dept. Thanks for providing the information necessary Juanita.

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