Archive | May, 2012

City mangler Dave Burkland recommends tax increase for city – he lives in the county!

9 May

I find it interesting how many city employees live outside the city limits. 

Your mayor owns a fine place up above the Forest Ranch Store, staring down at the little smog ball hovering over Chico. Your city manager lives halfway to Dayton in the unincorporated area surrounding Chico. How these people find the nerve to tell us actual Chicoans how to live is beyond me, but you can read Dave Burkland’s recommendation to raise our phone tax here, under the report for Item 4.1:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/5-1-12CityCouncilAgendaPacket.pdf

“I concur with the City Attorney’s recommendation,” he says. Furthermore, he reports, “If Council takes no action, the City stands to lose a significant portion of it’s general use revenue.” 

It’s easy for Burkland to talk – Dave lives well outside the city of Chico. This TAX is for those of us unfortunates who, either by choice, or in my case, ANNEXATION,  live within the confines of the city, where we are seen as a little herd of cash cows to be milked at will by our oppressors. 

Time for a little Animal Farm? Yep, I believe it is high time we stood on our hind legs and threw these people off. 

Of course, our boy Dave, rat that he is, has already made his jump from our floundering shipwreck in the making. Retiring this coming August at 60, BURKLAND WILL BE GETTING 70 percent of his $180,500 a year salary – over $126,000 A YEAR  – with  cost of living increases and medical benefits – for DOING NOTHING but picking up a check, for THE REST OF HIS LIFE

Damn, he looks pretty fit too! We won’t be rid of that leech for some years. 

At our Taxpayers’ Association meeting the other day, one  participant opined that Burkland and other staffers are supporting these local tax increases to feather their own nests, to pay for their pensions. Another person present tried to say that these pensions are “paid by PERS”.

Well, wake up and smell the coffee.  Read the papers lately? Like for the past two years? PERS gambled all their funds on the stock market. They lost their asses. Well, actually, they lost our asses. 

Go ahead. Google “pension time bomb” or “California on the hook for unfunded pensions” – you’ll find all kinds of articles dating from the present all the way back to 2010, telling us, we can’t afford these crazy pensions, built on crazy salaries, bloated with overtime, and then gambled on the stock market. 

As the Wall Street Journal says, in an article from April 2010, “Calpers and Calstrs are decrying the Stanford study because it has revealed exactly who is on the hook for all of this unfunded obligation—California’s taxpayers.”

Yeah, we pay for Dave’s pension and benies, and that’s exactly what he’s out to protect. And we pay them out of our General Fund. And like Dave says in his recommendation to stick us with a expanded tax on our cell phones – “The primary purpose of amending the telephone users’ tax is to protect existing revenue for the General Fund.” 

 

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. 

“Modernization”? “Expansion”? By any other name, a tax increase still stinks!

7 May

I want to discuss the reports made by city $taff regarding the phone tax,  so get a cup of stiff java and a couple of toothpicks to prop your eyes open. I know the language in these documents is thicker than Glenn County fog, but it really helps to go over this stuff a little bit at a time and discuss it. All the sudden you gonna find yourself waking up real fast, Honey.

$taff refers to this resolution as an “update” or “modernization” of the old ordinance, by which they siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars off us through our phone bills. The old law, apparently, only allowed the taxing of LAND LINES.  Tuesday night, Ann Schwab, Andy Holcombe, Jim Walker and Scott Gruendl  directed $taff to “modernize” the ordinance to include “interstate and international calls, voice over internet protocol, text messaging and paging. “

Modernize“? Excuse me?

City Attorney Lori Barker says in her report, “These measures have the effect of modernizing an existing tax to ensure that all users of communication services are treated the same, regardless of the type of technology they are using or billing practices employed by their providers. ”   

Here’s where it gets deceptive, and ugly. “…all users…are treated the same…” They are trying to pit us against each other, plain and simple. They are telling the land line users that the rest of us are getting by without paying our fair share!

First the ugly stick, then the carrot: “a slight decrease in the (current utility) tax rate, for example, from 5% to 4.5%.” 

So, they’re telling the voters they will not only get the slackers to pay, but that they are LOWERING THE TAX.

Read along in the report and you see why: “Decreasing the rax rate most likely increases voter support of such measures.”

Wow, they must think we’re pretty easy – half a cent?  We all know, that half a cent dries up faster than spit on a griddle when you realize they are expanding the tax to all your mobile devices:

“Additionally, it is believed that an ordinance that includes a slight reduction in the tax rate would have a revenue neutral impact because the tax base would be somewhat expanded.”

Read that again. “would have revenue neutral impact”? “the tax base would be somewhat expanded“? Excuse me,  Folks,  the revenue impact will be VERY POSITIVE. They will make more money with this “modernized” version than they ever made off the old ordinance. And “somewhat” ? That’s a joke – the base is going to be VERY MUCH EXPANDED. They will be getting taxes on cell phones that have never been taxed, from at least two major carriers that I am aware of  — you can bet your booty this tax is being expanded.

City Manager Dave Burkland, in his report, says he is setting out to “protect the existing revenue for the General Fund” – that the city is in danger of losing about $900,000 a year if voters don’t pass this “modern”  ordinance. But  it’s obvious, they’re set to gain a heck of a lot more than that if it does get passed.

Chico Taxpayers Association discusses pending local tax increases

6 May

We had a great meeting at the library this morning. We discussed the phone tax resolution that is currently being crafted by the city attorney, as well as the sales tax increase proposal being forwarded along by Tom Lando and friends. 

Council heard a first reading of the phone tax resolution, in three versions with three rate proposals,  at the May 1 meeting last week. In answer to complaints that the language in those drafts was misleading and deceptive, council voted to send one of the proposals back to city attorney Lori Barker’s office for some editing.  Council majority (with Evans and Sorensen dissenting) chose a rate of 4.5 percent, but made no specific demands regarding the language or exactly which parts of the resolution should be rewritten. The revised edition should come back to council shortly, I’ll be watching for it.

The sales tax increase proposal is being kicked around at the Chamber of Commerce, of which Tom Lando is a member and past president. The Chamber seems to be vetting the measure, keeping a low profile and trying to get as many clouted individuals on board as possible before they bring this turkey out to greet the public. 

At today’s meeting we read over and discussed the reports made by the city attorney and the city manager regarding the phone tax, and also the proposed resolution itself. I’m going to try to post a bit of those reports day by day so we can discuss the pertinent points here, please stay tuned.

Phone tax a GO, sales tax increase in the works – let’s talk about it tomorrow (May 6), Chico library, 11:30am

5 May

Tomorrow we will be discussing both the phone tax that council has already added to the November ballot and the sales tax increase that is slithering in that direction.

We realize 11:30 is not good for everybody, so we’ll also be discussing holding meetings at different times, and more often. We have a list of well-informed guest speakers we’re hoping to coax in as well.

I think we’re okay in our location, don’t you? The library is a great place for public meetings. It’s free, for one thing. And it’s fairly well placed, nearly in the middle of the incorporated  Chico area, easy bicycle OR car access, close to the freeway, and plenty of parking.  Plenty of seating too. So, I think we’ll leave it at the library, but try to have more meetings at various times to accommodate everybody.

Hope to see folks tomorrow, 11:30!

Lando still working on sales tax increase, behind closed doors with Council members and $taff

4 May

Thank you Toby Shindelbeck for attending the Legislative Action Committee meetings which are NOT LISTED ON THE AGENDAS PAGE of the city website.

CORRECTIONmy apologies – I found out, this is NOT a committee of the city but of the Chico Chamber, of which Lando is a member and past president.

I have been remiss – I knew about these meetings, but I have not attended. What I didn’t know, is this is where Tom Lando is plotting and planning with Council members and city staff to get that sales tax increase on the city ballot.

They (Lando and friends)  have until the first council meeting in July to come up with a proposal for Council, and it looks like they are  planning to do so.

If we have to mount an opposing campaign, we are ready to open our checkbooks.

The closure of Station 5 should have tipped me off – they are tying public safety to the train tracks to threaten us into passing both the phone tax and the sales tax.

We have a meeting Sunday at the library, 11:30.  I hope some folks will show up,  ready to work.

The only way they’ll be able to pass this phone tax is with lies.

3 May

I still can’t believe that meeting the other night. Ann Schwab called me “nasty.” How exactly would she describe a person who lied to her? 

Because, no matter how they lie and deny, the measure that Ann Schwab, Andy Holcombe, Scott Gruendl, and Jim Walker have decided, among their little gang of four, to place on the November ballot,  is a tax increase, there are no two ways about it. Anybody who says otherwise is a liar, plain and simple. 

Ann knows what it is. That’s why she says it would be “wise” to use the figure of 4.5  percent. Andy Holcombe, who does not have enough money or support to run in November, and therefore has nobody to answer to, suggested the rate be raised to 5.5 percent. But Ann’s up for re-election, and she wants people to think she’s lowering their taxes. If I were Ann Schwab’s mother I wouldn’t  show my face in public. 

Well, in fact, this initiative, if passed will lower certain peoples’ taxes. Those folks who use AT&T, for example, are currently paying a 5 percent utility tax on that service. As was explained this past Tuesday night, some companies are collecting the tax in anticipation of the passage of initiatives like this all over California. They just aren’t giving it to the cities yet. Because? 

Because, if this initiative fails, nobody in the city of Chico will have to pay the phone tax anymore.  In other words, those who are currently paying this tax, are being taxed illegally. 

And, again, in my Pollyanna mind, I would assume the phone carriers will have to return the money they have been collecting to the customers. Hey, weirder things have happened. 

Now,  Verizon, for example,  does not collect the tax. So, anybody who has Verizon  wouild be suffering a tax increase if this initiative is passed.  Several people at Tuesday night’s meeting, including councilors Sorensen and Evans, pointed out that the language in the initiative that $200,000+  a year city attorney Lori Barker has drafted is “deceptive,” ridiculously so. District 2 supervisor Larry Wahl pointed out the use of “modernize” as a euphemism for “add a tax to it.” There is no mention that some people are currently being charged, illegally,  but some people are not.  Eventually, a motion was made that the language needs to be changed to make it clear PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CURRENTLY BEING TAXED WILL BE TAXED UNDER THIS INITIATVE. 

I’m guessing, some folks who already pay the tax will be outraged that ALL of us are not paying the tax. The answer for them is to vote NO. They are currently being taxed illegally. They need to be mad at their carriers and at their local government, not those of us whose carriers are sticking up for our rights. 

You must wonder – is AT&T collecting interest on this money they are holding? 

Of course Barker would like the initiative to pass, so she’s going to be as deceptive as we allow her. At her current salary, she will retire at over $180,000 a year, plus benefits. She needs to make sure we can pay that before she retires. Apparently she is willing to lie, cheat and steal to secure her retirement. 

Please write letters and tell them you see the deception, tell them the initiative needs to make all these points clear, and then tell them you won’t support it anyway. Be sure to write letters to the paper, let’s keep this conversation loud and in the public eye. 

The only way they’re going to get this pig to fly is with lies. We can’t let them get away with it. Write letters, write letters, write letters. 

Write to the Enterprise Record and ask them if Katy Sweeny forgot the end of the story she wrote.