We need to remind Jennifer Hennessy and Ann Schwab to get cracking on getting that phone tax off our bills

12 Nov

I’m still poking Measure J with a stick. It lays there as if dead, but we’ll see.   Not that I’m so worried about those 14,000 uncounted ballots, but, will the city stop taking the tax now that we’ve sent it to the boneyard?

And according to an article in the Enterprise Record the other day, “it’s unclear what the city’s next step will be.” Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy says the city will “likely have to proactively inform” the phone companies they no longer need to collect the tax. Well, let’s write those letters folks – that’s jhenness@ci.chico.ca.us  – no, that’s not a typo, that is her correct city of Chico contact.  Remind Ms. Hennessy she needs to contact those phone companies NOW. Tell her you’d like to get copies of those notices. 

And, ask her for a list of those companies that DO collect the tax – as far as I know, it’s only AT&T, even though the ER article says there’s only one carrier that doesn’t collect. 

In Chula Vista, ratepayers are still awaiting the outcome of a trial, set for this coming January, to determine if they will be REFUNDED of money that was collected by way of the old tax. This old tax was in effect all over California, and all over California people are throwing it off. The original law allowed for taxing of land lines, NOT cell phones. The City of Chula Vista brought forward their own version of Measure J, to “modernize” the tax for their own use. Their voters rejected it soundly. But, the city continued to collect the tax.  They said the law was too vague.

Your vivacious Mayor, Ann Schwab, admitted in her “argument in favor” of Measure J, that the old law  needed to be “modernized,” or the city was “at risk” of losing this revenue. What does she mean, “at risk” ? Is she going to pull the same kind of bullshit they pulled in Chula Vista? Ask her at aschwab@ci.chico.ca.us

In Chula Vista, the city claims that ” municipalities all over the state collect a similar tax under similar ordinances.  The original ordinance never intended to exempt from taxation the usage of mobile communication devices that are in common use today.”

See that article at 

http://www.thestarnews.com/latest-news/judge-oks-pursuit-of-lawsuit/

Be ready to hear the same bull from Schwab and Barker. And be ready to go right back on the warpath. If they don’t stop collecting the phone tax, we should go after a reduction in the Utility Tax rate, to 1 percent or less, and then go after an exemption for ALL citizens who qualify for the rate assistance programs offered by the utility companies.  

When the ER reporter asked me for a comment, I told her The Chico Taxpayers Association would follow this thing, and I’m ready to do that. That’s what it takes. The CTA isn’t going to go away. 

 My grandma had a little poem hanging on the wall of our bedroom when we were kids. “Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn! The sheep are in the meadow, the cow is in the corn! “  For those of you who didn’t grow up on a farm, those are bad things – the sheep are scattering, and the cow is wrecking your corn patch.  “But where is the boy who’s to look after the sheep? Why, he’s under the hay mow, fast asleep!” Hey, is that you? Are you sleeping while the cow is eating your good sweet corn, and your sheep are about to be hit by some drunk on his way home from The Four Corners?   At the bottom of the frame, there were the words, “Go After the Cow!” Yes, wake up, write those e-mails, tell those cows, “get your hooves out of my phone bill!” 

HERE’S THE ER ARTICLE FOR REFERENCE

With Measure J failure, City of Chico waits to understand impact

By ASHLEY GEBB-Chico Enterprise Record, Staff Writer
Posted:   11/08/2012 12:05:48 AM PST

CHICO — While Chico voters appear to have defeated a change to the city’s telephone users tax Tuesday, it’s unclear what the city’s next step will be.

Measure J asked voters whether to amend wording to the city’s telephone users tax to encompass modern technology such as cellphones while decreasing the tax rate from 5 percent to 4.5 percent.

With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, the tax measure was failing, with 53 percent opposed.

The tally to date is 12,451 no votes and 10,973 yes votes, with still about 14,000 ballots left to be counted in all of Butte County.

If the measure fails, the city will likely sustain a major hit in revenue that supports the general fund, said Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy.

The city currently receives about $1.4 million annually in telephone user tax revenue, of which $900,000 to $1 million comes from wireless telecommunications providers. That may not be the extent of the loss, Hennessy said.

“Over time as more people transfer from having landlines to having cellphones or other types of voice communication that’s not covered under our current ordinance, our tax base will continue to decrease,” she said.

City Attorney Lori Barker declined to state impacts until Measure J’s outcome is finalized, but she said she will prepare a report for the City Council once all the votes are tabulated.

Measure proponents said its passage was critical to protect tax revenue, while opponents argued it was a regressive tax that unfairly targeted students.If the measure does fail, Hennessy predicts the revenue loss will begin this fiscal year.

The time frame also depends on phone companies, she said, and the city will likely have to proactively inform them they no longer need to collect the tax.

All but one company currently collect the tax. Metro PCS stopped paying the tax in March 2011, causing a loss of nearly $80,000.

“We will be working with the new council as for what priorities are, where we cut the funds, where we cut the expenditures,” she said. “There will be some tough decisions.”

Juanita Sumner of the Chico Taxpayers, a group that worked to raise public awareness about Measure J, said members now will wait to see if the city stops collecting the tax. She noted that in Chula Vista, where a similar measure failed but the tax continued to be collected, the city is being sued.

“Chico Taxpayers are ready to follow this issue to its end,” she wrote in an email.

4 Responses to “We need to remind Jennifer Hennessy and Ann Schwab to get cracking on getting that phone tax off our bills”

  1. Joseph November 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    If someone as a land line and also has DSL does the city charge the tax on the whole bill or just the non-DSL portion?

    If they’ve been charging the tax on the whole bill then it would seem that the amount charged on the DSL part should be refunded.

    Since many people have DSL that could be a large amount of money the city would need to come up with.

    • Juanita Sumner November 13, 2012 at 6:46 am #

      Good question. I have dug out my old AT&T bills, these here from 2009.

      We quit AT&T in 2010 because the service was horrible, but I will also say, their billing always gave me the creeping feeling I was being ripped blind. The bills I have, for a landline, internet, and three cell phones, are five to seven pages long, and the charges are split up and repetitive, I never really knew what I was paying for. The Utility Tax was in there, “City Utility Users Tax”, but it was split up within the bill and there was never a total on the front page, you had to dig it out. In our bill, there’s only a UUT listed on the cell phones – the main phone was about $2.65, and the other two were anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar, I don’t know how they figure it. But get this – there is no charge listed for our land line or internet services – no “UUT” that is. They only list state and federal taxes on the landline, and nothing on the internet services. As I understood the original phone tax, land lines were the only thing they were supposed to be able to charge UUT on. It looks like cities all over California have just been TAKING carte blanche because nobody knows what they’re paying in their bills.

      HERE’S THE WEIRD THING: I found a note I’d written on my March 2010 bill – “as of Jan 10 feds decided to drop ‘bundled’ phone packages from UUT.” And, in the bills I have for 2010, there is no UUT listed anywhere.

      We switched to Verizon and Comcast shortly after that, and I’ve never seen UUT in my Verizon bill.

      The ER reporter said there’s only ONE company that’s not collecting UUT on phones. This whole conversation has been screwed – I’m just so glad people voted NO. I was also perusing an old blog in which I had run a letter from Lori Barker, which I interpreted as meaning, Chico would go after not only Chico residents but anybody who uses their cellphone in Chico. Meaning, college students whose cell phones are billed on their family package in Orange County, or county dwellers who work in the city, etc. Lori Barker said the cell phone companies would be responsible for keeping track of the “point of origin” of calls and taxing them. The whole thing was crazy, let’s just hope it’s good and dead.

      Poke, poke.

  2. Jim November 21, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Yes they do charge the phone tax on the land line, long distance and DSL.

    • Juanita Sumner November 21, 2012 at 9:07 am #

      Hey Jim, would you mind bringing your bill into the next meeting – and anybody else who is getting the tax taken off their phone bill. I’m on Verizon, they quit taking it years ago. I’ve reserved the room for Dec 2, and every first Sunday, I think, through JUNE! Let’s keep on this.

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