Your public servants will give you the service you deserve

26 Apr

I always wonder if people read their utility bills when they pay them.  I wonder how many people know the city of Chico collects 5 percent in “utility users tax,” added to our bills.

Chico residents who get PG&E, Cal Water service, or still have “land lines” for telephone, computer or FAX service pay an extra 5 percent tacked onto their monthly bill. Only 5 percent, you say? Well, look at your bill. And you have to look on every page – it’s not listed on the front. PG&E, for example, lists separate amounts for each billing period, and separate amounts for gas and electric. I’m going to guess the average total UUT per month for PG&E  is between $10 and $20. 

Then look at the city of Chico budget, here:

Click to access 2016-17CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

Wade in there, go to the budget projections chart – you’ll see that UUT, at about $6.2 million,  is the city’s third highest source of revenue, after sales tax and property tax. 

Now ask yourself – which of those is most likely to keep going up, damn the torpedoes, no matter what? When have utility rates ever gone down? I’ve seen past budgets where those three revenue streams have jumped their beds and changed places back and forth – UUT remains consistent while the other two are at the mercy of our BOOM and BUST economy.  In fact, for the 2018-19 fiscal year, $taff predicts UUT revenues will be over $7 million. They predict those other revenues will  go up too – good luck with that, I smell BUST around the corner.  

Now ask yourself – what service does the city provide to earn that $6.2 – $7 million? That’s the question voters asked themselves back in 2012, when the city floated an ordinance that would have made it legal to tax your cell phone bill.

The answer the voters came back with was, “Nothing-not a thing-not anything-zip-zilch-zero-nil-nada-naught-diddly squat.”

And they were quite correct. The city would not even file a formal protest in either the Cal Water or PG&E rate increases. They have no power over these agencies, except to pass an ordinance that requires these agencies to collect UUT from us, and hand it over to the city. BTW, any costs associated there are passed by the utility company onto the ratepayers.

But, the law also says the city must refund UUT collected from ratepayers who fall under certain financial thresholds. A family of four making less than $47,000, for example, is entitled to a rebate of most of their utility tax over the previous year. 

I think that’s a lot of families in Chico –  I know my family comes in way ahead of the requirements, and I know a lot of people who live on roughly the same income we do. So I was surprised when I asked city management a few years ago how many applications they  get a year, and the answer was “about 100 households.” 

As you might guess, the city does not advertise this program in any way. The rebate application period starts May 1 and ends June 30.  As of yesterday, April 25, I looked at the city website, and there’s nothing. I searched it, and got the application for 2011. You should be sure to get the latest application, the requirements change. They not only have income requirements, but limit the amount you can get back. So I e-mailed the city finance department, asking where I could find it. The $taffer got back to me with an attached copy that I could print for myself, but said the application would not be on the city website until next week.

Yeah, I know – don’t be such a putz Juanita! Of course they don’t want people to get this rebate!

I just can’t believe the low to which our public employees have stooped these days. I had to ask the clerk’s office for a cut and pastable version of this report below three times before they actually delivered.  Excuses, excuses. “The Adobe program is not letting me convert this document to OCR text.   I was able to save it in Word.  The document is attached,” says the $taffer who gets more than $100,000 a year in salary, pension and health benefits. 

Why do I bitch about this stuff? Because the whole reason I do this blog is to get the information out there. Do you know what a pain in the ass it is to type from a different screen? Oh yeah, I could get it on my cell phone screen, and type it from that… No, I demand the staffer do the job she’s supposed to do so I can cut-and-paste it with the swipe of a couple of keys. Unlike little miss high-heels,  I don’t get paid to do this.

(From the April 19, 2017 meeting of the Oversight Board for the RDA Successor Agency)  “At June 30, 2016 the Successor Agency to the Chico Redevelopment Agency had long-term bond obligations totaling over $89,000,000 bearing interest rates from 4.0% to 5.13%. “

Gee, can you figure why they don’t want me sharing this information with just any Tom, Dick or Sally? City Finangler $cott Dowell says he  can get these refinanced at a lower rate. All I see is that great big “89” followed by all those zeroes. Times like this I feel like Roy Scheider.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: