Not sure what happened with the trash tax, but it looks like the money will be going to the roads. Or something.

9 Sep

I’ve been busy lately but I’ve been trying to keep an ear to the trash tax discussion. You may have seen my letter in the Enterprise Record recently:

Next week Chico city council will discuss how the trash tax will be spent. While they promised to fix the streets with the new revenue, staff has listed “Priority 1” as “Fixed cost increases, such as built-in contract escalators, benefit increases outside City control including CalPERS pension contributions”. 

I am quoting directly from the staff report, available at the city website, with the city council agenda for September 5, 2017. 

“Priority 2:  Funding significant long-term liabilities, and replenishing General Fund and Emergency Reserve, Workers Compensation, General Liability, and Compensated Absences funds to established targets”  Employee costs, and money into the General Fund, which can be spent without the restrictions placed on other funds. 

“Priority 3:  Replenishing internal service funds, such as Vehicle Replacement, Building Maintenance” So, staff get new cars and upgrades in their office buildings?

Finally we get to “Priority 4: Discretionary expenditures and negotiable items.”  That would be, fixing city streets, cleaning up Bidwell Park, and dealing with increasing crime? Negotiable? As usual, public service is the lowest priority for staff. 

Let’s call this “franchise fee” what it is: The Big Lie

And get ready – next they will come at you by way of your toilet – sewer fees are going up, and so are septage pumping fees. All to pay down the pension and benefits liabilities.

David Little wrote a similar, but nicer editorial, we agreed – $taff told us this money would go to fixing the streets, and now they try to pull a bait-and-switch, trying to spend it on their own pensions. That’s called “fraud” and it’s illegal, at least in the private sector.

So, no wonder city mangler Mark Orme was just a little defensive in his opening remarks, saying there were other options, mentioning what was said in the newspaper – hey, Mister, I quoted from the agenda report you approved and signed. Here’s the preceding headers I left out of my letter:

Pursuant to the Council’s Budget Policies, the following [4 “Priorities” listed above] would be followed by staff without Council earmarking.
D.1.a. The City will dedicate new ongoing revenue sources in the following manner and priority·

In fact, road work and maintenance were the last “options” under “Options to Consider” Read the report here:

Mark Orme needs to go.   Having given and heard numerous reports about our financial situation, Orme still demanded a $9,000 raise to cover his increased pension payment – still less than 10 percent of his total package – still expecting to get 70 percent of over $220,000 in salary in retirement. 

But I was shocked with the conversation that followed. Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge refused Orme’s proposal and made a motion to dedicate the money to road work. I tried to type as I listened.

Morgan: I understand we have our own policy about what to do with new money… a continued discussion about how many trucks were on the road…how much damage that was doing.. no question the roadways are bad…biggest thing we deal with after unfunded pensions…allocate most of not all of that increase into roadways…in the report two line items for road maintenance…that was my initial thought…we could hire we could hire we could hire …. staff has done an incredible job of [lowering costs]…that doesn’t work when it comes to  repaving roadways...[mentions a group that wants a sales tax to fix roads]…

Stone: [admits the streets are bad]  I’m kind of comfortable dedicating for a year some amount…I’m uncomfortable about dedicating this long term, I don’t like to tie our hands…

Sometimes I think Stone should be bound and gagged, but I’ll admit, that’s not very nice. I will say I’m uncomfortable with him having a free hand to the til.

Sorensen: I think any action we take is only good as long as we take it…everything in the budget is up for grabs… my preference would be capital [improvements] … there would be much more grant opportunities [if we had matching funds dedicated].

Ann: things we really need…certainly roads is definitely a need…however we have an opportunity to at least start to pay for the permitting system that would certainly help streamline permitting process [more money for city]  … interpretive program for our park… 3 priorities – roads, permitting, parks.

Coolidge then asked for public comment.  

Sales tax increase advocate Stephanie Taber commented that the “$200,000 – $600,000” expected in the first year of the franchise is inadequate – “what’s that going to do for that $7 million we have missing [$taff indicated roadwork might cost up to $10 million a year, and there’s nothing in the road or capital improvements funds] …you guys have got to grab hold of the fact we haven’t got any money… the thing we need to fix [is that we are] millions of dollars behind in many things we really need…you really need to come up with a long term plan. I am very much in favor of the tax increase, I don’t see any problem whatsoever I think it’s the best thing for our city.  My 2 cents.”

Local businessman Mike Reilly commented that “most or all should go to capital…” with “50 percent toward the roads.” But he also opined that streamlining the permitting system “ is a one time [$250,000] cost and will help immediately.”  He believes it would save the cost of another employee, paying for itself within a couple of years. For this reason Reilly felt the franchise revenue should be “looked at on a yearly basis…but I don’t think we should pay PERS or add salaries…”   Adding police officers was one of the first “options” listed in the $taff report.

Coolidge:  Certainly there’s a long list of things we need…but at the end of the day I recall all our conversations about the franchise agreement…over and over…almost all my colleagues spoke to the fact that they were were doing this because of the impacts the trucks have on the roads and the roads had been neglected…personally I’d like to see it [the franchise revenues] locked up forever…the problem we get into is when funds aren’t locked up...[makes a motion to dedicate the entire amount toward “the roads”]…”for the period of the first year…”

Here I had a problem – for the first year?  Sounds like a trick! Luckily Morgan moved in with a “friendly amendment.” 

Sean: I absolutely agree with the fear is if we only do it for a year…we’ll be whacking the mole, we never end up getting anything…I would support your motion but I’d rather see it all go into road capital for a period of 5 years.

Then Sorensen tried to address another concern of mine – what fund are we talking about? There seems to be a road fund, a capital improvements fund – I haven’t been to the meetings lately, and they’ve changed everything.

Sorensen: I was going to add, it’s not clear, is it capitol or road maintenance he wants? [if] we can’t lock it in, we could vote to change it in two months…we should take it up as a budget item…

Morgan seems to agree with Sorensen, but poo-poos his concern about the possibility of an overturn of the decision. Morgan said he wanted the money “earmarked” so it wouldn’t “just end up in the General Fund,” where it can be spent with little or no restriction as to purpose. 

So, what’s the legal term here, earmarked? Dedicated? This is never explained fully to the public, and that’s how they get away with moving this money like carnival barkers.

But Morgan opined that any council member(s) who tried to overturn this decision “would have to stand up to the community…”

Ooooo, you’re scarin’ me now!


So I don’t really understand the motion they eventually made, I guess I will have to look at it when Her Royal Clerk posts the minutes on the website. They seemed to be saying both the capital and road funds, but they seemed as confused as I was. Presson didn’t read anything back, she just called for the vote. I don’t know if that’s appropriate – it sure doesn’t give anybody a chance to ask about the motion, whether they understand it or not, and I’m telling you, these people are not the sharpest pencils in the box. The clerk has made mistakes before – the most expensive being the motion that first passed for the scrap yard – and the council seem to follow with their noses to her behind without thinking about stuff.

The motion passed with Ory absent, and Schwab and Stone dissenting. 

16 Responses to “Not sure what happened with the trash tax, but it looks like the money will be going to the roads. Or something.”

  1. bob September 9, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

    Yeah, or something….those are the key words.

    What’s the old saying? How can you tell when a politicians is lying? His/her lips are moving…

    Does anyone seriously believe all the money from the trash tax increase that they said would go for road repair will?

    Based on the way the roads are now, they’ve made it crystal clear they care a helluva a lot more about raises and keeping these ridiculous benefits, especially pensions, going full bore for city employees than they do about the roads.

    And just listen to all the weasel words they are now using…it’s clear that even if they initially allocate the money to roads that they said they would, they will use the money for other purposes eventually. I guarantee it.

    • bob September 9, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

      And it looks like people are beginning to wise up to what a bad deal this “franchise” BS is…We have a so-called conservative city council increasing taxes and creating monopolies…almost makes me long for the days when Mary Gulag was on the Council. At least she wasn’t there half the time to pass bad laws and tax increases and hand out raises to government employees like candy to trick or treaters on Halloween.

    • bob September 9, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

      And just wait until the old Taber toothed tiger gets her road sales tax increase. She really thinks that all the money will go to roads, that the sneaky, lying politicians won’t figure out a way to siphon it off. She is either incredibly naive or incredibly stupid or both. But someone as old as she who has been involved in politics for so long? I don’t think so. I think she must have ulterior motives.

      • Juanita Sumner September 10, 2017 at 4:17 am #

        I won’t say I know what goes through Taber’s head, but after a meeting I watched Mark Orme walk up behind her, smiling at me like a cat, and give her a big, loving hug, like she was his mother or something. That guy is a creep, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get money to pay his pension.

  2. Juanita Sumner September 10, 2017 at 4:10 am #

    This tax money will need watching – like Sorensen said, they could change their minds and overturn this in two weeks. As if “the community” is watching. I think both Morgan and Coolidge were pandering to the public, and wonder how long this 5 years will last.

    • Jim September 10, 2017 at 7:14 am #

      What appalls me are the comments on Facebook about the trash deal. It seems that a lot of people only learned about this when they received the post card from Recology this week. That is why it passed, most people, don’t read the news and aren’t paying attention to what our city council is doing.

      • Juanita Sumner September 10, 2017 at 8:22 am #

        you got it.

        but something that occurs to me now that you mention it – when PG&E or Cal Water want to increase rates, they have to notice customers in their bills and have a few years of noticed public hearings.

        Can you send me the link to that facebook page?

    • Jim September 10, 2017 at 9:26 am #

      It was on this page:

  3. bob September 10, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    Why people tolerate this is beyond me.

    They should be raising total h#ll over this.

    They should flood the city council members’ email and voice mail with complaints, same for multi-millionaire bureaucrat Orme. (His pension alone is worth millions of dollars.)

    And when these corrupt politicians syphon this new tax money off from roads, and I GUARANTEE YOU THAT WILL HAPPEN, the people ought to raise even more h#ll and get these liars re-called.

    Below are the email addresses of all members of the council, plus the city clerks who are supposed to log citizen complaints and make sure they get to the Council. Also included is multi-millionaire bureaucrat Orme’s email address. You can just copy and paste all this into the To: field in your email client.;;;;;;;;;;

    • Juanita Sumner September 11, 2017 at 4:12 am #

      I agree, and thanks for posting those e-mail addresses.

      Check out that face book link Jim sent, I think you will find it interesting.

  4. Becca Cerveri April 30, 2022 at 12:28 pm #

    I put in a comment on another article regarding this topic, so I’ll only recap on this one. We bought a house in North Chico 15 years ago. Through the whole process everyone made sure to point out that the house had been annexed into the city for services namely, sewer hook up. I probably don’t need to say anymore for you to know where I’m going with this. That’s correct. 15 years and I’m still sitting on a delapitated septic tank that I’ve invested in repairs what the hookup fees are. Here’s the fun part. City lines were put in all the way down a main street EXCEPT THE LAST 2 BLOCKS where it dmDEAD ENDS into another street that has lines in it as well. All plumbed except 2 blocks BETWEEN the two streets. When I called last year to get the what’s up, I was told I had to poll my neighbors, write up a request, submit it and wait. I was also informed it would take a while IF IT HAPPENED AT ALL as there were other “pressing” issues. So, there it is. Chico has not completed the leaching nitrates problem. The kicker for me as I understood the nitrate issue was take care of high nitrate areas first. Makes complete sense. What makes no sense whatsoever is to take the time and cost to plumb 2 streets leaving 2 blocks INBETWEEN the two not plumbed. How costly will it be to do it now as opposed to when the street was already torn up? And I’m sure as the years tick away, my cost to hook up is ever increasing.

    • Juanita Sumner May 1, 2022 at 6:22 am #

      Thanks for your comment Becca, I tried to cut and paste it into the more recent conversation, I’ll keep trying. Yours is such a typical story of Chico mismanagement it deserves coverage in the newspaper. It’s also proof that the city isn’t using sewer or street funding as intended. People who want to hook up can’t hook up because the infrastructure is not available. But the city and county continue to jam up the cost of pumping and maintaining your septic tank! The are double-ending us, and the money is going right into the General Fund and from there to the pensions.

      • Becca Cerveri May 2, 2022 at 4:34 am #

        I’ve been dealing with some medical so my info is a little rusty as I’ve had to put it aside for now, but I believe I paid more for Neil Road sewage dump fees than labor fees to pump tank…2x now. Seems it was around $800 a pop.

      • Juanita Sumner May 2, 2022 at 6:32 am #

        Yes, we’ve also paid more in dump fees than labor. When I asked the county about the closure of the Butte Co septage ponds I was threatened by then County Admin Officer Paul Hahn that I was using too much staff time! Now he’s the interim Chico city manager, great. What I can’t believe is that they didn’t connect your neighborhood when they were giving everybody else in town free hookup! You might want to contact LAFCO – Local Agency Formation Commission – they are in charge of annexations and other inter-agency business. This is just pure mismanagement, city of Chico needs to get rid of some lame department heads and start providing the services we pay for.

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