City franchise fees amount to a shake down of the ratepayers – now they want a sales tax increase? Tell them NO! with a Utility Tax Rebate Form

17 Feb

I got an answer from City of Chico Administrative Services Officer Scott Dowell regarding PG&E franchise fees – the amounts I had seen in the old news story from Ch 7 were not supposed to be added up:

Ms. Sumner:

The amounts reflected in the article totaling $609,017.71 for the combined PG&E Electric and Gas Franchise fees were received in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

They are included in the total amount of $649,760.70 reflected on the budget summary for the General Fund 001.  The difference between the two amounts is other PG&E adjustments paid to the City from prior year adjustments.  The $649,760.70 may be found on page 17 under object code 40404 at the following link from the City’s website:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2014-15CityAnnualFINALBudget_000.pdf

So, the totals I saw added up to $609,017.71, but the city also received an additional $40,000 or so from the previous year. I want to blaspheme right now – this whole thing is so confusing, how are we supposed to keep track?

By fiscal year ending June 2017, the total had gone up to $690,768.

This fee is based on a percentage of PG&E’s total take for the year, and then pasted right back on to our bills like a big booger.

It’s not like they hide it, not exactly.  Look at your bill, page 2, which lists “Your Electric Charges Breakdown” (I don’t find one for gas charges). Besides “Generation, Transmission and Distribution”, you are charged for “Electric Public Purpose Programs” (which I believe fund low-income programs for other customers), “Nuclear Decommissioning” (I believe this pays costs of taking down disabled nuclear plants), “Competition Transition Charges” (???) and then there’s “Taxes and Other”.

“Taxes and Other”. I did the math – that does not include the Utility Users Tax, which is a percentage of your total usage charges, including “Taxes and Other”. 

There are other charges listed – more hidden taxes – like the charge for bonds issued by the Department of Water Resources.  But what I’m looking at right now is how much money the city of Chico steals from ratepayers through these hidden fees. These fees are tacked onto our bills. No matter how we try to conserve we are hit, our bills go higher and higher. The city does nothing to curtail PG&E’s insatiable rate increases, because they stand to make a direct profit.

But they still need a sales tax? Next week they will raise developer fees, which is why Butte County/Chico have become less affordable to live in, according to the most recent housing affordability figures:

https://www.car.org/aboutus/mediacenter/newsreleases/2017releases/2qtr2017affordability

Butte County is included in the list of 29 counties where housing has become less affordable over the past year, despite developers who’ve used the “housing crisis” to wedge in their sub-standard subdivisions. High density developers have been after the city of Chico to let them build without paying fees, but their housing just keeps getting more expensive anyway. 

Here’s what you can get in Doe Mill – with no yard – for $422,000.

https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/Doe-Mill_Chico_CA

Builders have been making the argument that we need more housing to make houses cheaper – really? How come they just keep getting more expensive? According to this index, less than half the residents of Butte County can afford a “median priced” home.

https://www.car.org/marketdata/data/haitraditional/

They list the median price at about $299,000. Have you seen a house selling for $299,000 in Chico? Cause when we were looking for a house for our kid, anything less than $300,000 was in a neighborhood where you would want to park your car in your living room at night and push your dresser up in front of your bedroom door.  Even in my old neighborhood, a 3 bedroom house down the street just went for over $360,000. Do you really think the city of Chico, starving for money, is going to do anything that will cut their property tax revenues? All that crap about building more to bring down the cost of house is just LIES.

The city of Chico is desperate for revenues. You know how junkies are – they will lie through their teeth to get money, lie, cheat and steal.  A city can pass “measures” and “initiatives” at council meetings without so much as a peep from the public, especially a lazy, stupid public. The city of Chico takes advantage of our stupidity and laziness to siphon funding through the utility companies, the developers, business owners – anybody who wants to do anything in the city of Chico must participate in the shake-down. And they go along because all they have to do is pass the buck on to YOU.

So now we have a select group of business owners and publicly employed hawkers telling us we need to pay a sales tax increase? Answer them with more than a million in franchise fees we pay through our Comcast and PG&E bills. 

And then gather up your utility bills and add up the amounts listed as “Chico Utility Users Tax”. They are listed on PG&E, Cal Water bills, and if you still have a landline, your phone bill. But you have to look through these bills, sometimes the UUT charges are listed separately and have to be added up. PG&E lists them in with each electric and gas charge separately, look carefully. 

Most people in Chico qualify for the Utility Tax Rebate – a family of four making $47,000/year or less qualifies. Here’s last year’s application form:

http://www.chico.ca.us/documents/UUTREFNDApplicationPageOneTwo_CombinedFILLABLE4-13-16.pdf

Applications for 2017/18 will be available in late April, or I’ll e-mail the Finance Office and remind them. You have May and June to turn it in, and I usually drop mine off to avoid paying postage on a stack of utility bills – yes, they want alllll your bills! But they will send them back – I’ve been doing this for over 5 years now, and I’ve always got my bills back with my check. 

When we didn’t know, we might have considered ourselves victims, but now that we know, if we don’t act, we’re idiots. Sending in your UUT rebate application is a way of telling them you’re sick of their constant wheedling and poking, lying, cheating and stealing.

 

 

 

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23 Responses to “City franchise fees amount to a shake down of the ratepayers – now they want a sales tax increase? Tell them NO! with a Utility Tax Rebate Form”

  1. The Dude February 17, 2018 at 8:34 am #

    Great article Juanita. Thanks for trying to get to the bottom of this. It’s almost like they don’t want us to know how much of our money they take in or is going to fund their pensions. What kind of people reduce services, increase fees and taxes on their own
    community so they can personally benefit with large pensions?

    • Juanita Sumner February 17, 2018 at 8:52 am #

      You said it – what kind of people – I’ll answer – creeps and criminals who do not deserve our trust, respect or common decency.

  2. bob February 17, 2018 at 10:13 am #

    “…– this whole thing is so confusing, how are we supposed to keep track?”

    It’s designed that way. The more opaque it is the less accountability as the less people know what money is being taken from them and where it goes.

    It’s just like payroll withholding. Our rulers figure since the sheeple never see the money being taken from them they will never miss it. And they are right. Can you imagine what it would be like if there was no withholding and on April 15 people had to pay the gooberment thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. There would be a hell of a lot more concern about taxation and accountability.

    Anyway, our rulers aren’t idiots. They know every trick in the book to steal from us. And they use every one of them. And for the most part, the people are clueless.

  3. bob February 17, 2018 at 10:45 am #

    The other trick they use is to enlist their cronies to help raise taxes.

    The Chamber of Commerce is a prime example. You have the City of Chico paying the salary of Katie Simmons, the person who runs the Chamber.

    Ask yourself, why is the City of Chico paying the salary of the head of an organization that is supposed to be for private businesses when the City of Chico can’t even maintain the roads.?

    If that doesn’t get your hackles up, there is something wrong with you.

    Is it any wonder that she is trying to get taxes increased? She knows who butters her bread, literally, and it is the politicians and associated special interest in and out of city government.

    What a conflict of interest. She is supposed to represent the businesses of Chico, particularly small businesses, not the government special interests like the police union who want higher taxes for their pensions.

    Just another way government rips you off. Like I’ve been saying, these people are not idiots. They are very clever and know every trick in the book and every way to hide those tricks from you. For instance, how many people in Chico have a clue as to the relationship between the Chamber of “Commerce” (and I put that word in quotes because the Chamber is about special interests, not commerce) and city government.

    They rip you off every which way from Sunday and it is all legal because the people are completely clueless.

    • Juanita Sumner February 17, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

      Thanks Bob.

      I hope we can show the connection between these taxes and fees and our steadily crumbling quality of life in Chico/Butte County. The tax advocates just keep repeating the lie – that we need to pay more taxes to get the government employees to do their jobs. We have to keep repeating the truth – we have to elect better leaders who are willing to stand up to the public employees and put them back in their place.

  4. bob February 17, 2018 at 5:37 pm #

    “Here’s what you can get in Doe Mill – with no yard – for $422,000”

    That’s crazy. Just my opinion but I think anyone who would pay that much for a place in Doe Mill would be a doe in the headlights. Who would want their neighbors living right in their laps? I get claustrophobic just driving through Doe Mill. I wouldn’t live their if it was free. But this is what the politicians, urban planners and other bureaucrats want to eventually force people into, except themselves, of course.

  5. bob February 19, 2018 at 12:04 pm #

    Check this letter out in the ER

    http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/20180218/letter-look-deeper-at-chambers-support-of-tax-increase

    I believe it was written by the guy who owns Holiday Pools and Spas in Chico.

    It looks like some of the local small businesses are beginning to realize the Chamber does not represent them but represents special interests tied to government or part of government.

    I wonder what that guy would think if he knew the city pays Katie Simmons salary. Maybe then he’d realize why she pushes so hard for tax increases.

    • Juanita Sumner February 20, 2018 at 7:10 am #

      Good for Mr. Powers. There are so many things wrong about Chico Chamber. It should be a private corporation, but gets most of it’s revenue from city grants. And like Powers points out – the Chamber is led by public agency shills, like Tom Lando. The Chamber is essentially a public agency that is not held to public rules – they don’t have to disclose shit.

      I wish I could get more people like Mr. Powers to attend a CARD meeting!

  6. bob February 19, 2018 at 4:08 pm #

    Hah! CARD and Every Healthy Body are going to spend 53,000-55,000 of your tax dollars to figure out how to pilfer Every Healthy Taxpayer (and I’m sure the unhealthy ones, too).

    http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20180219/card-approves-study-involving-everybody-healthy-body

    “Staff recommended and the board approved a contract with Conventions, Sports and Leisure, which submitted a proposal for $53,000.

    Willman recommended no more than $55,000 be paid to the Minneapolis, Minn.-based company, which referenced studies it had done in Oregon, Washington, and Indiana, among others. “

    • bob February 19, 2018 at 4:48 pm #

      How much money has CARD spent over the years on studies like this? Must be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      • bob February 19, 2018 at 4:49 pm #

        Maybe over a million if you go back far enough?

    • Juanita Sumner February 20, 2018 at 7:16 am #

      Yeah, I knew something was going down at last week’s meeting, but was not able to attend. Off the top of my head, I can think of over $100,000 in “studies” done on the subject of the aquatic center/sports complex, just in the last few years. One consultant after another has told them they need to improve CARD’s image with the public before they attempt a revenue measure, but they continue to raise their own salaries without offering up more toward their pensions.

      CARD made a deal with the city to take over maintenance of Bidwell Park – which qualifies them for all kinds of grant money – but Bidwell Park is still a mess, with garbage piling up along trails from illegal campers. They took over the Nature Center so they could get the revenues from the very expensive daycare operation, but I don’t think that’s panning out for them.

      Anybody with eyes could tell them, for free, they’re running that agency into the ground with their salaries and benefits, but they just keep hiring consultants to tell them otherwise.

  7. bob February 21, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

    Here is a very important interview regarding the California government pension crisis.

    http://civfi.com/2018/02/13/coming-impact-pension-payments-californias-cities/

    And another good article by Walters. There is a growing tension between CalPERs and the cities, counties, special districts and all the other entities that tax us for these pensions.

    http://www.fresnobee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/political-notebook/article201110674.html

    Even with CalPERs 7% annual return assumption the burden on the taxpayers is going through the roof. Can you image what is going to happen when the next bear market hits and the markets fall by 20% or more? It would seem that’s the point where the whole house of cards collapses. And the stock market has gone down lately. Who knows? A bear market may just be starting.

    • Juanita Sumner February 22, 2018 at 6:03 am #

      Thanks for these, I haven’t had time to read even Walters lately. I also notice some interesting articles along the sidebar on that first link. I may have to sit down later and read up.

  8. bob February 21, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

    Isn’t Stone in some organization that represents local governments that deals with CalPERs? I wonder if he or anyone else on the council go to the CalPERs meetings.

    I think all the city council members know how dire the situation is (except maybe Schwab) but none of them are interested in making the city employees pay vastly more into their pensions and also freezing salaries.

    • Juanita Sumner February 22, 2018 at 6:03 am #

      No, none of our current council wants to do that, and here’s why – Stone’s wife works for county of Butte, Sorensen works for city of Biggs, Schwab and Morgan work for Chico State, Coolidge’s wife, as I recall, is a teacher at Butte College. Fillmer runs a human resources company and has worked for/with public agencies. None of them will cut their own throat. I don’t know about Ory, but he hasn’t said or done anything about the pensions so far. But, I’ve spoken to him and observed him at meetings, he’s an idiot who believes and does whatever Staff tells him.

      We need to get somebody on council – some bodies! – who run their own businesses in the private sector with no ties to the public sector.

      • bob February 22, 2018 at 8:32 am #

        I think our city council is awful, but I think Oroville’s is even worse and guess what? The hOroville City Council unanimously voted to put yet another sales tax increase on the ballot for November! They had one last election and the voters didn’t pass it. The politicians there will keep trying to raise taxes every way they can.

        Their mayor, Dahlmeier, is horrible. If the voters there had any sense not only would they defeat the tax increase, they would vote out all those council members up for re-election and recall the rest.

      • Juanita Sumner February 23, 2018 at 5:50 am #

        Oroville residents have rejected sales tax increases before, hopefully they will circle the wagons again. In Redding the cops put a “public safety” sales tax increase on the ballot, but there was a separate initiative that determined how the increase would be spent. I felt city officials wanted the increase to pass without the money being restricted to public safety. Redding residents rejected the increase but passed the initiative that dedicated the money to the cops, I thought that was interesting.

      • bob February 22, 2018 at 8:35 am #

        They are all trough feeders of some sort. And my understanding is that some of them at one time or another have had private side hustles that involved contracts with the city.

      • Juanita Sumner February 23, 2018 at 5:51 am #

        They all benefit from their position, one way or another.

      • bob February 23, 2018 at 8:43 am #

        I bet if those people had their way and enough time the sales tax would eventually reach 15%. The one thing I’ve learned after all these years is that no matter how much money they take, it’s never enough.

        All a sales tax increase will do is to encourage them to spend more and to let them kick the can down the road a little longer on the pension problem.

        A sales tax increase will certainly not encourage them to reign in spending and address the insane pension situation.

        The other thing a sales tax increase will do is to encourage them to seek further tax increases. And if you don’t believe that, just look at Sacramento. The mayor there is endorsing a ballot measure to double the last sales tax increase that was passed.

      • Juanita Sumner February 24, 2018 at 6:13 am #

        I know, it’s like giving a junkie another hit. They need to come to terms with their addiction to spending, and simply defund the pensions. We should not be paying them, we never agreed to pay them, and they will eventually tank our economy.

        Young people are the key. Right now alot of young people have their heads turned away, they blame the old people for how things are. But one day they will have to take the bull by the horns and straighten it out. I pity the public workers when they are old and left at the mercy of angry young people.

      • bob February 24, 2018 at 8:33 am #

        Even if CalPERS can get 7% over the next six years pension costs double. Imagine what happens if the market loses 20% or more in a bear market. A bear market and a recession are long over due.

        The fact is it’s a house of cards that will be destroyed in the next recession. But nobody in gooberment is facing this reality. Just look at the idiots on the city council. They want to spend 100K for a single crapper and another 30K to hook it up.

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