In light of budget surplus, city needs to lower or eliminate Utility Tax

27 Dec

Time for New Year’s Resolutions! I recommend this because last year I realized all my pants were too tight, including a pair I’d only bought a couple of months earlier. I resolved to lose 10 lbs instead of buying new pants. I quit eating a big breakfast, opting instead for a fruit/yogurt smoothie, and I started an exercise routine. It’s been pretty up and down since then, but I’ve lost 8 of the 10, and I haven’t gained it back. I’ll say WOW! I’ve gone back to the factory made holes on my belt!

So this year I’m telling all my friends to resolve to stop being ripped off by the city of Chico and turn in a Utility Tax Rebate form.

Never heard of Utility Tax? Take a look at your PG&E, Cal Water and “telecom” (landline) bills. HINT: you won’t find “utility tax”, it will say something like “local user’s tax”. Your PG&E bill splits it up – look at all the pages, it will be listed at least twice on your electric bill and again on your gas bill. 

Fortunately, the city is required by law to rebate the tax to those households that fall under a certain income level – I think it’s about $43,000/year. But, neither the city nor the utility companies are required to tell anybody about this rebate, so I try to tell people. The rebate is available from May 1 through June 30. By May 1, there will be a rebate form available on the city website, or you can ask the clerk for it – that’s debbie.presson@chicoca.gov  I like to jangle her chain about the last week of May, cause you know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. 

You will have to fill in each month’s total take for each utility bill and then add them twice. Then attach all your bills – I recommend making copies – and send or deliver them to the city. If you send them, it’s going to cost you more than a stamp, and you can only deliver them during business hours, M – F. But it’s probably worth it.  Since I’ve been doing this my return has gone from around $35 to almost $100 a year. About a year ago they started adding it to my water bill, and of course all the rates have gone up drastically over the last few years. So, judging from your usage, it might be well worth the trouble. 

Listen, even if it’s less than $50, let me tell you why I do it anyway – I resent that they take it, at all.  Here’s a couple of reasons why you should resent it too.

  1. they also tax the utility companies by way of a “franchise fee”, which, added to your bill, means they double tax you
  2. the city just announced a budget surplus

I try to read the city budget at least a couple of times a year.

Click to access 2019-20CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

It’s funny – when I’m looking for one thing I see other, interesting things. Here’s a note from the most recently adopted 2019-20 budget that should really piss all of us off: “(5) Assumes 100% of waste hauler franchise fees will be retained by the General Fund beginning in 2022-23.”  I know, dammit, they said they were going to use that franchise fee – excuse me, TRASH TAX – to fix the streets. Ha ha – joke’s on us! They transfer it to the General Fund – they can transfer monies as they please – and then they can use it for whatever they want. 

Oh yeah, franchise fees – 

  1. they also tax the utility companies by way of a “franchise fee”, which, added to your bill, means they double tax you

The city collects franchise fees from Waste Management, Recology, PG&E, and Comcast. Here’s the spread from the 2019-20 budget. The first 5 digit number is the Fund Number, the other figures are dollar amounts. The first two dollar amounts are actual,  from 2016 – 2018. The other numbers are projected, based on trends, because they don’t have the actual figures yet. For those years they have two figures – the first is the figure the council has approved and the second slot will show “modifications” made as the year progresses. This budget is from last June so they hadn’t done the modifications – you have to attend the monthly Finance Committee meetings to get that “dynamic” information. So, I added the years and some dollar signs, and I’ve bold-faced the “actuals”. 

40403 Franchise Fees-Cable TV (2016-17) $877,594 (2017-18) $899,942 (2018-29) $916,000 916,000  (2019-20) $875,000 875,000
40404 Franchise Fees-Gas/Electric (2016-17) $690,768 (2017-18) $757,192 (2018-29) 700,000 700,000 (2019-20) 750,000 750,000
40405 Franchise Fees-Waste Hauler (2016-17) $236,112 (2017-18) $1,102,674 (2018-19) 1,000,000 1,400,000 (2019-20) 1,650,000 1,650,000

Ha ha – I always read this stuff a million times, but just now while I was bold-facing those first two years, I saw the Waste Hauler Franchise Fee went from $236,112 in 2016-17 to $1,102,674 in 2018-19. WHAAAAATTTT! That’s our money folks! Feeling a little hollow in your right butt cheek? I mean, that’s where the average American keeps their wallet, so I’m just wondering. I keep my wallet on a strap over my shoulder, cause I might want to use that thing to smack somebody upside the head! I mean, don’t even be sticking your fingers in my purse honey, you gonna come up with a stump. 

Yeah, I get mad. What the hell is wrong with you people? We paid those franchise fees, on top of the Utility Tax the city of Chico has added to our monthly bills. Don’t be a Meathead.

 

 

Moving right along to No. 2: the city just announced a budget surplus  —  see https://chicotaxpayers.com/2019/12/26/camp-fire-a-year-later-quite-a-turnaround-from-gloom-and-doom-to-prosperity-for-city-of-chico/  

Yes, the city of Chico made profit off the Camp Fire – I can just see Mark Orme, Chris Constantin and Scott Dowell standing together, twisting their mustaches over the small army of evacuees that landed on our town. While they complained about the “strain” these people were putting on our infrastructure, they probably laughed out loud behind closed doors (remember the Enron scandal) over the money that would be pouring into Chico. Including millions in “reimbursements” from the state. 

They announced this budget surplus as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Oh gee, says Scott Dowell, I found this money in the cushions of my office sofa...  No, they got it from increased sales tax receipts, bed tax receipts, and utility tax receipts, those dirty, rotten scoundrels. They took advantage of a tragedy. Instead of saying, shouldn’t we drop or at least lower these taxes – I mean, we just passed a ‘no gouging’ ordinance,  Chris Constantin told a gathering at a Finance Committee meeting in late 2018  that we needed to raise sales tax immediately to take advantage of the influx in population.

He didn’t twist his mustache, but he said that.

On page FS-1 of the 2019-20 budget, you’ll see both the franchise fee figures I listed above and the Utility Tax takings. I don’t have time to edit the UT figures to make it easier to read, but you can figure it out. Like the franchise fee table, it starts with 2016-17, and those first two figures are actual numbers, so I boldfaced them. 

 For fiscal years 2016 – 2020

40460 UUT Refunds 16-17(5,035) 17-18(6,160) 0 0 0 0
40490 Utility User Tax – Gas 2016-17 $1,155,438; 2017-18 $1,108,081     1,200,000 1,200,000 1,200,000 1,200,000
40491 Utility User Tax – Electric 2016-17 $4,490,948;  2017-18 $4,569,241    4,600,000 4,600,000 4,600,000 4,600,000
40492 Utility User Tax – Telecom 2016-17 $355,319;  2017-18 $367,465    300,000 300,000 290,000 290,000
40493 Utility User Tax – Water 2016-17 $898,519;   2017-18 $1,012,954    1,000,000 1,000,000 1,050,000 1,050,000
Total Utility Users Tax    2016-17 $6,895,189;    2017-18 $7,051,581    7,100,000 7,100,000 7,140,000 7,140,000

I know why the water figure went up ALOT – they only added the UT to my water bill a little over a year ago. They realized that Cal Water had drastically raised rates during the dry spell of 2016 and instead of filing a formal protest to the CPUC, they rubbed their sweaty little mitts together in glee and stuck it to us good! But you see they are projecting lower amounts as people simply turn off their sprinklers and kill every living thing in their yards to save money. You can see gas and electric takings were down, but of course they predict higher totals for 2019-20 because of the evacuees. We’ll see what the actual numbers look like in a year or so. 

But, looking at the totals you see – they go up by about $50,000 a year, year after year. 

I sent a note to Scott Dowell asking if UT figures went up along with sales tax and bed tax totals, but he informed me that he is on vacation until January 2. Well, la-tee-dah Scott, how nice for you! 

Meanwhile, we should all be wondering, why are we paying a tax on our utilities? The city council instituted the tax with an ordinance, years ago. They put a 5% maximum on that, but when rolled it out at 3%. A drug and alcohol addict named Scott Gruendl proposed an increase to the full five percent when he was on council here. But when he skipped town, in a hail of turds, nobody proposed lowering the tax. Well, I’d like to propose we revisit the Utility Tax. And maybe we should just get rid of it. 

4 Responses to “In light of budget surplus, city needs to lower or eliminate Utility Tax”

  1. s.k. rushing December 27, 2019 at 8:46 pm #

    Excellent article, Juanita. My particular criticism of budget abuse is the CPD. As you know, the CPD expense dominates the budget. The secret payments for guns, uniforms, training, lethal toys and more men bleed the coffers. As you correctly pointed out, Mis-Manager Orme and Mis-Chief O’Brien have turned a tragedy into a bonanza. Of course, when the budget goes up, so does the salary, benefits, and pensions of the administrators — a fair amount of shame on the council for blind allegiance and benign neglect. 

    • Juanita Sumner December 28, 2019 at 6:11 am #

      Thanks Scott – yes, cops and fire eat over half the budget. They demand salaries and benefits comparable to much larger, more dangerous cities. They need new technology around every corner, and still can’t do their jobs. They kill people, and we get the lawsuit. Our police chief is a fat lazy ass who is just holding on by the skin of his teeth to get a pension. We have no law enforcement, but we have to worry about getting shot or run over by our own police force. And no member of council is competent to lead, it’s very frustrating.

      Ha, ha, that’s a good one – Mis-chief O’Brien. I wish mischief was all that fat-ass was up to. Unfortunately what he is really up to is screwing us out of a fat pension.

  2. bob December 28, 2019 at 8:43 am #

    The city council and local bureaucrats want to take every penny they can. The last thing they would do is lower or get rid of any tax unless they are forced to. They are nothing but pigs at the trough, actually worse, liars fraudsters and thieves. Just look at the garbage tax. They told us it was supposed to fix the roads. For their sales tax increase they will lie about that, too.

    How much of that 20 plus million will be shipped off to CalPERs? You can bet a big chunk. Pensions and raises will ALWAYS come before EVERYTHING else. We work for them, they don’t work for us.

    • Juanita Sumner December 29, 2019 at 2:42 pm #

      I’m glad you are paying attention – when I complained to Mayor Stone about the garbage tax rip-off, he told me “we never promised to fix the streets.” That’s his tack – deny, deny, deny.

      Wait til you hear what I found in the budget about the gas tax – Fund 307, page FS – 32.

      Click to access 2019-20CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

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