It’s not too late to stop the city of Chico from putting their tax dud on the ballot – write to council, write to the papers, tell your friends – Chicoans have had enough, and we’re not taking any more

15 Jun

The other day I was washing dishes and I heard something on the morning news that made me put down my dish brush and reach for the remote – average electric cost across the country have gone up 12% over the last few years. In fact, I’ve seen the rate increase notices in my PG&E bills, at least one a year, sometimes several “rate cases” in one notice. Lately it’s been because of the fines they’ve been levied over various fires they’ve started and towns they’ve burned down due to neglect of their infrastructure.

When I dove into this issue further, I found this Cal Matters article from last year –

“California’s electricity prices are among the highest in the country, new research says, and those costs are falling disproportionately on a customer base that’s already struggling to pay their bills.

“PG&E customers pay about 80% more per kilowatt-hour than the national average, according to a study by the energy institute at UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School…”

Cal Water has been nudging their rates up too. The result – dead lawns and dying trees all over Chico. Big trees, that will cost homeowners 10’s of thousands of dollars to remove. I know, because my family paid over $10,000 to have an 80 year old cedar taken out of our front yard after Cal Water’s onerous water rates and threats of fees for watering your yard forced us to stop watering our yard. It’s that, or have an enormous torch standing over your house, waiting for the power lines to fail or the transformer next to your house to blow up. We’ve had three transformers within reach of our house blow up over the last 5 years, with no explanation whatsoever from PG&E.

In fact, they’ve got my neighbor’s line stapled to her huge, dying sequoia tree – in fact, they recently stapled up a new line! I can’t believe they still use trees as power poles, right in town, but it’s actually a subject of debate.

The utility companies are just like the city of Chico – service actually goes down as the rates go up, up, up. And they get no protest from the City of Chico because the city tacks a 5% Utility User’s Tax (UUT, or “local tax”) to your water and PG&E bills. Just because they can, and because it is one of their top revenue mechanisms, bringing in millions every year.

The city also adds “franchise fees” to your trash service. My trash service has gone up 39% since the city instituted the trash tax deal. No, they haven’t done one dollar’s worth of work on the streets in my neighborhood, although, every now and then they come through and pave and paint the bike trail that runs along the freeway. They also regularly tear up the streets for sewer hookups that are badly patched and just contribute to the mess.

This is willful inflation, caused by the city you live in. You get no extra service for this taking, and it adds to the cost of everything. And now they want to ladle on a sales tax increase.

Yes, it falls disproportionately on working class ratepayers, as well as the taxpayer-funded agencies that deal with the low-income and desperately poor. Did you know, the city of Chico pays Utility Tax to itself – just think how much those pallet shelters are going to generate when the temps hit three digits. The Torres Shelter pays UUT, the Jesus Center pays UUT, welfare families pay UUT.

Cal Matters contributor Laurence Du Sault explains “because lower-income residents use only moderately less electricity than higher income households, they end up with a disproportionate share of the burden, according to the study.” A person needs light, warmth, and in a “first world” country like the US, a decent refrigerator to protect their food, and a stove to cook it on. Kids have to have computers to participate in school these days. Of course, PG&E offers low-income programs like CARE and FERA, but these programs are tacked onto everybody’s bill, including low-income customers, before they get their discount.

Yes, the city offers a rebate to those qualifying by their income, but they make it very onerous to collect. You have to provide all your bills, physically, so you either have to pay to mail them in with your application or you have to appear at the Finance Department window between 9 and ? (when staff decides to close the window), Monday through Thursday. Look at the budget reports, less than 1,000 people – and no public or private agencies – apply for this rebate.

The city already adds millions a year to the cost of living, taking your money to feather their pension nest. Year after year our quality of life goes down while expenses go up. Time for council to get a reality check – let them know now, it’s not too late to stop them from putting this dud on the ballot. Write to council, write those letters to the editor, tell your friends, make it loud and clear – Chicoans have had it up to here, and we’re not going to take anymore.

4 Responses to “It’s not too late to stop the city of Chico from putting their tax dud on the ballot – write to council, write to the papers, tell your friends – Chicoans have had enough, and we’re not taking any more”

  1. The Dude June 16, 2022 at 6:51 am #

    Another great blog post. I think a lot of Chicoans feel the same way. I know I do. 80% more than the national average for electricity? That really pisses me off! And now with BIDENFLATION. It’s disgusting that Chico is even proposing raising taxes. How outrageous!

    • Juanita Sumner June 16, 2022 at 6:57 am #

      Thanks Dude, we need to remind people how much they’re already paying.

  2. Julie June 18, 2022 at 10:26 am #

    There’s an anecdote making the rounds in the UK about an older woman who can’t afford to heat her house so she spends all day riding busses because they’re warm. The conservative response to that is “we are the ones who reduced the price of bus passes!” which is accurate and good but maybe missing the point a bit.

    We don’t go out to eat, we don’t drive the car much, we don’t buy stuff, but staying home is also expensive.

    At some point the lawn will die, the fires will start, the bad air will force us inside so we can’t use our doughboy pool, the AC must go up just to prevent taxes (rent) must be paid, grocery bills spiking every day.

    American corporations are price gouging using the global shipping crisis as an excuse. The global shipping companies (almost all of them international) are using Covid as an excuse to hike prices and refuse U.S. exports.

    Do any of the individuals in this drama give a rat’s ass about anything other than profits?

    • Juanita Sumner June 19, 2022 at 8:10 am #

      Julie, I feel your pain, it’s like you’re playing my song. I used to have an Intex pool, and I used to have fruit trees, and a very lush vegetable garden. Those things saved me money – good fruit is expensive, vegies too, and with the pool we usually left our ac at 80 or higher. But wow, the cost of water has killed a lot of our yard, including the big trees that cooled our house. We had to get rid of our pool, it showed up on the water bill whenever we had to refill it.

      The corporations we’re talking about are PG&E and Cal Water. Those agencies are supposed to be regulated by the Cal Public Utilities Commission, which is a public agency. The CPUC itself is corrupt, of course. When CPUC president Michael Peavey was obviously taking bribes from the utility companies, then AG Kamala Harris should have prosecuted, but she said the statute of limitation had expired, which was a lie.

      Harris is an example of the kind of people we continue to elect despite their abysmal record. The voters have got to do their homework and demand better representation. Newsom should have been recalled, Harris never should have made it to the senate, much less VP.

      You have to ask yourself, do the voters give a rats ass?

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