If you are having trouble figuring out whether or not you should have received a sewer rate increase notice, or how to fill out your protest ballot, please contact us here

31 Dec

I sent this letter to the editor just before Christmas.

It’s been two weeks since I contacted Chico City Clerk and my council rep with questions regarding their sewer rate increase notice. The city wants to add a $1.22/ccf “volume” charge to our sewer bills, based on the amount of water we buy from Cal Water, essentially double charging us for water. They are required by law to answer any questions we have regarding this notice before the January 17 hearing

My first question: I received a notice even though my property is not hooked up to sewer. The law states that if 51% of property owners noticed protest in writing, they can’t raise our rates. But, only people who get a sewer bill are allowed to protest. The number of protests needed is based on notices sent out. Am I allowed to vote, or did they send me a notice in order to raise the number of protests needed? 

Second question: The city is discussing selling the sewer plant to Cal Water. This notice is not just a rate increase, it’s a forever change in the way they figure the bill, allowing annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index. If they go through with the purchase, will Cal Water be able to raise our rates without going through CPUC hearings? 

Those “affected” must protest in writing by January 17. Why would city staff and council send a time-sensitive rate increase notice at Christmas, and then use the holiday as an excuse not to answer our questions?  

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I have not received any response from the city, but I’ve done some research of my own, and found one answer – I received a notice even though I am not hooked up to sewer because I could hook up if I wanted to. That make sense to you? Okay. I’ve also heard from other property owners who have or have not received notices. It seems they sent these notices only to Cal Water customers, although, I’ll guess, they might have sent them to people who have both wells and septic tanks because they are located within range of sewer and water lines.

The people I’ve heard from who have not received notices do not have a Cal Water account – they live in apartments, so only their landlord/property owner can vote. Apartment owners’ votes may be “weighted” as counting more than single family home owners – they didn’t explain that in the notice either. They didn’t explain who is able to vote or how much each vote “weighs”.

I still have other questions, including the second asked above – a can of questions really – is Cal Water still considering buying our sewer plant, and will this rate change make it possible for them to raise rates annually without notices or hearings? I’ll guess the answers to both questions are Yes and Yes, but we won’t know until after the hearing.

Here’s something I read just this morning – again, I don’t think the notices are correct. I think they were supposed to enclose a ballot. Also, I think they were supposed to make it more clear on the outside of the envelope that a vote was taking place. I’m going to guess that a lot of these notices went right in the garbage because people didn’t understand what they were getting.

“The face of the envelope mailed to the property owner with the ballot and notice must contain, in at least sixteen-point type, the following statement in substantially the following form: “OFFICIAL BALLOT ENCLOSED.”75 The ballot must include the special district’s address for the receipt of any completed ballot and a place for the property owner to indicate his or her name, a reasonable identification of the parcel subject to the proposed assessment, and his or her opposition to or support for the proposed assessment.”

One thing I know for sure is the city purposely waited until Thanksgiving to notice us about this rate change because they knew people would not be prepared and it would probably be a shoo-in. And remember, it’s not just a rate increase, it’s a change in the way they figure and raise your rates, permanently. You will never have another opportunity to have anything to say about how they charge you for your sewer service, or how much.

If you need help figuring out if you were supposed to receive a notice, or how to submit a protest vote please contact us here.

10 Responses to “If you are having trouble figuring out whether or not you should have received a sewer rate increase notice, or how to fill out your protest ballot, please contact us here”

  1. Suzanne Wong December 31, 2022 at 1:29 pm #

    Am I reading the notice correctly? The increase for single family residential looks like it will include an additional 1.22 per hcf while a significant across the board reduction in hcf rates for the commercial users…?

    • Juanita Sumner January 1, 2023 at 5:54 am #

      Thank you Suzanne, I had not analyzed commercial rates, but yes, they are adding $1.22 per hcf(ccf) that you get from Cal Water, essentially doubling the price of your water. They want to double charge us, even for water that doesn’t enter the sewer system. I hope you will submit your protest vote – remember to include your parcel number.

  2. Julie January 2, 2023 at 10:02 am #

    I received a confusing notice of a sewer tax but there was no ballot that I recall (I’m connected to sewer.) Now I can’t find the notice. I suppose I’ll have to call the clerk’s office to figure out how to protest. I wonder if I’ll get the same rude woman who snarled at me last month when I had an innocent question about a legal form. I truly admire your stamina in dealing with these government employees.

    • Juanita Sumner January 3, 2023 at 6:05 am #

      Thanks Julie, you should definitely contact the clerk’s office. I’d email Dani Rogers at dani.rogers@chicoca.gov — cc your district rep.
      If you don’t get a response please contact me here – I wouldn’t mind meeting you and any other interested parties at her office one day. And then we could stop in at my rep’s candy store – Kasey Reynolds owns Shuberts Downtown, and she’s been more than happy to deal with me at the shop. We can’t just let them steamroll us, this is a permanent tax.

  3. rightofleftcoast January 2, 2023 at 2:09 pm #

    Hello, Juanita, Chico’s sewer tax grab seems to employ election scam tactics used by the city of Lancaster in mid-2022 to shift single-family home solid waste payments onto the owners’ property taxes. Methods of notification were nearly identical. And the city’s methods of determining what represented a majority vote made a mockery of state taxpayer protection. I understand this kind of election scheme began in the city of Folsum. You may remember me from the water rates coalition battle with investor-owned utilities and the CPUC a few years ago. Please contact me for details on this assault on taxpayer protections.

  4. Becca January 16, 2023 at 10:51 am #

    I received this notice but I do not believe I received a protest ballot. Is that possible? I’m annexed without hookup. I looked at the flyer again and it just gives the date of council meeting on 17th. When issues become this convoluted, I can’t help but smell crap leaking from downtown…that elite little section of town where everything is greener. :::spat:::

    • Juanita Sumner January 16, 2023 at 12:28 pm #

      No according to the law they don’t have to provide ballots. Yes something totally stinks in Downtown Chico.

      • Becca January 16, 2023 at 9:57 pm #

        Juanita, do we know if there is possibly more than one version of this flyer? Just curious. The flyer, as a layperson sees it is so deceiving. Ok, we know this already but I’ve got a few points.
        1) I WILL be at this meeting as well as putting in my “vote” for “no” No where on this flyer is the word “vote” mentioned. It’s referred to as “written protest” Yes, kinda the same thing but not. Vote conjures up something different like two sides of an issue being presented for all to decide on. That’s not what this is. This is “can we get away with this.”
        “Protests will be received up until close of business (5pm) on the date of public hearing. Protests may also be submitted at the council meeting before the close of the public hearing.” Meaning there’s still time to get Protests submitted.
        Protests have to Include
        1a) the rate or charge being protested (“the volumetric is based on individual usage by HFC”) so how do we know what “the charge is” Can we just say City sewer rate increase?
        1b) name ok, should be easy one
        1c) parcel # or service address
        1d) signature.
        Do you think I can canvas my neighborhood with 1 protest letter with everyone’s info and signature listed above on it or will they find that not acceptable and toss it?
        2) the second paragraph of the notice reads “this notice has been sent to all customers that receive sewer service by the city of Chico.” It was sent to my home and I don’t receive city sewer services. Yes, I understand what you have uncovered with WHO received notices, but when I read that it says to me that it was sent in error or something to that effect. I don’t qualify according to that sentence. The way it stands now, I dont project being hooked up to city at any point in MY lifetime even though we were annexed over fifteen years ago FOR THAT EXACT REASON. Again, deceiving and deceiving enough to confuse people into not participating.
        I know I’m splitting hairs and reinventing the wheel but this type of deceiving tactics from sitting council is ridiculous, sneaky and not acceptable for the average citizen. I don’t believe this is in the best interest of the community especially those on fixed income such as senior and disabled. I’ll go out on a limb and say I’m sure no one on that council worries about affording medications, food, power or gas in the car. We really need to get back to the basics.

      • Juanita Sumner January 17, 2023 at 5:48 am #

        Thanks Becca, I hope more people are as pissed off about this bullshit as we are, and actually show up at the meeting with their complete written protest in hand. No, I doubt they will accept one letter with signatures, I’m not even sure if one person is allowed to turn in signed letters from others. I think the best thing we can do right now is contact people and tell them to either go to the meeting tonight or go Downtown today and hand their protest to the city clerk.

        There is a referendum process, but it would take a dedicated group to pull it off.

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