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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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City financial officer gives a much different figure for utility franchise fees – ???

16 Feb

City of Chico “Chief Administrative Officer” Scott Dowell finally gave Presson an answer to my question – how much money does the city of Chico receive in franchise fees from PG&E. 

I had found an article from Ch 7 news in Redding:

http://krcrtv.com/archive/pge-pays-millions-to-northstate-counties

detailing payments to Chico, Butte County, and other local cities and counties, it  reported a much larger figure – in fact, three figures that added up to over a million dollars for fiscal year 2011-12.

 Chico$ 407,735.25 $ 201,282.46 $ 609,017.71 

Dowell came back to me with $690,768. 

Hmmm. Not sure what to think, I responded with the figures from Ch 7 and asked him where I could find this information in the budget.

Look Scott, I’m not calling you a liar, I’m just asking, why the difference in figures? Maybe he’ll come back and tell me how these franchise fees are based. The article indicates local agencies collect more in franchise fees every year, but maybe that was some kind of sunset thing, and the sun went down on it. I’m willing to give a person the benefit of the doubt.

Gee willikers –  maybe Ch 7 screwed up and gave three years’ figures? 

We’ll see what he says – I’m not expecting an answer before next Tuesday. 

The Buck Stops Here – sign the gas tax petition

11 Feb

I printed out a copy of the gas tax repeal petition, signed it, and mailed it in Thursday, I hope you will do same.

http://act.reformcalifornia.org/petitions/cartax/html/gen/

I am not contributing money to the effort but figure two more signatures – including my husband’s – will not hurt. 

Reform California is trying to get the tax measure onto the November ballot. Of course that’s a crap-shoot – what if the voters, heavily bent with public employees, pass it? Ever wonder what proportion of our population is public workers who  benefit from tax increases? Just ask Google!

http://www.governing.com/gov-data/public-workforce-salaries/states-most-government-workers-public-employees-by-job-type.html

This data is from the 2014 Census figures. Read the intro – education employees are separated out, the first number you see – 883,408 – is just state, county, and city workers. Scroll down to “Public Employment by Job Classification” to see school workers by state – select California. That’s another 633,301 for a total of over 1.5 million full time, pensioned public workers. 

Also according to the US Census Bureau, the population of California was between 37 and 39 million in 2014, and about 23 percent of those people were under 18, unable to vote. Last year the LA Times reported 18.2 million registered voters in California.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-sac-essential-politics-updates-there-are-now-more-registered-voters-in-1475694802-htmlstory.html

So, 1.5 million voters in that pool does not sound like much, until you take into account – how many voting dependents/relatives do these people have? 

It’s hard trying to predict what the voters will do. Will they even vote, is the question. 

I hate sitting back and waiting, so I try to act. Signing the petition made me feel empowered, as if I was doing something. I think others will act too, if they feel the effort will lead to something bigger. Overturning the gas tax is not only good for our wallets, it’s a strike against the outrageous and dangerous overspending that has become Business as Usual for California and much of the nation. 

My dad had a hat he liked to wear – it said, “The Buck Stops Here.” 

 

 

Gas tax opponents hold special petition signings around state

8 Feb

I missed the recent signature gathering event here in Chico – LaMalfa and Nielsen held another rally at Sinclair’s gas station over on Forest Avenue.

http://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/Local-Reps-push-to-repeal-gas-tax-471369534.html

Apparently, local Democratic wag Bob Mulhullond was on hand with protesters to tell us we need to shut up and pay. Mulhullond is not above using fascist tactics to shut down his opponents, even sending in pro-abortion protesters. This is not democracy, it’s more like Gangs of New York. 

Mulhullond would like us to believe he cares about highway deaths, but he’s really worried about his wife’s and other public pensions getting paid. 

Luckily the effort in Southern California seems to be going well enough without us.

http://www.kusi.com/83184-2/

I wanted to sign the petition so contacted the website, asking where I could sign – they told me to download the petition, print it, sign it, gather any other signatures I  could, and send it in. 

And I  got this note from organizer Carl Demaio:

Two great developments on the Gas Tax Repeal Initiative to share with you:

First, yesterday we hosted two signature drives at gas stations where people could fill up for as little as $1.99 per gallon, got coverage on every TV station in the area, and created gas lines with as much as a 3-hour wait! We got over 3000 signatures on the Gas Tax Repeal Initiative alone from the events.

Well good for that. 

Here’s my message Chico, Butte County and state of California public workers – I’m going to shut down your  gravy train, and spend it on the roads. 

Holiday, stop whining about your salary. 

Did that chamber remodel really cost $345,000? Or is the city of Chico secretly siphoning funding to pay down the pension debt?

2 Feb

I asked city clerk Debbie Presson how much the city gets from Comcast customers per year, and she sent me a report.

“I am attaching a staff report from the 11/7/17 that may help to explain how the PEG funds are allocated to the City, which includes the yearly amount passed through to the City. “

You can see the whole report at the city website, under the agenda/minutes filed for the 11/7/17 meeting:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2

On December 18, 2007, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 2368 which established, among other things, a
public, educational and governmental (PEG) support fee of one percent (1%) of the gross revenues of state video
franchisees operating within the City of Chico which is codified in Chico Municipal Code Title 5, Chapter 5.13,
Section 5.13.050. California Public Utilities Code Section 5870(n) was enacted as part of the Digital
Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (DIVCA) and states that such an ordinance shall expire, and
may be reauthorized, upon the expiration of a state franchise. Comcast is currently the only state video
franchisee operating within the city of Chico and has a state video franchise certificate which will be expiring on
January 2, 2018. To ensure that there is no gap in the payment of PEG support fees, the City Council is being
asked to reauthorize the City’s PEG support fee and amend Title 5, Chapter 5.13 to include automatic
reauthorization of the PEG support fee.

I’m sorry, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, I missed this one. And now they’ve made it automatic, so they may never have to discuss it in front of the public again. This is one reason people are so ignorant of what the local government is doing – they’re tricky, and they hide stuff, the fucking dirt bags. Did you know, they are allowed to destroy records after a year? That’s another ordinance they swept right under the rug. Ask council member if they know about it, and I’m guessing, they’ll lie through their teeth.

Look how $taff introduced the subject back in November:

Recommendation: The City Manager recommends that the City Council introduce the ordinance below by
reading of its title only.

ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CHICO REAUTHORIZING CHICO MUNICIPAL
CODE CHAPTERS.13, FRANCHISES – DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND VIDEO COMPETITION ACT
OF 2006, AND ADDING SECTION 5.13.070 ENTITLED REAUTHORIZATION- Introductory reading

Yes, Chico city manager Mark  Orme made this recommendation, and he’s the one who came up with the title – which makes no reference whatsoever to a fee. That guy is the head of the stinking fish that is our local government.

Cause when the fish stinks, it’s the head of the fish that stinks…

Furthermore, ” In fiscal year 2016-17 the fee resulted in revenue in the amount of $183,304.”

Now, any idiot would know, Comcast didn’t pay that $183,304 – they picked up the ratepayers by the ankles, and shook it out of their pockets. Which is just about anybody in Chico who uses cable because “ Comcast is currently the only state video franchisee operating within the city of Chico…”  In fact, I’d guess, they can’t dump the whole charge on their video customers so they also tack it on to their internet billing. Read your bill – do you know what all those charges are for? 

One cable/internet company, just like we only have one garbage company.   

The city is involved in a racket. They set us up with one provider for whatever service and therefore we are forced to use that provider, and that provider can call whatever rates that provider wants, as long as they go along with the city racket. 

Furthermore, “The revenue from the PEG support fee is allocated in the city’s budget to support the operations of BCAC TV
Channel 11, through a Public, Education and Governmental Access Channel Operations agreement with Upstate
Community Enhancement Foundation (UCEF) (Project No. 210-000-8801/50284-210-4800) as well as for the
equipment and capital costs associated with the broadcasting of city governmental programming such as City
Council meetings.”

Did I read that right? Cause I don’t see anything about new seats, carpeting, or fancy wood paneling. Oh, I see – “equipment and capital costs…”  They keep it vague so it can be interpreted…

But apparently various government entities have been playing fast-and-loose with the interpreting:

From the National Review

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455784/pension-crisis-hitting-home-school-choice-may-be-only-solution

Fearful of voter reaction to the growing pension squeeze on public services, some officials have tried to hide the problem, pretending to raise the money for other purposes. In late 2016, for example, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system sought voter approval to bond $3.5 billion in infrastructure improvements even though, as the East Bay Times later reported, the needed upgrade was already covered by an ongoing capital fund. More recently, departing New Jersey governor Christie Christie (R.) and General Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D.) agreed to address the state’s retirement deficit by making the lottery an asset of the pension fund — while ignoring that the loss of gaming revenue will create an equivalent shortfall in the state’s operating budget.

Go back to my first post about this – the news story on Ch 7 said the remodel would cost between $175,000 and $225,000, but the grant is for almost $350,000.

Do you think Chico voters are as smart as Sonoma County voters?

Such shell games are unlikely to succeed much longer. Voters in California’s Sonoma County defeated a recently proposed quarter-cent sales-tax increase for road repair because of widespread suspicions that the measure was really a bait-and-switch tactic to fund pensions.

If you’re sick of this stuff, e-mail the council through debbie.presson@chicoca.gov and tell them you are tired of paying for this kind of crap while the street in front of your house looks like a section of Downtown Tijuana.

The last thing we want is for “pension reform” to turn into “leave the taxpayers holding the bag”

12 Jan

 Dude sent me this article from Bloomberg:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-10/california-s-brown-raises-prospect-of-pension-cuts-in-downturn

“[Jerry] Brown said he has a ‘hunch’ the courts would ‘modify’ the so-called California rule, which holds that benefits promised to public employees can’t be rolled back. The state’s Supreme Court is set to hear a case in which lower courts ruled that reductions to pensions are permissible if the payments remain ‘reasonable’ for workers.”

Before getting all his/her hopes up, the cagey  taxpayer would immediately ask, “so, what’s ‘reasonable’?”  And then, “who gets to decide what’s ‘reasonable’?” Remember, judges get pensions too.

As I was pondering that, I got next week’s council agenda from the clerk – I’m on the clerk’s notice list, which is just a matter of e-mailing debbie.presson@chicoca.gov and giving her your e-mail address. You can ask for notifications of any and all committee meetings too, stay on top of this stuff instead of bitching about it 10 years after.

Oh look – Reanette Fillmer is still advancing her discussion about city of Chico pensions! She asked council, months ago, to agendize a discussion of our employer [taxpayer] -paid benefits and how they compare to other cities in California.  

I’m not sure how helpful that would be, knowing that most of California is in trouble over pensions right now, but it’s damn sure interesting – see here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=280&meta_id=57592

 

I have never seen this information before, I’ve only heard bits and snatches at meetings – the rest of my knowledge is based on “facts not in evidence” – making guesses from other stuff I hear and watching the expressions on their faces. The last figures I saw showed the city of Chico paying about 26 percent of the pensions – now look! 46 percent! To the employees’ same old 12 percent or less. 

That is how we got into this mess, and  so far, the city of Chico is just digging us deeper into it. 

I don’t know what Fillmer’s agenda is, but we all need to pay attention right now.  The last thing we want is for “pension reform” to turn into “leave the taxpayers holding the bag,” which is what the unions want.

And let council members know how you feel

sean.morgan@chicoca.gov

reanette.fillmer@chicoca.gov

mark.sorensen@chicoca.gov

ann.schwab@chicoca.gov

andrew.coolidge@chicoca.gov

karl.ory@chicoca.gov

randall.stone@chicoca.gov

While you’re at it, send them a couple of pictures of the street in front of your house.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what we’re not hearing about “Trump’s Budget Plan” – $150 million worth of cuts to federal retirement plans over 10 years

9 Jan

Did you know the federal government has over $3.5 TRILLION in pension debt? If you add in the deficits of state and local governments across the country, the total amounts to about $7 TRILLION. According to Moody’s, that’s about 40 percent of our Gross Domestic Product.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the broadest quantitative measure of a nation’s total economic activity. More specifically, GDP represents the monetary value of all goods and services produced within a nation’s geographic borders over a specified period of time.”

Read that a couple of times and your scalp will crawl – we are spending 40 percent of our income on pensions. 

Think of that as you work away at your private sector job – you’re feathering somebody else’s nest, but who is feathering yours? Get ready for a hard, cold nest folks. 

I don’t know what you think of Donald Trump, but his budget plan has got my attention. Especially this proposal:

  • An increase in employee contributions by 1 percent each year for the next six years (until they equal the government’s contribution),
  • An elimination of the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for current and future Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) participants and cutting the COLA by 0.5 percent for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) participants of what the typical formula currently allows,
  • Basing future retirement benefits on the average of an employee’s highest five years of salary, and,
  • Eliminate supplemental payments to employees who retire before age 62.

Nobody in the media is talking about the pensions – why? They want us to fixate on their claim that this plan will raise taxes on the middle class. Well, ask yourself this – are you middle class? Look at your paycheck – are you making more than $10,000 a month? Because that’s the middle class these days folks, the public workers. Trump is asking them to pay more income taxes – that’s good for the rest of us who live on an average of $40,000/year.

No, I don’t like Trump, but I like his tax plan.