Tag Archives: City of Chico sewer tax

There it is – the first letter to the editor bitching about a rate increase that could have been stopped with a piece of paper that said “NO!”

1 Feb

A friend sent me a link to a letter in the ER yesterday that goads me into saying “I told you so!” A local woman bitching about the sewer rate increase. Just now?

The entire process was legal, mostly because people haven’t been paying attention as the state legislature has changed the rules for how taxes can be administered. The writer had very good points, suggesting the use of some of the millions the city of Chico got in Camp Fire emergency funding, to bring our sewer plant and infrasture up to date. But, here’s the thing – all we had to do to to stop that sewer rate increase was write NO on a piece of paper with our address and signature and deliver it to the clerk.

In the 45 days between receiving the notice and the hearing date, I wrote two letters to the paper telling people about the process and how simply we could reject it. The local media sat on their keyboards. I contacted Howard Jarvis Association and received information how to beat it, and shared that on my blog. I spoke to friends, neighbors and strangers at the grocery store. I got many blank stares.

Meanwhile, I’ll guess over half of Chico threw their notices in the trash without even reading them.

So now the media, including the Enterprise Record, are jumping on the bandwagon to promote the rate increase, with a glowing Eric Gustafson talking about the Candy Land we’ll have now – even promising to resurface entire streets after sewer hook-ups instead of sloppy patches.

All that waits to be seen – what we will see immediately, is a continuing rise in our cost of living with a simultaneous dip in our quality of life. I also predict Gustafson will be moving on to a higher salary in another town within the next year.

What I also predict is another push to outlaw septic tanks – we’ll see, on the next installment of Tank Girl.

Letter to the Editor: tell your city representative the garbage tax is illegal

19 Jan

I was surprised this morning to see my letter to the editor in the ER – I only sent it yesterday. Here’s a prediction I’ll make – Wolcott is going to be gone soon, and Tuchinsky will take over the paper. At least Tuchinsky’s a journalist, we’ll see what kind of agenda he has as time goes by.

Of course, the media was a lot of the problem with the sewer rate hike. For one thing, nobody said anything about it until the day before the hearing, and then the tv news ran a really misleading piece, saying nothing about the doubled charge, saying it would only raise the “average” sewer bill about $15, and then quoting two people who admitted they really didn’t know anything about it but guessed it was okay because the city says it’s in a heap of trouble. Wow.

So yeah, I’m feeling like a whacked mole alright. It’s hard to live in a city full of mole rats. Frankly, my husband and I tried to sell our property in Chico last year but one developer after another told us, essentially this: The city of Chico is impossible to deal with, and there’s a bunch of cheap land in Paradise.

There are big lots all over my neighborhood. That was the Chico lifestyle. Now it’s too expensive to water your lawn or keep big trees, so yeah, people want OUT. You’d think our one and two acre lots would be in huge demand. But, every time we get a new city council, we get a new philosophy of how to build. It was infill, now it’s sprawl again. They want that Valley’s Edge thing because: 1) Bill Brouhard and his partner Doug Guillon have their fists up half the asses in this town 2) it’s going to bring in a BONANZA! of builders’ fees, property taxes and new people to bring in sales taxes and other revenues.

You ever wonder where all the money goes? Do they just roll it up and smoke it? Just like the other one… Do they just eat it? Do they stuff it up their asses in some weird sex ritual? NO! They put it in the Pension Stabilization Trust and use it to pay down their bad decisions. It’s better than heroin – it’s POWER!

Well, that was my rant for the day. You should read HJTA president Jon Coupal – he’s scary! He says the government is trying to tax older folks out of their homes so cities all over California can foreclose whole older neighborhoods for redevelopment.

Well, he’s right, but you won’t believe it until you’re about 60. That’s the dilemma – young people like Addison Winslow, a product of the California schools, are picnic’ing on the railroad tracks, and you just can’t convince them there’s a train coming. We’re overbuilding again, and last time we did that, the foreclosure notices were posted in yards all over Chico and Butte County. Before 2008, you never saw foreclosed homes in Chico – a quick search just now brought up 153 foreclosures for sale, in Chico, on just one website.

So, put both hands over your junk and get ready – the Chico we’ve known and loved is headed for the Glory Hole. It’s replacement – just another shithole along the freeway. I may not be able to stop that, but I can bitch about it. I’ll run my letter here, for those of you who have given up on the ER. Below that I also included a link to the post I made last year(?) about garbage rates gone up.

The city of Chico has managed to trick residents into allowing a major sewer rate change without fully informing ratepayers of their rights. Homeowners were given 45 days between Thanksgiving and New Year to prepare, with no ballot to protest the change, which also allows for yearly increases without public approval.

The same council tried to establish an illegal Pension Obligation Bond without voter approval and was threatened with a lawsuit from Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

So it’s not surprising that the trash franchise the city entered into years ago is also illegal. Last year the Supreme Court ruled in Zolly vs. City of Oakland that cities can’t collect franchise fees for the use of city streets.

My household trash bills have shown a 60% increase since we were forced to switch service to Waste Management. Now we’re told we must pay extra for a yard waste bin to separate food waste.

This franchise is clearly a tax that was run under the radar without public approval. The money does not go toward street repairs but is dumped into the General Fund. Last year it paid for raises for Chico PD.

According to Laura Dougherty, legal counsel for HJTA, “all a ratepayer needs to do now is send a copy of the Zolly decision to their city…”

I will certainly do so and urge other ratepayers to do same. I don’t like being treated like a cash cow – do you?

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.

Clerk admitted members of the public were not able to sign into today’s Finance Committee meeting, but it went on anyway

26 Jan

On Saturday (1/22) I posted the letter I wrote to the Enterprise Record. Wolcott ran it Monday. I have complained here many times about trying to participate in closed committee meetings via Zoom, and I’ve made city staff and council members aware that I was not able to sign in or even watch meetings. I’ve also complained here and asked staff many times to make recordings of the meetings available to the public – they simply respond that they are not required to do so. They are required by law to post meeting minutes, but do so at their own speed. As of Christmas they were 6 months behind, so I complained about that. The clerk came back from Christmas vacation and posted the missing minutes in less than two days, without any explanation as to why those minutes weren’t posted within two days after the meetings.

My district rep Kasey Reynolds told me that the meetings would remain closed for the duration of Newsom’s mask mandate, February 15. Instead of holding important business – including various tax increases – until the public could be included, they scheduled an 8am Finance Committee meeting for today. Frankly, I’ve given up on trying to sign in. I have work to do, I can’t sit around all morning being held out of public meetings by the forehead. I was surprised to receive a notice from the clerk’s office about a half hour into the meeting.

We are having difficulties with Zoom this morning.  Please try the link again.

I received this message while I was at the grocery store. My grocery store does not enforce the mask mandate. Neither does the home improvement store at which I purchased a new washing machine this morning. I think that’s ironic – businesses I patronize are not supporting the mandate, why is the city of Chico still holding citizens out of meetings?

Today the agenda included discussion of a sewer tax. The city wants to tax the public according to how much water they use, water we not only already pay for, but water on which we pay a 5% Utility Users Tax.

And then there’s this scheme – read carefully, they’re basically issuing bonds on your toilet, another attempt at taxation without public approval:

For Option 1, The utility issues bonds secured by net revenues of the utility to pay the “sales” price. The General Fund receives an upfront cash payment from the utility. Alternatively, the City can do “seller financing”, where the City’s General Fund owns a note payable by the utility over time for the purchase price of the sale. In either the scenario, the utility is generating income for the General Fund, over and above what can normally be done under Proposition 218.
If the “sales” price is paid entirely upfront, and if the publicly offered bonds used to finance the
sale were sold on a tax exempt basis, then the proceeds of the sale/bond issue must be used by the City for public improvements. If the “sales” price is paid over time through “seller” financing, then the annual payments can be used by the City for any lawful purpose.

Read it again. They want to sell the sewer plant to themselves, and then issue bonds to pay themselves back? They put the money in the General Fund, and then it can be used for anything, and that’s going to be the pensions.

Read more here:

https://chico.ca.us/sites/main/files/file-attachments/1.26.22_fc_agenda_packet.pdf?1642784160

Mayor Andrew Coolidge and council member Sean Morgan are on the committee, Morgan is the chair. These guys are already under recall. Let them know how you feel about them planning to raise our taxes in meetings they have closed to the public.

andrew.coolidge@chicoca.gov

sean.morgan@chicoca.gov