Tag Archives: City of Chico Utility Users Tax

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. 

Get your Utility Tax Rebate – applications due by June 30!

5 Jun

I was looking over an old city budget – looking for something else – when I  came across these figures for the 2014 – 2017 UUT – Utility User’s Tax.  It didn’t cut and paste so good, but if you look, you’ll see the totals for the last few years UUT receipts – and REFUNDS!

Here’s the link:

from http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2016-17CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdfff

I found these figures on page 35.

The good news is, more people are applying for UUT refunds every year.  The first two figures on line 40460 are dollar amounts for total refunds for the years 2014/15, and 2015/16, and the last four figures are projected refund totals for 2016/17. I assume projections are based on the number of people who have applied in past and how much bills have gone up. I can’t believe the increased amounts are only due to increases in bills, I believe more people are applying for the refund. 

40460 UUT Refunds (2,870) (5,642) (7,000) (7,000) (6,000) (6,000)

Now, here’s an interesting line – they are still reporting the figure for the illegally taken cell phone tax refunds – remember Measure J? It looks like they gave back $831 in refunds to pissed off cell phone customers in the months after the election (2012). They actually put a deadline on it – a deadline on claiming stolen money, what nerve these people have. Those 0’s are the totals for the years after.

40461 UUT Cell Phone Refunds (831) 0 0 0 0 0

Okay, here’s where I got really mad – look at these totals for their takings for  the years 2014/15 and 2015/16. And get a load of the projections listed for 2016-17! This money was added to your utility bills.

40490 Utility User Tax – Gas 885,726 871,084 930,566 930,566 1,040,000 1,040,000

40491 Utility User Tax – Electric 3,853,624 4,013,124 4,048,714 4,048,714 4,300,000 4,300,000

40492 Utility User Tax – Telecom 756,121 470,180 435,000 435,000 415,000 415,000

40493 Utility User Tax – Water 813,254 854,156 854,425 854,425 925,000 925,000

I’ll say, I don’t get “telecom” – land lines? I guess a lot of businesses still have land lines, which are taxable. 

And, as you can see on line 40493, the drought was very, very good for the city of Chico.

And here’s the total takings and projected totals for 2016/17. 

Total Utility Users Tax 6,305,024 6,202,902 6,261,705 6,261,705 6,674,000 6,674,000

Over $6 million, and more every year. I’ll guess the total for 2017/18 will be over $7 million. 

So what can we do about it? Short of hiring a lawyer and running a measure to repeal the tax altogether, we can continue to apply for our UUT rebate. The form is available here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/_includes/documents/UUT%20REFUND%20APPLICATION%20FY17-18%20FILLABLE.pdf

And get a load of that – FILLABLE!  You type in the figure from each month’s bill and it adds up the total at the bottom. 

My husband and I haven’t been home much the last year, our bills have dropped considerably, but we still claimed about $99. 

Get your Utility Tax Rebate form here!

27 Apr

It’s time again to get those utility bills out and apply for your Utility User’s Tax rebate. The city finance department will start accepting those applications on May 1, so I looked at the city website to see if the applications are available – no luck.

I wrote a quick e-mail to the finance department and city manager Brian Nakamura, asking about the application.  As if they had anticipated my need, I checked my snail mail box just a couple of hours later,  and found a little surprise – a letter from the city informing me that rebates would soon be available. Enclosed was the 2012-13 rebate application.

Ask and ye shall receive.

We may have received this letter because my family has applied for and received the UUT rebate for a good five or more years now, can’t remember how long. We’re on The List. I might be wrong though – this may be a new effort on the part of our staffers to get people in there for their rebates!

Yeah, stop it.

At any rate, it’s a questionable use of staff time and postage. Wouldn’t you think, if I had applied so many times before, I’d be a little more likely to be onto it?  In fact, I just posted a blog about it a couple of weeks ago.  Unless they are mailing these notices out to each and every city resident and utility customer, it’s just wasteful.

How should they publicize this rebate? In your phone, PG&E and water bills, wouldn’t you think?  In fact, the cell phone carriers who were taking UUT out of your phone bill should also have been asked to notify their customers they  can get that refunded as well. It is a simple matter to put notices in utility bills, all the city has to do is ask these providers for some help in notifying customers they may be eligible for these programs.

At any rate, they should have that application available on the website by next week, probably by May 1.

I hate to be an ingrate and a nag, but, they could also make it possible for folks to apply electronically, via e-mail.  That just seems like a no-brainer to me, given all their posturing of “Sustainability”.  My friend Jim said he gets his utility bills electronically in an effort to, if not save the Earth, at least lessen his personal impact on our great planet.  Why would he want to print those out, on dead tree flesh! and drag them Downtown? Or worse, shove them into an envelope, glue on a gob of half-dollar stamps,  and add them to the mail stream?!

He should be able to keep them in a folder on his computer, and when the time comes for rebates, attach said folder to an e-mail, along with an application that he was able to fill out on his computer as well, and send it directly to the Finance Department. No trees harmed in the application for this rebate!

I’ve asked for this a few times, but they haven’t even responded. I just asked again yesterday, as if I have some predilection for banging my head on the backs of people’s soft and manicured hands. I realize now, I have to make a formal request of the Internal Affairs Committee. I’ll do that, and I’ll let you know how that goes.

Below I have posted the eligibility requirements and the application. Click on them and you can print them out on your dead tree flesh and take them in for your rebate. 

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UPDATE:  Frank Fields over in the Finance Department tells me that application form should be available on the city website today (Monday, April 29), but I still haven’t heard back on my request to make this rebate available via e-mail.