Tag Archives: Nor Cal Blogs

City announces they’ve instructed cell phone companies to stop taking tax – check your bills to make sure!

29 Jan

I see the Measure J refunds story is in the “most read” section of the Enterprise Record  today, but I posted it here just in case you missed it – read below.

I see a couple of problems in the story – for one thing, Ashley Gebb is a sloppy reporter. There she says, “Nearly 54 percent of residents voted in November to not update the city’s phone user tax”.  No no Dear, it was 54 % of the city’s VOTERS, not residents, duh. Does she understand how voting works?  Sorry to be a nit-picker, but this is the same gal that lectured me on the proper mis-use of the word “average“.  I notice she dropped that word from the part about billing amounts. In her pre-election story she said the “average”  bill in Chico was $50. When I questioned her about that, she came back like, “Oh silly, I didn’t mean mathematical average, I just meant, you know, AVERAGE!”

Another bit that bothers me is where Hennessy says folks will have to provide not only proof they were billed for the tax, but proof they PAID the tax? Of course, that should come up on the next bill, but what about your last bill? You need to wait until you get the following bill, that says you paid your previous bill? For Chrissake Jennifer, LET IT GO!  This whole thing reminds me of “Repo Man” – the old movie with Emilio Estevez. 

But, the good news is, ” the city has notified wireless phone companies to no longer collect the tax.”

Now, there’s some news! But I’d like to hear from those of you, who, like Jim in Chico, have seen the tax on their billing, who can check to make sure it’s gone. Let me know. 

Here’s Gebbs’ story:

Measure J-related phone tax refunds now available in Chico

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer
Posted:   01/29/2013 12:00:00 AM PST
 

CHICO — Chico residents can now apply for refunds for phone taxes paid to the city during the previous 12 months. 

Due to the failure of Measure J, the city is offering residents refunds for any utility user taxes paid for cellphones or Voice over Internet Protocol services within a year of application. 

Nearly 54 percent of residents voted in November to not update the city’s phone user tax to include modern technology such as cellphones, and the city has notified wireless phone companies to no longer collect the tax.

“If an individual showed documentation they were billed a tax and it was paid, we will issue them a refund,” said Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy on Wednesday.

The 5 percent phone tax would equate to about $2.50 of a monthly $50 bill or $5 of a monthly $100 bill.

Since November, any phone tax revenue that has come in has been placed in an account earmarked for refunds. If any remains after one year, the revenue may be placed in the general fund.

As for how many people may apply, “I have no idea,” Hennessy said. The potential fiscal impact is about $900,000 if all phone tax collected were to be reimbursed.

The City Council has not yet addressed what it will do to compensate for the loss in revenue, which supported the general fund.

Residents will need to provide documentation, including their cellphone bill and proof the bill was paid. Refunds will be issued beginning Feb. 21 and be mailed to the name and address on the bill.

Residents may not claim refunds for amounts previously refunded through the city’s utility tax refund program for income-qualified individuals. Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS customers are also not eligible because the providers did not collect the tax in the last 12 months.The refund application is the only way for the city to issue reimbursements, Hennessy said. The tax payments it received from phone companies are a lump sum, with no indication of who paid, for what and how much.Applications are available online and at City Hall’s Finance Department counter.

“We will be processing them as they come in and issuing refund checks,” City Attorney Lori Barker told the City Council this month. “Checks will be issued on the city’s regular cycle of processing and accounts payable.”

The City Council unanimously made final approval of the refund ordinance at its Jan. 15 meeting.

 

Connect with Ashley Gebb at 896-7768, agebb@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @AshleyGebb.

Outback Steakhouse hosting a fundraiser for Chico council candidate Toby Schindelbeck – steak and shrimp lunch!

11 Sep
Frank Kennemer and Outback Steakhouse will be hosting a
Toby Schindelbeck for Council Fundraiser and you are invited!

Outback Steakhouse

Please Join Toby Schindelbeck, Candidate for Chico City Council, for a delicious lunch hosted by Frank Kennemer, owner at Outback Steakhouse in Chico!

When: Thursday, September 13th from 11:30am to 1:30 pm- show up anytime between.

Where: 1990 E. 20th Street

Chico, CA 95928

Suggested Donation $30.00 per person, includes a steak and shrimp lunch!

Please RSVP to Lisa at (530) 519-9634 if you can, or just show up.

Join us  to get to know Toby, his passion for the issues, what he stands for and what he will bring to the City Council.

Additional donations are greatly appreciated up to $500. If you are unable to attend, your generous contributions can be mailed to: 1141 Forest Ave, #20, Chico, CA. 95928.

I received the above invitation from Toby Schindelbeck. I have attended Outback Steakhouse fundraisers before, including a really nice dinner at the Nature Center years ago, and really enjoyed the food. I’ve also given tickets to their fundraisers as gifts, and never gotten a complaint. 

Chico Taxpayers Association endorses Toby Schindelbeck because he has proven himself to be a hard worker, attending meetings, reading volumes of documents and weeding out discrepancies in the city’s book keeping, ah, er, let’s say “style.”  He’s also worked hard to get more citizens involved in their own government, raising issue with the closing of Station 5 and pressuring the city manager and council to uphold the city code and open the public finances to the scrutiny of the public. 

Schindelbeck has said that he believes city employees, particularly the public safety employees, should pay more of their own benefits, and this is a move in the right direction. I don’t expect we will always agree with Toby Schindelbeck on everything, but it’s not his words or promises we’re endorsing, it’s his actions. 

If you can’t make this fundraiser, keep posted, Toby has other fun events planned. 

It’s Election Season! Time to write those letters

5 Sep

The other night I heard geese headed South out my window. They must have seen the calendar – Fall begins, officially, on September 22. 

According to Dave Little over at the Enterprise Record, Labor Day weekend is the official kick-off of Election Season. Little has announced that he will only allow each person one “election related” letter after yesterday, September third. I know, so many issues to jam into 250 words, but believe me, a smart fella or gal can get pretty creative under stressful circumstances. Think McGiver!
Everybody I know is worried about money right now – their job, their mortgage, their general expenses, their kids’ education, unexpected medical bills – money is the main issue in this election. And every politician and ballot measure you will be asked to consider can be directly tied to your money.  For example, five of our elected city leaders have directed our city attorney to write a ballot measure to place a tax on our cell phones.   They’ve written an argument in favor of this measure to be placed on the ballot, and they’ve authorized the city attorney to write the “impartial analysis.”
Excuse me here, but how can the person who wrote the measure also write the “impartial analysis”? Welcome to politics in Chico, Folks!
These folks in whom we’ve invested the public trust have turned around to try and screw us, with our own consent. Democracy is what you make it – garbage in, garbage out, as they say.  Six of the council were elected, fair and square, and the seventh member, Bob Evans, was less than 100 votes behind Mary Flynn in the general election. We asked for it, and we got it.  Only Sorensen and Evans stood up for the taxpayer on this issue, the other five would probably tax their Gramma’s chrysanthymums. 
In November we need to make careful assessment of what we’ve got, and  what we actually know about the various candidates, instead of listening to what they say. We have records on Schwab and Evans, and it’s easy to check into their other activities at Chico State and the Chico Chamber of Commerce. Dave Kelley has been a Planning Commissioner and active in local planning. Kimberly King Rudisill has been a council member and also remains active and connected in local politics. Many of the candidates have local histories, it’s easy to look over their records on various issues and their connections to various political machines. 
There are also measures to research – including the phone tax and a school bond. While I have already decided for myself on these issues, I realize if I want these issues to be defeated, I have to get other people to vote the same way. 
Sure I’m busy with every day life, but I take time every day to do some homework, I hope you will all do so. I will post what I find out here, you do same. When you write your letter to the editor, stick to simple facts and points, don’t launch into hyperbole. 
We skipped our first Sunday meeting this month because of Labor Day, but I hope to set up a meeting soon to talk about writing letters – not only what, but when. It would be nice to space them out so there’s a constant hum, instead of one big blob at the end. Encourage your friends to write. It doesn’t have to be a novel, just a short paragraph about why the  issue’s important to them. Can they afford to pay more taxes? How will more taxes directly affect their lives? I know, with my family of four spreading out to go to college, we’d like to get our youngest his own cell phone – we already can’t afford that. Why would we want to hand over another $4.50 a month to people who are making three, four, five times what our family lives on? 
I sent the letter below to the ER last week and Little ran it on Friday before the weekend, so I should be able to get another letter in the paper before the election. I’ll be watching candidates to see who comes out strongly against tax increases. I hope you will all do same, and I hope you’ll write letters. 
The Chico Taxpayer’s Association holds regular meetings to discuss and voice our opposition to excessive government spending and questionable tax increases. We encourage people to inform themselves on issues and get involved in the decisions of local government.  Check our website, Chico Taxpayers, at Word Press, for notices of meetings and topics we’re discussing.  We’ll also be posting links and materials regarding the upcoming election. 
 
Currently we are looking at November Ballot Measure J, a city of Chico staff proposal that would place a new 4.5 % tax on cell phones and other forms of electronic communication.  This measure allows the city finance director to tax future forms of electronic communication without voter approval. According to existing code, council may raise the tax rate to the maximum 5 percent without voter approval. 
 
The money raised would go into the city’s “General Fund,”  spent at council’s discretion. They could spend it on public safety and road maintenance or, just as easily, existing salaries, benefits and pensions. Currently, staff costs, including the “employee share” of benefit and pension premiums,  are over 85 percent of our budget. There’s no guarantee written into this measure that this tax will go to hire more police or firefighters or fix roads instead of paying these contractual obligations. 
 
This measure will not only add new taxes, but allow council and staff to raise taxes in future without public input. There’s no real accountability for the money.  The Chico Taxpayers Association asks voters to reject Measure J. 
 
Juanita Sumner, Chico Taxpayers Association

Hennessy is using city funds like walnut shells to hide and move money

29 Aug

I had a dentist appointment yesterday morning, bright and early, so I thought I’d drop in on the Finance Committee meeting.   There I watched Toby Schindelbeck try to dig a monthly finance report out of Jennifer Hennessy – and that was like pulling teeth.

I’ll tell you something about Jennifer Hennessy – she’s used to getting her way, Daddy’s little (?) girl. When Schindelbeck pressed for those reports, in a very polite and businesslike manner, she started acting like a petulant child, bickering with him about her “interpretation” of the code. She acted as though the code was written by Joseph of Arimathea.

I would recommend everybody read the Charter and Code for the City of Chico, it’s not rocket science. Get a dictionary, just for those $64,000 words. But, it’s very clear, it’s very direct:

“The finance director shall submit to the council through the city manager monthly statements of receipts, disbursements and balances in such form as to show the exact financial condition of the city. At the end of each fiscal year the finance director shall submit a complete and detailed financial statement.” (Article 9, Section 908)

What do you guys read there, any comments? I hear it loud and clear – she’s supposed to show us how much came in, how much went out, and how much is left, EVERY MONTH. She acts as though that’s an unreasonable request, even after the Station 5 fiasco.

How soon we forget? In January of this year, Hennessy had told us everything was DANDY! Then by March we were in DEFICIT.  In July we were closing a fire station that sat watch on the entire east side of town, including all the east side grasslands (meadow foam!) that this council allowed developers to squat on over the last five years. 

Schindelbeck had gone to a lot of trouble, read over reports, graphs, charts, and found figures that don’t match. He had different reports from different staffers that listed different balances in the same funds. He had reports that indicated  questionable transfers between those funds, and he had a report that showed $taff had undertaken a project with a fund that was completely inadequate to fund it.

But, our council seems to have drank Hennessy’s Kool-Aid.  With the spectre of mismanagement standing firmly behind him, Scott Gruendl defended Jennifer Hennessy’s adamant, and I’ll say, BITCHY and CHILDISH, refusal to DO HER $165,000 A YEAR JOB. 

Scott Gruendl went on to explain the practice of “deficit spending.” In his world, spending other people’s money you don’t really have is considered a high art form. In fact, did you know, council members used to get credit cards? Gruendl made such fast use of his credit card, wining and dining at little nooks and crannies all over the Bay Area, that council voted to tear up those cards. Nobody else was using them, Gruendl was partying with his, and then using excuses like, he had to go pick up the “Sister City” plaque that could easily have been shipped for a fraction of the cost of putting him up in a chic boutique in San Fran and sending him to all the  snootiest little eateries. Gruendl is a pig, and he likes to be kept nice and fat.

So, he says, there’s nothing wrong with spending in deficit on stuff like a bike path, buy some guy’s property to run a bike path across, everybody does that when they are poised on the brink of bankruptcy. It’s called an investment in the future – yeah, that property owner’s future just got a lot brighter, wouldn’t you say? 

Did you know, they spent General Fund money finishing up that Hwy 99 bike path – the privately contracted workers were in my neighborhood all one weekend.  Having freshly paved only the exact bike route through my neighborhood of otherwise shredded streets, they sent in a crew to stencil the magical protective bicycle people in the brand new oily surface.  People, not cyclists, but people who occasionally like to be seen on a bike,  seem to think those stencils are magical.  They seem to believe  they can ride right out in the street and those stencils will protect them from the congregation of the Evangelical Free Church over on Filbert! Good luck! 

Hennessy and the rest of them need these projects to attract grants to bring in revenues to pay their salaries and benefits. The grants don’t even start the job – for example, already over $1 MILLION  has been granted on that Downtown remodel, and SPENT, and you see how far it’s gotten. They’re already out of money, and the job will wait until there’s more.  They used the money not for construction – it PG&E you’ve seen hashing up the streets. Construction is really a pittance of the actual cost of these jobs – they spent most of this money on their own salaries and benefits. Ask Hennessy – the entire gas tax, which is legally supposed to be reserved for  capital projects, is spent on salaries and benefits. 

Furthermore, in order to get these grants, the city has to spend money, oftentimes matching the amount of the grant. So, every time you hear they got a grant, what they aren’t telling you is, it’s going to cost you the same amount of money to get it. And, don’t you love the way they act as though these grants just rain like manna from heaven – no, they come out of the taxes you send to the state and feds every year. 

Hennessy said that when Fred Davis ran our town, he only had 10 “funds”. Now there are over 250 funds. Know why? Cause all those “funds” act like walnuts shells – you can HIDE MONEY that way, and transfer it from one “specific” fund to another. That’s the way they will take the phone tax they expect to get out of you and use it for whatever art project or Sustainability scam they please. 

The conversation was getting pretty hot when I noticed the clock – I had to be at the dentist for a good reaming at 9am. Gruendl was telling Schindelbeck, very rudely, that his comments didn’t have anything to do with the subject at hand. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I asked to speak. I told them I agreed with Schindelbeck  – that for exactly all the reasons Miss Malfeasance listed for NOT doing her job, she needed to do it.

They are using this confusing mish-mash t0 move money around to pay their salaries and benefits, that’s what I know. We need to demand not that Hennessy DO her job, but that Hennessy LOSE her job. 

And Gruendl needs to go in 2014, let’s make note of that. 

Ann Schwab’s argument in favor of Measure J – “to protect against the risk of losing” illegally collected tax revenues

25 Aug

Here is the “Statement of Accuracy” signed by those arguing in favor of Measure J – Mayor Ann Schwab and councillors Holcombe, Gruendl, and Goloff. Jim Walker submitted a letter of consent.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail with these documents attached – arguments FOR and AGAINST Measure J, the cell phone tax, submitted to the city clerk earlier this month.  None of them cut and pastable into my blog, so I’ve been hem-hawing around trying to figure out how to load them up. I hate to break this kind of news – I am not exactly a computer whiz kid.  Word Press is a wonderful forum, but there’s buttons I still haven’t figured out yet. 

So, I finally just took a picture of the above “Statement of Accuracy” sheet with my camera – you can see how that turned out. The “Argument in Favor” below had to be typed in from a window on the little “notepad” my kids gave me for Christmas.

The city clerk has said she can’t give me the cut and pastable versions cause she’s afraid I’ll “edit” them.  Well, I’ll assure you, I have typed this argument in very carefully, word for word, and this is what Ann Schwab has to say for herself. I will admit, I received this argument before the county clerk had assigned a letter to the measure, so I added the letter ‘J’.  Let’s discuss this over the next few weeks :

Argument in Favor of Measure J – Utility Users Tax

We recommend approval of Measure J to protect existing revenue to continue vital services for the residents of the City of Chico.

The City of chico is at risk of losing $900,000 each year if voters do not approve Measure J to modernize the language of it’s current Users Utility Tax (UUT) ordinance. This would represent a significant reduction in General Fund revenue. The primary purpose of amending the telephone users’ tax is to protect existing revenue for the General Fund. A loss of $900,000 a year would result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds.

In recent years, there have been significant changes in both technology and billing practices. The use of wireless services and voice over internet protocol has become widespread, billing for local and long distance services  is frequently bundled, and long distance calls are not always billed based on time and distance, even for land lines.

To protect against the risk of losing tax revenues in the face of legal issues, approval of Measure J will modernize this existing tax to ensure that all users of communication services are treated the same, regardless of the type of technology they are using or billing practices employed by their providers.

This proposed amendment includes a slight rate reductionk, from 5% to 4.5%. This rate, if applied to the average cell phone bill of $50 per month, would equate to a monthly charge of $2.25 as opposed to the current charge of $2.50.

Vote yes for Measure J and protect existing police, fire, roads and parks in the City of Chico.