Tag Archives: Scott Dowell Chico CA

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. 

Council refers revenue bond measure to Finance Committee, Finance Committee cancels all upcoming meetings until September. What do you think that means?

27 Jun

This morning I attended the monthly City of Chico Finance Committee meeting because council has directed the committee to vet a bond measure for “street improvement.” Council member Mark Sorensen made the suggestion in response to councilor Karl Ory’s suggestion that the city put a sales tax increase on the November ballot. 

In her column in the cat box liner known as “Chico News and Review,” editor? Melissa Daugherty suggest the vote “went along party lines,” and the “conservatives” voted down Ory’s suggestion. What a laugh – there aren’t any conservatives on Chico City Council. 

It comes down to common sense – the voters have made it pretty clear they will not support a sales tax increase. More important, local business owners are screaming NO! – Chico retail is already suffering death by a thousand cuts, who needs a sales tax increase?!

Funny this suggestion comes from Chico Chamber of Commerce – until you look at their membership – mostly non-retail!

So Sorensen suggested a bond measure and sent it to the Finance Committee for discussion.

Except there won’t be any discussion of this measure until September, because Administrative Services Director (formerly known as Finance Director) Scott Dowell talked the committee into cancelling the July and August meetings. 

I’ll say for Morgan, he wanted to have the July and August meetings, he said the public would want to be in on the  discussion. But he sat there while Dowell essentially cancelled the meetings. Committee member Randall Stone seemed to go along more willingly with the cancellation. Committee chair Mark Sorensen, who suggested the measure in the first place, was absent because of an “emergency situation” in Biggs, where he yanks down over $100,000/year plus publicly paid benefits as Biggs’ city manager. 

You know how it is, you can’t have your dick in two places at once.

You realize, that means the discussion goes behind closed doors. In fact, while they wouldn’t discuss the bond measure at today’s meeting – they’re not allowed to discuss stuff that’s not on the agenda – Assistant city manager Chris Constantin tried to take it up after the meeting had been adjourned and almost everybody had left the room. Constantin immediately pulled Mayor Sean Morgan aside and started whispering, essentially, what did Morgan want? Morgan started to suggest that Constantin bring forward all possibilities for funding road work in Chico, and Constantin was telling him that he will be working with the public works department to come up with a figure. 

“It will be at least $100 million…” was the last thing I heard Constantin say aloud as I pulled my chair and my notebook up to the table. Constantin lowered his voice to almost inaudible and turned his back to me. I moved closer and asked, “is this a private conversation? Am I allowed to listen? I thought by the way you were whispering you don’t want me to hear what you’re saying?”

At that point Constantin turned to me and assured me it was not a private conversation. But the conversation ended, and Constantin left the table to approach Chamber of Commerce maven Jolene Francis. From what I could overhear, he was asking her how they would switch from a sales tax increase measure to a bond measure. But I was in a hurry to go  back to work, so I let it go.

This is how they run our town behind our backs. I’m pretty certain they would have talked about the bond a lot more today if I hadn’t been there – there was no other member of the public present except for pro-tax cheerleader Stephanie Taber.

I’ll tell you what was also funny – Dowell’s finance report was nothing but KUDOS! Budget right on schedule! Revenues up three percent! $11 million more in cash flow than last year! Sales tax revenues up 6 %! Kinda makes you wonder – why would we need a revenue measure?

But you have to read between the lines. Most of the report was about supplemental allocations and budget transfers – the budget means nothing, they spend money however they want. When they can’t pay salaries in one department they just  steal the money from another department. That’s why there’s no money to fix the streets, and the sewer fund is so flat the city is actually entertaining a hook-up with Paradise – 20 miles east of Chico, in the foothills.

Before he was elected to City Council, Mark Sorensen blogged about all the money the city was stealing out of the sewer fund to pay pensions – you won’t find that blog online anymore, and you won’t get Sorensen to talk about the sewer fund.

Dowell also announced, last year was a record year for parking fines! But he opined, fiscal year 2018/19 won’t bring in as many parking revenues. He said, “I’d like to believe people are becoming cognizant of the laws…”

You know the only place they enforce parking is Downtown? But they still have record parking fines? I was reminded of a trip I took Downtown to deal with PG&E. As I stood in the pee-stinking Downtown PG&E office, I watched a family park their car, put change in the meter and walk into the building. They were setting up PG&E for their college kid. The woman watched as a parking attendant walked up and placed a ticket on their windshield. She expressed disbelief as her husband went out to see what that was about. He approached the attendant, and then he got in his vehicle as the attendant took the ticket off his window. He moved the vehicle slightly, got out, watched the attendant walk away, and came back inside. She had informed him that his vehicle was a few inches out of the parking space, and when he’d protested she’d offered to let him fix it. So he moved his car about an inch, I mean, I couldn’t even see any distance, and she tore up the ticket. He was really angry about it, but afraid to disagree with a woman who could give him a ticket out of spite. 

The parking laws have not changed Downtown, it’s the method of “enforcement” that has changed. The private parking enforcement  company that the city hired is paid based on how many tickets they hand out. That’s incentive. I don’t know how this is legal, but the chief of police in San Luis Opispo had to leave his job because he offered his patrol teams pizza as a reward for tickets.

The problem we have here is a city who knows they are acting illegally but waits for some citizens’ group to pony up money for a lawyer to call them on it. They’re absolutely desperate to get money to pay down the pensions, because most of our council members are pentioneers, or are married to pensioneers.

We will assume that the city will have a bond measure ready for either the November ballot or a special election in an upcoming year. We need to let them know – especially those who are running in November, we could recall anybody who supports this revenue measure. The Reform California people successfully recalled the legislator who put the gas tax – SB 1 – on the legislative agenda. 

We also need to let them know, we can come up with a measure of our own – to dump the Utility Users tax. That’s $7 million a year they tack onto our PG&E and Cal Water bills. They add unknown amounts to our bills with their shake down “franchise fees.” 

Write those letters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the gas tax repeal make the ballot? Stay tuned!

2 Mar

Carl Demaio and Reform California are still working to put the gas tax repeal on the November ballot.  I believe (?) the deadline was Wednesday (Feb. 28) but have not heard whether they were able to gather the required number of signatures. 

Here’s what Ballotpedia has posted:

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Voter_Approval_for_Gas_and_Vehicle_Taxes_Initiative_(2018)

“The California Voter Approval for Gas and Vehicle Taxes Initiative (#17-0033) may appear on the ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 6, 2018.”

Scroll down and have a laugh – Jerry Brown says, “I can’t believe the proponents of this ballot measure really want Californians to keep driving on lousy roads and dangerous bridges. Taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair borders on insanity.”

Listen, Moonbeam, you should think before you speak. You can’t believe it because it’s not true – proponents of this ballot measure have repeatedly said the money for road repairs is available but being siphoned off for other purposes. You’ve also just acknowledged lousy roads and dangerous bridges, for which you, as Captain of our ship, are responsible, and therefore, liable!  And yes, taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair to fund your pension borders not only on insanity, it borders on corruption, Sweet Cheeks. Should we have a court martial? Maybe set up a plank? Ooooo – keeeeel haul!

I think Brown is privately shocked about the voter’s response, lots of people have signed. I’m guessing the petitions were turned in, but it will take a while to verify the signatures. 

We’ve been talking about hidden taxes, such as the “franchise fees” the city and county are allowed to collect from utility companies such as Comcast and PG&E. This gas tax was shoved on us by the governor and the legislature, without any input from the voters.  For years now they – including Jerry Brown – have siphoned their outrageous salaries, pensions and benefits out of the road funding. I’ve sat in meetings many times and watched the local agencies pilfer “restricted”  fund to pay down their pension deficit, while roads and other infrastructure in Chico have turned to absolute crap. 

The foxes are in charge of the henhouse People.  For example, Scott Dowell used to be the finance manager for Chico Area Recreation District before he got hired by the city of Chico. While CARD allowed two public swimming pools to deteriorate to sub-code and sub-ADA conditions, Dowell made a extra $400,000 “side fund pay-off” on CARD’s $1.7 million pension deficit, saying it would save the agency money on interest payments to CalPERS. Meanwhile, CARD management has only started paying toward their pensions within the last two years, “classic members” like CARD manager Ann Willmann are only paying 2 PERCENT.  That all happened on Dowell’s watch.  Now he’s running City of Chico finances.  Next Thursday I’d bet my last $5 he’s going to lay down a pretty wild argument for a sales tax increase. 

Cause taxes are their heroin. As long as they can get a fix, put off rehab for just one more fix, one more fix, one more fix…

Just look at Chico Unified School District – they’ve had a bond measure on almost every ballot since 1998, and the last three have passed. But they are getting ready to put another bond on the ballot, because they just got new demands from both CalPERS and CalSTRS for more money, more money, more money…

You probably think you hang around with a nice crowd, but if you send your kid to a Chico school – any Chico school – you are leaving them all day with a bunch of freaking junkies. Wake UP!

A friend of mine recently asked me if I knew city council member Randy Stone is running for Butte County Assessor. I was kinda bitchy – I told her I didn’t give a shit who was running for election, because elected offices don’t matter anymore – it’s $TAFF. And we don’t get to vote for them. 

But, voting is important, especially the initiatives. So I’ll gas up the old election buggy and try to get it out on the road, try to start posting some news about the local candidates, besides just…YECHHHHHHH!

cause we can’t and we won’t and we don’t stop…

 

 

City consultant: “more people, more payroll, more allocations” – this is how city of Chico management siphons money from the road fund into their own wallets

1 Mar

Thursday March 8,  City of Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell will give a dog-and-pony presentation about how the city spends money. That ought to be a gas, but instead, I attended yesterday’s (2/28/18) Finance Committee meeting to hear a consultant explain the process of “cost allocation”.

Dowell is disingenuous – who does he really expect to show up on a Thursday at 10 am? Oh yeah, I’ll just ask my boss if I can come in early and take two hours off at lunch, everybody does that! 

You know, I might have had bosses who would go for that, but only once. And you wouldn’t be allowed to discuss it at the work place, that’s a pretty standard rule of getting along with fellow employees  – leave your politics in the parking lot. So, in this way, Dowell is very pointedly leaving out the working class who would have to support the sales tax increase he is going to be selling at his “workshop”.

But, when you have limited time, you use it wisely. Who wants to hear a spin from the Fox in Charge of the Henhouse, when you can listen to a visiting watch dog? That’s how I see consultant Chad Wolford, eversince 2015 when he told council they were spending too much money on “overhead” – administrative salaries and benefits.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2017/12/21/no-kidding-our-city-is-headed-for-deep-doo-doo-2/

As the consultant describes it, cost allocation means, “central administration cost (also referred to as “overhead”) spread down to departments as operating costs.”  Just repeat that a few times, and remind yourself, “operating” means “actual work,” such as fixing the streets, or maintaining the sewer plant. 

Cost allocation is the process by which these ridiculous management salaries are cherry picked from all the departments. Makes it look legal and fair, but it’s really the same old system of moving peas under walnuts shells. Money is moved between restricted and non-restricted funds to pay for stuff that money was not originally earmarked for. 

What’s the use of restricting funds (to their original purpose, such as street maintenance) if you can just transfer them wherever you want to pay for whatever you want? This is the process by which administrators like Orme, Constantin and Dowell take grant money that was originally intended to fix streets and pad it into their wallets. 

The consultant is a nice man, he admitted to me, “this is a very complicated process.”  I replied, “No kidding!” That’s why  I had tagged him into the lobby of the building when he finished his presentation, I had to ask some additional questions. 

Well here’s something that he made pretty clear – the “changes”  (increases) in the allocations are based on staff and salary increases. “More people, more payroll, more allocations,” Wolford said. “Salaries and benefits have gone up, operating budgets are up…” 

So, I don’t think I’ll be bothered with Dowell’s dog and pony show Saturday – ‘scuse me, that’s Thursday March 8 – I already heard how the city of Chico spends it’s money. 

CalPERS nears insolvency – meanwhile city of Chico uses “cost allocation” to rationalize fund pilfering to pay pension costs

27 Feb

Thanks Dude, for this recent article regarding CalPERS insolvency. Former CalPERS board member and erstwhile gubernatorial candidate (2006?) Steve Westly has been speaking up about CalPERS growing pension deficit, warning the agency will collapse if it is not bailed out or “reformed.”

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-02-24/former-calpers-board-members-shocking-admission-calpers-near-insolvency-it-needs

I don’t know what he means by “reform” – to me, this would mean, no more 70 – 90 percent of highest year’s salary at age 50 – 65, cut employer contributions to 10 percent (based on merit and years employed), and make the employees pay their own retirement package. 

Here’s an article from last year that chronicles this mess we’re in from the beginning.

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-pension-crisis-davis-deal/

Of course now everybody is screaming for “reform” because they know the system is about to collapse and they won’t get their dough.  Most of these “reformers” mean, taxpayers pay more. That’s what the city of Chico is up to at tomorrow’s Finance Committee Meeting.

Chris Constantin first introduced the concept of “cost allocation” a couple of years ago. It is a process by which they transfer money out of the general fund to pay salaries, benefits and pensions for city employees. It’s very confusing, unless you are the consultant who is hired to explain it every year. That would be Chad Wolford. 

Two years ago, Wolford told us we were “spending too much money on overhead” – meaning, management salaries, and particularly, management pensions.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/11/29/no-kidding-our-city-is-headed-for-deep-doo-doo/

In response, the city raised pension shares but made adjustments to ensure employees would not have to pay. Mark Orme and Chris Constantin accepted what amounts to 401K plans, which they report will not add to our pensions costs – wrong again Chris! They still got salary increases, and we will have to pay them that deferred compensation, it just routes CalPERS. To me, this is just greed. Look at their salaries:

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20171002/NEWS/171009943

Click to access OrmeEmploymentAgreement10-2017.pdf

Orme demands over $200,000 in base salary, but expects us to believe he has our best interests at heart? 

Tomorrow, at an 8:30 am Finance Committee meeting, they will go about “allocating” their fancy lifestyles onto the backs of the taxpayers, taking money that should be providing street maintenance, sewer plant updates and other services for those of us who pay for them, and putting it toward their 70 – 90 percent (do the math on Orme’s salary) pensions. Read the report here:

Click to access 2-28-18FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

This is sneaky stealing, if you ask me. The taxpayers are never privvy to this stuff – wonder why they hold these meetings at 8:30 in the morning while you are rushing to work?