Tag Archives: telecommunications tax

Thanks Mark Sorensen for speaking to Chico Taxpayers Association

4 Jun

Yesterday Mark Sorensen was good enough to come down to the Chico library to fill in a group of interested citizens on some of the facts regarding the November phone tax increase measure. But, we probably won’t get alot out of the council or the city attorney’s office until August 7, when they are due to turn their “impartial analysis” and ballot arguments in to the city clerk’s office. 

Until then, we are left with a lot of speculation. But the important fact remains – this measure will raise the taxes of every city resident who owns “mobile messaging devices” – specifically , for now, cell phones. 

Councilor Sorensen explained to us that the city is very desperate to pass this measure because they have already been receiving this tax and are heavily dependent on the revenue – some $900,000 a year, in fact. Some cell phone providers, AT&T the most prominent, have already been collecting the tax for an undisclosed number of years, without any legal grounds to back them up aside from the fact that they make up your bill and you don’t ask any questions. The city has been receiving this ill-gotten gain, knowingly,  for years, in violation of our own code, which only allows for the taxing of land lines.  

I can hear the question forming in your mind Joseph – how the HELL do they get away with this shit!?!  It’s the psychic connection -oh oh – think they’ll find a way tax that? 

Well, we’re not the only ones. This is happening in cities around California. Because of a man named Donald Sipple, it’s been brought to the attention of the courts, if not the media. Mr. Sipple has sued AT&T, and won, and in turn, AT&T has had to sue the cities over which Mr. Sipple sued them. The case is still a big mess in the courts, because, despite two rulings to the effect that the money was taken from those city residents illegally, those cities will simply not return the money. 

Anyhoo, this is why the city is so desperate and so dishonest in handling this phone tax increase – they actually do stand to lose $900,000, in General Fund money, no less – the unrestricted kind! And yeah, if this measure doesn’t pass, they are left red-handed.

My-oh-my, how embarrassing for Ann Schwab and Dave Burkland. They know this, but they have made no attempt to tell the voters. Instead they try to tell us they are lowering our taxes and making everything fair for everyone. 

Tsk tsk! If they told the truth on this ballot measure, it would never get off the launch pad.  How can a  tax that is collected off of one very specific portion of the population – those folks whose cell phones are billed to a city address – but goes to pay for infrastructure and services that are enjoyed by everybody who uses our town – whether college students with a phone billed to their parents in LA or folks who work here with phones billed to a mansion in Forest Ranch – be  “fair for everyone” ?

We’ll have to see how they explain this when they come out with their “impartial analysis” in August. Until then, we need to study this issue among ourselves and try to get ready for the debate in the fall.  If you want to keep up on the agendas be sure to subscribe to Mark’s feed:

http://chicoagenda.wordpress.com/

Learn the truth about the city’s proposed phone tax hike – it’s a G-snatch!

3 Jun

Well, best meeting EVER. It just keeps getting better, Folks. A wonderful group who was there to work, that’s what it takes.

Mark Sorensen answered some questions this morning, but raised others.  There is so much about the phone tax increase measure that does not make sense. And where can we get the answers? Our city attorney seems to be making the whole thing as convoluted as possible, I don’t think we can count on her for any help. She’s not our attorney anyway, she’s there to protect $taff and council from  us. “$taff” would include herself.

The first and foremost thing everybody needs to know about this measure is that it will INCREASE our taxes. While the text of the ballot proposition, in the first sentence, claims to be lowering our tax, it is also broadening the definition of what  can be taxed, therefore, increasing our  taxes.

City Attorney Lori Barker’s first measure was so deceptive she was asked to rewrite it. The newer version is more truthful, but still pretty vague:

“Shall an ordinance be adopted to amend the City’s Telephone User’s Tax in order to: 1) reduce the tax rate from 5% to 4.5%; 2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services; 3) apply the tax to all telephone communications regardless of the type of technology used; and 4) reflect changes to federal and state law? 

Yes, the new rate will be half a percent lower – Big  Flopping Whoopie.  And, there you see it, this tax will “include new technologies such as” Such as, when you read along in the report Barker made, includes whatever the Finance Director wants it to.

No, you can’t read the report unless you got a copy from the city clerk  before she took it off the website. I don’t know why it’s not on the website. In fact, I don’t know why there’s no records on the website right now for any meeting between December 2009 and the agenda that is posted for this coming Tuesday’s meeting. You can see the agendas on the viewer, where you watch the videos of the meetings, but no reports.  The reports are all taken off the website after the meeting, you have to ask the clerk if you want to see the reports. I just happen to have the copy she sent me before the meeting – I signed up to receive this stuff, or I wouldn’t have it.  I’d have to go Downtown and PAY to get a copy from the clerk.

They are being deceptive on this tax increase measure because they know if the voters get all the facts it will fail. They might even have to pay back the money they’ve been collecting illegally through AT&T for years.

http://semichorus.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/burbank-owes-its-cellphone-users-1001766-in-tax-refunds-that-they-refuse-to-pay/

They stand to lose big, so get ready for some pretty desperate measures and some cheap and dirty fighting.

Beat the Heat! Chico Taxpayers Association will meet at 9am next Sunday, Chico library

27 May

Next week we’ve moved our June 3 Chico Taxpayers Assoc. meeting to 9am.  I’ve asked Mark Sorensen to come in and give us his take on the phone tax and some other items before council. He asked that we get together a little earlier, so I notified the library and we have the room from 9 – 10.  

We want to get our facts straight regarding the phone tax so we can start writing letters. I want to remind everybody, it’s good to write to the council and the newspapers, but you might also be telling everybody you know who lives within the city limits. 

How do your friends react when y0u try to talk politics? I know, some of you might only have politically minded friends who stay well-informed. That isn’t always the case. A lot of our friends are busy in their lives, with their jobs, their kids, etc.  “The Real World,” where, if you don’t mind your business, your life ends up in a ditch.  Whenever I bring these “political”  issues up in the groups I swing with, I get almost exactly the same angry response every time: “When am I supposed to go to these meetings? I have a ( job/business) all day, and then when I get the chance, I’m at (one of my kids’ various activities).” One weekend I watched a kids’ sports tournament with a couple whose elderly father lay on his deathbed in Chico – they were chatting with him on the cell phone, it was heartbreaking. How do you bring up these issues when people are trying to live their lives? 

But, just recently, the father of one of my kid’s playmates came over to tell me, he reads my blog, and he writes letters to council. This is a man who does a job we all depend on, who has recently been transferred in his job to Oroville when he lives in Chico, and who has two active teenagers. His wife works too. But still they find time to stay on top of the issues. I really appreciate that – it’s like having somebody say, “I got your back Juanita!” 

We must all watch each others’ backs on these tax issues.  I think you can write a letter to the council or the newspaper in less than 30 minutes, or give a friend a simple explanation,  if you know what you want to say. Know the facts, and it’s easy to be prepared in a conversation. Please come in on Sunday and we will be going over the facts on this phone tax – just the facts, Ma’am. We need to keep it sweet and simple, let people know exactly what this tax will do. We have until November to let people know the truth. I  think we can do it. 

Mark will also try to explain to us what’s going on with this missing $255,000 that will be discussed Downtown Tuesday night. I’m not sure, but I think that’s still alot of money to misplace, and I’d like to watch $taff squiggle and scramble to explain this. Mark will try to give us the background. 

That’s Sunday, June 3, 9 – 10 am, Chico library at First and Sherman Avenues. Come on down! 

Chula Vistans beat the phone tax – now they’re suing to get back the money their city collected illegally!

16 May

Last night Ann Schwab, Mary Goloff, Andy Holcombe and Jim Walker moved forward with a resolution to tax “all forms of electronic communication imaginable, now or in the future…”

Lori Barker, who plays an attorney on TV,  defended her resolution, saying “it is impossible to include an exhaustive list of taxable services because we might leave something out…” Then they wouldn’t be able to tax that service too! So, she opted to leave an open-ended “description” that  any future Finance Director can add to without any input from the taxpayers.

Then she cited a word limit in the law – she is only allowed to use 77 words, and she was up to 75. Well, two more words would have fit – the words “texting” and “paging” – two services that will be taxed under this resolution but that Barker just couldn’t shoehorn in there! 

I think this dawg should be easy to put down – why would people vote to tax themselves when they don’t even know what they will be taxed on or how much they will pay? Barker wouldn’t answer that question either – she keeps insisting that this turkey will be “revenue neutral.” What? She’s adding cell phones that have never been taxed before, and she’s trying to tell us, the city won’t be making any extra money and we won’t be paying any more? 

This whole campaign is built on LIES.  We can and will defeat this tax.

This scenario has already played out in the little town of Chula Vista. I spent a Christmas in Chula Vista, when my dad was working on the freeway in San Diego. It was beautiful, 70 – 80 degrees.  We stayed in a motel with my dad’s coworkers and their families, and for Christmas dinner,  one of the moms made tamales in the motel kitchenette – what a scream, in that hot little kitchen!  I have never forgotten Chula Vista, and I never will. They are the town that stood up to the Utility Tax, and won.

In 2010, the city of Chula Vista put a similar proposition before their voters – making all the same lame threats about public safety, etc. The voters of Chula Vista not only put that resolution soundly in the toilet, there is currently an effort among Chula Vistans to SUE THE CITY! 

From the San Diego Metro Daily Business Report, Feb. 23, 2012:

Trial Date Set for Utility Tax Issue in Chula Vista

A trial date has been set for a class action suit seeking millions of dollars in restitution for allegedly illegal utility taxes levied by the city of Chula Vista on cell phone users within its boundaries. This follows a ruling by Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss dismissing a challenge brought by the city. The lawsuit stems from a now outdated tax — levied on users of telephones, electricity and other utilities — that was introduced in 1970 and generates more than $9 million in revenue for the city each year. An attempt by the city to amend the law with Proposition H in 2010 was defeated by voters. According to Thomas Penfield, a partner with San Diego-based Casey Gerry and co-lead counsel, the city of Chula Vista recently filed a legal objection to the suit.  “The city cited its local ordinance which said you cannot file a class action for a tax refund,” said Penfield. Penfield and co-counsel James Capretz of Orange County-based Capretz & Associates argued that municipalities are not permitted to enact their own patchwork means of claiming tax refunds. “The judge agreed with our argument and ruled in our favor – stating that state procedure overrules the local ordinance,” Penfield said. The case is now set to go to trial Jan. 18, 2013.

We’ve got some work ahead of us, but we must follow Chula Vista’s example and fight this tax.

Phone tax resolution is not clear as to exactly which services are to be taxed

14 May

Tomorrow night the council will again take up the subject of the phone tax – they tried to slip it by in the  consent agenda, but I for one will be there to ask that it be “pulled” for discussion.

Pull!   BOOOOOM!

We’ve already discussed the poor wording in the resolution. It was so bad that it was sent back for a rewrite. That’s how desperate Schwab and the other four are to pass this thing – it’s their life raft. If they don’t get us to swallow this hook, the city ship will begin to sink.   The last five years they have held their SS Titanic together with RDA glue.  Now that the RDA glue bottle has been taken away from them (I think they were sniffing it), they need a new revenue source. You know, like a vampire needs a fresh neck!

Oh yeah, that would be funny – everybody wear a string of garlic to council tomorrow! 

The resolution that $200,000-a-year city attorney Lori Barker brought back was no better than the first one – in fact, this one is more deceptive. She has continued to omit much of the pertinent information needed for the voters to make an informed decision.

At the first meeting, I distinctly heard Barker say, that she wasn’t even sure what would “happen” under this ordinance. That’s because, the ordinance provides for the Finance Director, currently Jennifer Hennessy, to add new technologies to the list of taxable services at her own prerogative, without any input from the voters. 

The definition of what can be taxed is so broad at this point, the city attorney says she doesn’t even know what might end up being taxable. Her ballot resolution describes the taxable services here:

2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services; 3) apply the tax to all telephone communications regardless of the technology used;

We are told, “new technologies such as…”, but she just lists two here. In the report she included texting and paging. It seems to me she has omitted those two from the ballot resolution  intentionally. And, in today’s ER, she says SCYPE can’t be taxed because it’s a free service, but “You could use a computer for telephone services”  What services could they include in this tax later? She isn’t telling us. She’s being as vague as possible. 

She says SCYPE is not included now because it is free. Well,  it will be included as soon as the phone companies get enough of you using it and start charging for it. Always be wary of FREE STUFF! It’s wrapped around a great big hook, my fine little fishes! 

Here’s something else they aren’t telling us. Right now, some carriers are collecting the tax ILLEGALLY. If we don’t pass this turkey, the city will lose a lot more than $9o0,000 a year.  They are this close to not being able to meet obligations they’ve made to $taff, and when that happens – oh oh! Bankruptcy! And then? None of them get paid until they go to court. 

Ever deal with an addict? Well we have a building full of them Downtown, hooked on the green stuff. And they’re about to get a serious case of the DT’s. 

 

$200,000 a year city attorney can’t (won’t?) answer my question regarding tax measure she wrote

11 May

In reading the report city attorney Lori Barker wrote about the telecommunications tax she’s proposed, I noticed this paragraph:

“During the discussion at the January meeting, there was a concern expressed in regard to the application of the tax because it is applied based on the billing address while it is possible that the phone may be used primarily elsewhere.”

Here it actually sounds like Barker is worried that she might be taxing phones that aren’t used in this area. But I don’t think that’s really her concern

“The application of the tax based on billing address is mandated by Federal law in the Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act of 2000. That Act was passed at the request of the telecommunications industry to simplify and provide uniformity in how local taxes are applied to wireless telecommunications industry to simplify and provide uniformity in how local taxes. The service providers are responsible under the Act for obtaining and maintaining their customers’ primary place of use.

I read that paragraph over and I asked myself, “what in the hell was THAT?” You know, everybody gets intimidated by that bureaucratic verbosity – it’s intended to work like many primitive, desperate animal defense mechanisms. You know, like those creatures that  take an enormous dump when they are threatened by a predator. That will make many predators back off. Not this predator. When I get a mouthful of excrement, I spit it out, and I say, “please give me a bite that doesn’t taste like shit.”

So, I wrote the city attorney’s office a note:

“To: sbarrett@ci.chico.ca.us

Subject: clarification of report – “update to telephone users’ tax”
Date: Mon, 7 May 2012 17:59:09 -0700
Hi,

 I wonder if someone could explain this comment from the city attorney’s May 1 report,  “update to telephone users’ tax” – page 3
 
“The service providers are responsible under the Act for obtaining and maintaining their customers’ place of primary use.” In other words, if the phone is billed to an address in LA, but used “primarily” here in town, can this city of Chico users tax be applied?  
 
Thank you for your anticipated cooperation – Juanita Sumner 
I have always received an immediate response from city $taffers – even when they are out of the office, they have an automatic feed that sends a note. Not this time. I waited three days, and then I sent another note.
Hi, 

 
I sent the request below  and am wondering if I am going to get any answer. 
 
Thanks, Juanita Sumner
Later that day, I received this response from $taffer Susan Barrett:
Ms. Sumner:
 
Lori Barker is not available today but can talk to you tomorrow about this matter if you give our office a call at 896-7600.
 
Thank you.
 
Susan
I find that highly ironic – she wants me to call.  I only have a cell phone, and I have the cheapest plan available, for the sole purpose of keeping connected with my kids and calling for help when I need it.   I don’t use it for anything non-essential – one call can put me over on my minutes and then the charges increase dramatically. Of course, Barker makes her calls on my dime, and yours. Isn’t THAT ironic – most $taffers are given cell phones paid for by us, so we will also be paying their telecommunications tax! This is just a barrel of monkeys!
But, the real reason I won’t have phone conversations with these people is that I have no record of what was said. Verbal conversations go all over the place, and then SOME PEOPLE will play games and say they don’t remember what was said, they didn’t say that, you said this! Etc. So, I don’t engage in verbal conversations on important subjects, I get it in writing.
Infortunately, for whatever reason, Miss $200,000-a-year-plus-annual-benefits-package-of-roughly-$95,000  does not want to put it in writing!
So, I had to go online to get it. And I sure as hell got it!
Here’s the link to the Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act of 2000:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-106publ252/pdf/PLAW-106publ252.pdf

And it says,

‘‘§ 117. Sourcing rules
‘‘(a) TREATMENT OF CHARGES FOR MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES.—Notwithstanding the law of any State or political subdivision of any State, mobile telecommunications services
provided in a taxing jurisdiction to a customer, the charges for
which are billed by or for the customer’s home service provider,
shall be deemed to be provided by the customer’s home service
provider.
‘‘(b) JURISDICTION.—All charges for mobile telecommunications
services that are deemed to be provided by the customer’s home
service provider under sections 116 through 126 of this title are
authorized to be subjected to tax, charge, or fee by the taxing
jurisdictions whose territorial limits encompass the customer’s place
of primary use, regardless of where the mobile telecommunication
services originate, terminate, or pass through, and no other taxing
jurisdiction may impose taxes, charges, or fees on charges for such
mobile telecommunications services.”

Now, I’m no lawyer, but I think that’s pretty clear, albeit verbose. 

Yes, if you came here to go to school, and you have a cell phone that is part of your family’s phone package in LA, your phone company is responsible for identifying Chico as your “place of primary use,” and applying Lori Barker’s telecommunications tax to your calls. 

Yes, if you live in Oroville, or Red Bluff, or Forest Ranch,  but you work in Chico, you are about to be HAD! Like a fine piece of PORK!

And remember – city $taffers get free cellphones, paid for by us, and so their tax will also be paid by us.

Now, here’s the next question: will those of us who live in Chico but work outside the city get a break because our “primary place of use” happens to be Gridley or Vacaville? Will this Chico tax be applied on calls we make while travelling outside of Chico?   According to Barker’s proposal, this is up to your service provider, so if I were you, I’d be talking to my service provider about this. Or give Lori Barker at call at 896-7600. 

ADDENDUM:

I got this note back from Susan Barrett after my last post:

Ms. Sumner:

 The City Attorney asked me to forward to you the following information:
 
Federal law makes the wireless carrier responsible for obtaining and maintaining each customer’s primary place of use for their phones.  If the primary place of use is in a city other than the city in which the billing address is located, the carrier should apply the applicable tax for the city which is the primary place of use.
 
Thank you.
 
Susan
 
Well, there she admits it – this tax will apply to:
  • college students whose phones are included on their parents’ bills, no matter where their parents live. 
  • people who live outside the city limits but work and do the bulk of their business in Chico 
  • people who live inside the city limits but work and do the bulk of their business outside of Chico (if you’re billed in Chico, you don’t actually believe your carrier is going to check into your place of primary use, do you?)

So, what about that family who lives in Orange, California. They have three kids. They have cell phones for each of their active kids and also for Dad and Mom. Because one kid goes to Chico State, they pay a local Chico tax on their entire phone bill? 

And what about a gal who works at my bank here in Chico, but lives in O-ville? Will she and her husband pay this tax on their whole bill? Barker certainly doesn’t expect us to believe the carriers will scan over our monthly usage, picking and choosing individual calls? If your “primary usage” is in Chico – and that might just mean, between 7am and 5pm – will you pay the Chico phone tax on your entire bill?

And then there’s the transplants who moved here but kept their job and the bulk of their lifestyle (including kids school and sport teams, after school programs, etc) in Vallejo, or Vacaville, or Pleasanton. The carrier won’t even question their “primary place of use,” because their billing address is in Chico.

I certainly hope to see some pissed off taxpayers at Tuesday’s meeting.

“to ensure that all taxpayers are treated equally…” – oh yeah, let’s make sure EVERYBODY gets stuck!

10 May

Yesterday evening I received the city council agenda packet for next Tuesday, and wow, Lori Barker has already come up with a new version of the phone tax resolution. I’m sorry, I hadn’t even gotten around to discussing how deceitful the first version was, and she’s already re-done it.

Like I say, evil never sleeps.

She didn’t really fix it, is what I’d say right off the bat – it’s worse than the dawg she dragged in last week. 

AND, they’ve agendized it in the “2’s”, meaning, they just expect to vote on it without discussion. Either a council member or a member of the public needs to request that the item is pulled for discussion. I recommend people WRITE LETTERS NOW. To think they’d try to yank this by us without discussion – WHO DO THEY THINK THEY’RE DEALING WITH HERE? A BUNCH OF SUCKERS?! 

Here’s the ballot resolution Barker brought in last week:

“Shall the City’s current Telephone Users’ Tax be amended to reduce the tax on telecommunications users from 5% to 4.5% and to modernize the definitions of telephone communications services to keep current with changes in technology and federal and state laws. “

Please note, there is not one word in there about expanding the tax to take in our cell phones, not one f-ing word. Lori Barker is a duplicitous bitch. 

So, Sorensen and Evans and some other loud mouths, myself included, rammed and railed for her to rewrite the resolution to reflect, well, The Truth.

So, here’s what she flopped out:

“Shall an ordinance be adopted to amend the City’s Telephone Users’ Tax in order to: 1) reduce the tax from 5% to 4.5%; 2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services; 3) apply the tax to all telephone communications regardless of the technology used; 4) reflect changes to federal and state law? “

Take a good look at  #2 – “2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services”

She isn’t including the whole list of new services that are being made taxable by this resolution. Here’s what she says in her report from May 1:

“They generally capture interstate and international calls, voice over internet protocol, text messaging and paging.”

Duplicitous Bitch needs to add the above bold-faced services to the ballot resolution. Her failure to do so is obviously intended. Gee, who cares if they have to pay a tax on every text message they send? Nobody uses text messages! 

And here’s a question to ask – are they going to tax the Tweeters? Tweet Tweet my ass! 

And then we have #3, where they pit citizen against citizen:  “3) apply the tax to all telephone communications regardless of the technology used.”

She actually took the opportunity to put politics IN the resolution. She is trying to put this notion in  the voter’s head that not everybody is paying their fair share. How cute – you know their PAC is going to hammer this point for the next five months.  Cause frankly, that’s all they got. 

Well, it doesn’t belong in the resolution unless they’re going to explain that this resolution will FORCE EVERYBODY TO PAY MORE, including the pawns that pay the land line tax now. 

We need to expose Duplicitous Bitch. For one thing, I wish people would write to council now and complain about the agendizing of this issue onto the 2’s, and tell them we want it pulled for discussion. Also, I’d like to point out to them, it needs to be rewritten to include ALL the services they’re adding now, and the ones that the city finance director can choose to include in future. 

Yes, that is part of the resolution to – read it online. The finance diretor, and right now, that’s the same woman who’s driven us into this ravine, can decide which new services that come available in future can be added to this tax, without a squeak from the public. 

And finally, #3 needs to be stricken unless it explains that EVERYBODY will be paying a tax they do not currently pay.

Get mad now, it saves time later. 

City mangler Dave Burkland recommends tax increase for city – he lives in the county!

9 May

I find it interesting how many city employees live outside the city limits. 

Your mayor owns a fine place up above the Forest Ranch Store, staring down at the little smog ball hovering over Chico. Your city manager lives halfway to Dayton in the unincorporated area surrounding Chico. How these people find the nerve to tell us actual Chicoans how to live is beyond me, but you can read Dave Burkland’s recommendation to raise our phone tax here, under the report for Item 4.1:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/5-1-12CityCouncilAgendaPacket.pdf

“I concur with the City Attorney’s recommendation,” he says. Furthermore, he reports, “If Council takes no action, the City stands to lose a significant portion of it’s general use revenue.” 

It’s easy for Burkland to talk – Dave lives well outside the city of Chico. This TAX is for those of us unfortunates who, either by choice, or in my case, ANNEXATION,  live within the confines of the city, where we are seen as a little herd of cash cows to be milked at will by our oppressors. 

Time for a little Animal Farm? Yep, I believe it is high time we stood on our hind legs and threw these people off. 

Of course, our boy Dave, rat that he is, has already made his jump from our floundering shipwreck in the making. Retiring this coming August at 60, BURKLAND WILL BE GETTING 70 percent of his $180,500 a year salary – over $126,000 A YEAR  – with  cost of living increases and medical benefits – for DOING NOTHING but picking up a check, for THE REST OF HIS LIFE

Damn, he looks pretty fit too! We won’t be rid of that leech for some years. 

At our Taxpayers’ Association meeting the other day, one  participant opined that Burkland and other staffers are supporting these local tax increases to feather their own nests, to pay for their pensions. Another person present tried to say that these pensions are “paid by PERS”.

Well, wake up and smell the coffee.  Read the papers lately? Like for the past two years? PERS gambled all their funds on the stock market. They lost their asses. Well, actually, they lost our asses. 

Go ahead. Google “pension time bomb” or “California on the hook for unfunded pensions” – you’ll find all kinds of articles dating from the present all the way back to 2010, telling us, we can’t afford these crazy pensions, built on crazy salaries, bloated with overtime, and then gambled on the stock market. 

As the Wall Street Journal says, in an article from April 2010, “Calpers and Calstrs are decrying the Stanford study because it has revealed exactly who is on the hook for all of this unfunded obligation—California’s taxpayers.”

Yeah, we pay for Dave’s pension and benies, and that’s exactly what he’s out to protect. And we pay them out of our General Fund. And like Dave says in his recommendation to stick us with a expanded tax on our cell phones – “The primary purpose of amending the telephone users’ tax is to protect existing revenue for the General Fund.” 

 

At least 15,000 households eligible for UUT rebate, but only 110 apply? Why?

8 May

In his May 1 report regarding the “update to the Telephone Users’ Tax,” city mangler Dave Burkland tells us that lowering the phone tax from 5 % to 4.5 % would save the average user a whopping  twenty-five cents a month.

Mr. Burkland must think we just fell off the turnip truck. What he’s not telling us, is that while they will lower the phone tax by half a cent, they will expand it to cover your cell phone, with charges depending on your usage. Oh, great! There goes my 25 cents, and then some!

There are those of us now, in fact, who AREN’T PAYING ANY PHONE TAX, and we like it just fine, thank you very much. That’s why we dumped our land lines –  compared to the convenience and reliability of a cell phone, I need a land line like a moose needs a hat rack, Mrs. Goldfarb.  My family realized, why have the additional expense of something that only seems convenient for the people who want to sell you something at dinner time?

So we dumped our land line to save money, and now here they are, coming after our cell phones! There’s no rest for the wicked Honeybabe.

Cell phones can be very inexpensive, you can pay for your actual use instead of paying a flat rate even if you don’t have much use for it. That’s why they’re great for low-income individuals and families – it’s AFFORDABLE.

This is a “regressive” tax, meaning, it hits the lower-income people the  hardest.  During the council discussion, Scott Gruendl actually had the nerve to tell us, it’s no big deal, he’s GLAD TO PAY $2.50 a month to “help my community.” 

He’s talking about the minimum charge, the flat charge. For families it adds up. There is a charge per phone – I still have my AT&T bills – our UUT on those bills was closer to $4 a month. That comes close to $50 a year – and while that may not sound like much to a guy who yanks in over $100,000 in taxpayer money out of one of the poorest counties in California, it adds up to almost $50 a year to pay for the “privelege” of owning a phone. In addition to the $1000+ that you have to pay the phone company. 

Again, imagine life without a phone. I’ll never forget how potential employers acted when my son was looking for a job and we didn’t have a separate cell phone number for him. Having your mom answering the phone for potential employers is like some kind of rat poison. They treated him  like a deadbeat! One fellow was even rude to me! While I’m disgusted with the mentality, I realize, you can’t fight it, especially when you’re the one who needs the job. Going out looking for a job without a car and a phone is like wearing a t-shirt that says, “I don’t really want this job I’m just filling out my unemployment application…” 

So, Mr. Gruendl, living like a pimp on the taxpayers’ dime, can stuff his “community” spirit as far as I’m concerned. He’s not a member of my community, although, if you ask around Glenn County, I think you’ll find, they don’t want him either!

I know they’re sensitive about this aspect of the tax Downtown because Burkland informs us that low-income people can always reclaim their money, if they’re that petty, by way of the Utility Users Tax Rebate program. Do tell Dave! 

“The refund offers a partial refund of UUT  paid on all UUT services to income-eligible participants. “

If you look at the schedule below, you see what he means by “partial” – there is a refund maximum, regardless of what the participant paid in UUT, he/she can only get so much back. And it’s kinda whacked – one person can get up to $105, but eight people can only get $198? 

Burkland ends his report with some interesting statistics regarding the Utility Tax Rebate program. “Historically, the City has refunded between $800 and $1200 in UUT-Telecom refunds to an average of 110 households per year.” 

Well,  if I actually believed for one minute that the city had set out to return this UUT money to it’s rightful and underprivileged owners, I would call that a miserable failure Dave. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21.2 % of Chico’s roughly 86,000 residents live BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL. Do the math – that’s over 18,000 people.  If you divide that by the number in the average Chico “household,” and you find there are roughly 7,613 Chico households living BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL. This is actually more than the California average, by a quite a bit! 

But Burkland informs us, only 110 households get a UUT rebate? Well, what’s the problem Dave? 

Has anybody ever seen this program advertised beyond the city website? No, you haven’t, they don’t advertise it, they don’t even take out a notice in the paper. It is not even mentioned on the city website until the two month period during which they will give you a refund. I have had to ask the Finance Department to post it two years in a row now, and I firmly believe they would’n’t do it if I didn’t faithfully e-mail them every April and bitch about it. 

I have to ask, why isn’t the information posted all year? I mean, in order to collect the rebate, you have to keep ALL YOUR BILLS, so it would be nice if the information was out there more than a month before the collection date. 

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question, I’m just a compulsive question asker, even when I know the answer. It’s always funny to hear the answer come out of THEIR mouth. Tell the truth and shame the Devil, Flakcatcher! As if it does any good – that’s why they’re the Flakcatchers! 

I have posted all the rules and regulations for getting your UUT rebate below. Tell me they’re not onerous, and I’ll give you a wet willy. 


CITY OF CHICO
UTILITY USERS’ TAX REFUND & EXEMPTION PROGRAM
GENERAL INFORMATION
A refund or an exemption from City Utility Users’ Tax, for utility services provided may be approved when the following conditions are met:

(1) City of Chico resident files an application with the City of Chico Finance Office for a refund or an exemption.  The application is a spreadsheet on which you have to write down the amounts of UUT from each bill, twice, and add them up in different directions. Then the clerk makes you sit while he/she adds them up. Once the clerk actually found a mistake on mine – in my favor, ginchee! 

(2) The application is approved by the Finance Office as being in conformance with Section 3.56.190 and/or 3.56.200 of the Chico Municipal Code. Only one member of each household may file an application and only one application may be filed for each household.   Meaning, make sure all the bills in your household are under one name. 

(3) The combined annual income of the household in which the applicant lives for the 2011 Federal and State Personal Income Tax Year was less than the maximum annual income limits in the following schedule:  These actually seem fairly generous to me, and I can’t understand why only 110 households claim the rebate.

Household Size   Maximum Annual Income     Maximum Refund
1                                $32,900                                        $105
2                               $37,600                                        $120
3                               $42,300                                        $135
4                               $46,950                                        $150
5                               $50,750                                        $162
6                               $54,500                                        $174
7                               $58,250                                        $186
8 or more              $62,000                                       $198
(4) The applicant shall be the person in whose name the bills for utility services were rendered.  Meaning, even if you and your spouse have the same name, they will only take the application from the exact name on the bills. 

Applications for Utility Users’ Tax paid will be accepted from May 1, 2012 to June 30, 2012 for tax paid between May 1, 2011 and April 30, 2012.

The application must be accompanied by:
• Proof of household income (2011 Tax Return, Disability Statement, Social Security Letter, etc.)  You can show them your tax return, you don’t have to let them keep it. And I’d use a copy with all the SSN’s blacked out if I were you.
• Copies of the utility bills including Water bills, Gas & Electric bills and Telephone bills paid by the applicant. Here’s probably the most onerous part. If you go into the office, you can just show them your bills, they don’t have to keep copies. But if you want to mail this in, it’s going to cost you in copy money and postage – good luck! 

Refunds will be processed as follows:
• No refund shall be made on any application filed or postmarked later than June 30, 2012.
• All applications for refund sent through mail will be paid with a check from the City of Chico.
• All applications for refund delivered by the applicant to the City of Chico Finance Office shall be processed the same day when possible. I think they have a rule, they’ll pay anything under $50 in cash, maybe $100, I can’t remember. This is the sweet payoff Babee – green money to exchange for sugary treats at Shuberts! 

Applicants for the Exemption Program shall have attained the age of 60 years prior to making the application for exemption. Eligibility for tax exemption for applicants 60 years or older shall be based on the maximum income for a two-person household as set forth above ($37,600 for 2011). Applications for exemption are accepted any time during the year and must be accompanied by:
• Proof of household income (2011 Tax Return, Disability Statement, Social Security Letter, etc)
• Age of the applicant as documented by driver’s license or birth certificate.

I feel they should give an exemption to anybody who’s successfully applied more than two years in a row, and then that household should have to re-submit their eligibility every five or so years. Once you’ve proven you’re eligible, they shouldn’t be able to take the tax off your bills anymore, but this way, they get to collect the interest on it all year. Remember, it’s not just you, they’re doing it to probably 15,000 or more households that are below the income requirements, that adds up to a few bucks in the bank. 

The only way they’ll be able to pass this phone tax is with lies.

3 May

I still can’t believe that meeting the other night. Ann Schwab called me “nasty.” How exactly would she describe a person who lied to her? 

Because, no matter how they lie and deny, the measure that Ann Schwab, Andy Holcombe, Scott Gruendl, and Jim Walker have decided, among their little gang of four, to place on the November ballot,  is a tax increase, there are no two ways about it. Anybody who says otherwise is a liar, plain and simple. 

Ann knows what it is. That’s why she says it would be “wise” to use the figure of 4.5  percent. Andy Holcombe, who does not have enough money or support to run in November, and therefore has nobody to answer to, suggested the rate be raised to 5.5 percent. But Ann’s up for re-election, and she wants people to think she’s lowering their taxes. If I were Ann Schwab’s mother I wouldn’t  show my face in public. 

Well, in fact, this initiative, if passed will lower certain peoples’ taxes. Those folks who use AT&T, for example, are currently paying a 5 percent utility tax on that service. As was explained this past Tuesday night, some companies are collecting the tax in anticipation of the passage of initiatives like this all over California. They just aren’t giving it to the cities yet. Because? 

Because, if this initiative fails, nobody in the city of Chico will have to pay the phone tax anymore.  In other words, those who are currently paying this tax, are being taxed illegally. 

And, again, in my Pollyanna mind, I would assume the phone carriers will have to return the money they have been collecting to the customers. Hey, weirder things have happened. 

Now,  Verizon, for example,  does not collect the tax. So, anybody who has Verizon  wouild be suffering a tax increase if this initiative is passed.  Several people at Tuesday night’s meeting, including councilors Sorensen and Evans, pointed out that the language in the initiative that $200,000+  a year city attorney Lori Barker has drafted is “deceptive,” ridiculously so. District 2 supervisor Larry Wahl pointed out the use of “modernize” as a euphemism for “add a tax to it.” There is no mention that some people are currently being charged, illegally,  but some people are not.  Eventually, a motion was made that the language needs to be changed to make it clear PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CURRENTLY BEING TAXED WILL BE TAXED UNDER THIS INITIATVE. 

I’m guessing, some folks who already pay the tax will be outraged that ALL of us are not paying the tax. The answer for them is to vote NO. They are currently being taxed illegally. They need to be mad at their carriers and at their local government, not those of us whose carriers are sticking up for our rights. 

You must wonder – is AT&T collecting interest on this money they are holding? 

Of course Barker would like the initiative to pass, so she’s going to be as deceptive as we allow her. At her current salary, she will retire at over $180,000 a year, plus benefits. She needs to make sure we can pay that before she retires. Apparently she is willing to lie, cheat and steal to secure her retirement. 

Please write letters and tell them you see the deception, tell them the initiative needs to make all these points clear, and then tell them you won’t support it anyway. Be sure to write letters to the paper, let’s keep this conversation loud and in the public eye. 

The only way they’re going to get this pig to fly is with lies. We can’t let them get away with it. Write letters, write letters, write letters. 

Write to the Enterprise Record and ask them if Katy Sweeny forgot the end of the story she wrote.