Tag Archives: Utility Tax Rebate

Get your Utility Tax Rebate form here!

27 Apr

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

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

Ask and ye shall receive.

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

Yeah, stop it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Measure J was just the test run for the sales tax increase

12 Mar

Brian Nakamura forwarded along Jennifer Hennessy’s answers to Stephanie Taber’s questions from last week’s city council meeting.

Stephanie’s questions, below in black, with Hennessy’s responses in blue, and my smart ass observations in green:

1) What/who is the source of information that is now being used to verify the $500 loss (or whatever the current figure is) in revenue due to the defeat of Measure J?  At the offset of the proposal there was no definitive way of separating how much revenue was received based solely of cell phone calls and texting and how much on land line costs.  At least that was my understanding.

Answer:  City staff will be able to determine Measure J’s impact over time, as Telecommunication companies stop collecting the tax on cell phones and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services.  Future UUT revenue will be compared to revenue collected prior to the notification to the companies to cease collection of this tax. 

Wait, this doesn’t sound right. For one thing, in December, Hennessy reported a loss of $500,000 to the General Fund, and blamed it directly, in so many words, by name, on “the loss of Measure J.” There was no doubt in her mind, our budget had been hit broadside to the tune of $500,000 by the petty taxpayers who defeated that ill-begot scheme. Now she tells us, she won’t know how much, til “over time”?   She’s our budget director, in charge of our financial “IN” and “OUT” boxes, and she doesn’t know where our money comes from? She gets checks all year from the phone companies, but she doesn’t keep track of how much? That answer sounds fishy to me on a number of levels. 

2) Are telephone tax collections a separate revenue line item that can be compared month-to-month and year to date?

Answer:  Yes, revenue collected for Utility Users Tax on telecommunication services is reflected in the City’s General Fund, under account 40492. 

And here she says the opposite – that the revenue collected is kept track of in the budget?  Month to month? I looked in the budget, available under “Finance Dept” on the city website.

Click to access 2012-13CityAnnualFINALBudget_000.pdf

Yes, under the General Fund summary, page FS-1, Fund 001, Utility Tax is separated out – gas, electric, telecom, and water – but only year to year. I wonder if she even read Stephanie’s question all the way through. The fund is there, but we don’t see how much is added and subtracted, just the balance. Like she says for Q #1, we would have to have all the budgets, and compare that number from year to year, and we’d have to know how much money had been taken from that fund in order to figure out how much had come in over any particular year. She knows that stuff, or she should – why she can’t give us a straight answer is beyond me, and it just makes me suspicious of everything they say Downtown.

What they continue to say Downtown, is that Measure J is to blame for all our fiscal difficulties. This even as they sign that new cop contract – raises, especially for lieutenants, fully-paid “employee share,” the whole nine yards. And did you see those new cruisers they bought, just to be “traditional”? They’ve also raised department head salaries about $25 – 30,000 each.  Oh, but $900,000, or uh, is it $600,000 – oh, just $500,000? Really? Well that’s still a TRAGEDY! QUE LASTIMA! You rotten, petty taxpayers! You’re so stingy! 

This is their foot in the door for that sales tax increase, you just watch. 

And don’t forget, Frank Fields said he’d have the UT rebate application on the website “in the next couple of  weeks,” so I’ll keep you posted there.

Chico Taxpayer’s Meeting Sunday, 11:30, Chico library. And don’t forget – Friday’s the last day to get your Utility Tax rebate.

25 Jun

Fourth of July is coming up, next Wednesday! I hope to see some of you in the conga line over to Hamilton City to pick up your Independence Day paraphernalia – don’t forget to hit El Patio for some chips and salsa.

The Fourth is my favorite holiday, and I like to celebrate. This Sunday I will be over at the library at 11:30 am for a meeting of the Chico Taxpayers Association. I’d like to compare notes about the November ballot sales tax hike initiative.  Jerry Brown’s original proposal has been toned down and merged with the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax.”  This hybrid would raise California’s sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5%,  while also raising income tax rates on individuals earning over $250,000 –  creating three new high-income tax brackets for taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding $250,000, $300,000, and $500,000. I think the rhetoric in this campaign will be interesting. 

We’ll also compare any notes we have on the telephone tax, but we probably won’t have much to chew on  until the proponents – led by Mayor Ann Schwab – hand over their ballot arguments. 

REMEMBER! This Friday will be your last opportunity to get your Utility Tax rebate for 2012, those of you who qualify might want to hustle on down there. I heard from Dave, who said he went in and got his exemption – GO DAVE! I think anybody who has qualified two or more years in a row should be eligible for an exemption, to be renewed with documentation every three to five years, like the low-income rate assistance programs offered by PG&E, Cal Water and the phone companies. But, if wishes were horses, we’d all be hip-deep in horse crap, wouldn’t we? 

I realize, if you work 8 – 5 you can’t get your rebate in person. But, I’d also say, if you have more than two people in your household, you will probably find it’s worth the trouble to copy your bills – especially PG&E – and mail them in. You’d only need the first page, and you can do two-sided copies. It shouldn’t take more than two stamps to mail the whole mess. Remember to blot out your SSN’s on the copy of the first page of your tax return. 

And remember, it’s not about the money, it’s about the message.

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. 

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. 

Time to get your Utility Tax Rebate!

18 Apr

Thanks very much to Lynn Thiesen, finance department $taffer, who has graciously placed the Utility Tax rebate information on the city website, and sent me a link to the city website. But I’ll give you the  link to the actual  form: 


The second page tells us who qualifies. It’s fairly generous, actually –  a family of four is allowed over $46,000 a year.  I know plenty of you are living on less than that. 

Here’s a tip – take your bills with you, they don’t need copies, they just want to look them over. Yes, I’ve had them add the bills up, and once, the gal even found a charge I had missed! 

Also, take a copy of the first page of your tax return – they want to see that figure at the bottom right – but BLACKEN OUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER. No sense being dumb.  They might keep this copy, but they don’t need your SSN. 

The Utility Tax is one of the city’s top three revenues, along with property tax and Transient Occupancy Tax, you know, “bed tax”.  UT brings in millions a year, off your power, water, and if you have it, sewer bills. Thank you God, for septic tanks.   If I was on sewer, I’d call it, a “turd tax.” Just imagine, paying every time you go to the bathroom – GET OUT!

And now they want to re-institute a tax on your phone use. Up until a couple of years ago, the phone companies were collecting UT off your bills, but they found there was no law that really allowed them to do that, so they refused to continue until municipalities all over California rewrote their city code to allow this TAKING. The city of Chico is currently updating their ordinance, but because it’s a TAX INCREASE, it has to go before the voters. 

Wake up Snuffy, that’s YOU! 

They need to get two thirds approval from the voters to get this tax on your phone. You need to ask yourself, “what will I get?” That’s not greedy, it’s called, “survival”. 

The answer is, “nothing.” They want more money, but all we hear from Downtown is lay-offs and cuts to services. They want this money just to pay their pension obligations – YOU WON’T GET ANYTHING! But they will continue to retire at 50 on on 70 – 90 percent of their highest years’ salary, including overtime.  These people will live among us on their $100,000 + pensions, and continue to drive up the cost of everything from housing to gas to meat and eggs. 

Those of you who qualify for this Utility Tax rebate have an opportunity to go Downtown and show them what you think of this TAX INCREASE. 

I’ll be waiting until I get my bill for April usage from PG&E, then I’m going down to the Finance Office and get my money back. Anybody cares to join me, I’ll keep you posted. 




Taxing matters

9 Apr

I want to keep reminding everybody – it’s almost time to apply for your Utility Tax rebate.  You will need your bills – PG&E and Cal Water. They also want to see a copy of the first page of your tax returns – I always black out the ssn’s.  The forms should be available by the end of this month on the city website.  If you have any questions, direct them to the following city of Chico e-mail address:


or call 879-7300.

I’m not sure about the amounts, but I think a family of four is in at just over $40,000 a year, and so on. I have not seen the requirements lately, because they don’t post this stuff on the city website until the last minute, and as soon as the  deadline comes around, they take it off. I think they should have to post this information all year round, but let’s face it – they don’t want you to know about it. They want to keep YOUR money to pay THEIR salaries. Be sure to tell them, you think this info should be on that website 365 days a year – why isn’t it?

$taff wants your money. They  have already got council to approve an initiative on the November ballot that will re-institute a five percent tax on  your cell phone, and add a five percent tax to your home phone. Show them now what you think of this grab.

I’m hoping for a happy little posse to go down to the city building with me – remember what Arlo Guthrie said at the end of Alice’s Restaurant? Well, I won’t quote, because it would get me another round of “homophobe!” from my creepy peanut gallery. The gist of it was, it’s better to confront the establishment as a group than just one lone harpy. So, let’s get our little mob up and go down there – the excitement might loosen my purse strings, and I might be up to buying the first round at Shuberts! Wooo-woo!

Let’s yak it up some more this weekend at the Tea Party Tax Day Rally – set up for Sunday, April 15, at City Plaza. Again, Wooo-woo!