It’s almost time to get your Utility Tax Rebate

It’s been a merciful winter, and utility bills have been down. And revenues are down at the City of Chico.

According to city Finance Director? Jennifer Hennessy’s latest budget projections, Utility Tax revenues will be down 1.5 percent for the first quarter of 2012.

Utility tax is one of the city’s top three sources of revenue, along with property tax and sales tax, bringing in over $6 million a year.

UT is a poor tax – a tax on the poor – the city takes 5 percent of a person’s TOTAL bill, even if they are eligible for programs like CARE, FERA, LIRA, or Lifeline. It’s really stealing – ask yourself, just exactly what service does the city provide in getting me my electricity, water, or phone? That’s right – NOTHING. But they make the rules around here, so, like Don Fanucci, they’re going to get their cut.

Gotta love that Sheriff of Nottingham bravado, don’t cha? What next – Ann Schwab beats up Gramma for a 5% cut of her Social Security check? Andy Holcombe shakes down a paraplegic for a wheel chair tax? Scott Gruendl threatens to take your kids away if you don’t pay a sneaker tax?

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you – right now the city of Chico has got an item scooting toward the (June? November?) ballot to raise the UT on your cell phone, and institute a new UT on your land line. They used to have a UT on your cell phone – it ran almost $5 a month for my family. Technology changed, apparently, and the wording in the tax law has become outdated, and the city stands to lose about $900,000 a year, according to City Mangler Dave Burkland, if we the suckers don’t pass a ballot initiative to tax ourselves on our phones.

My family has done everything we can to cut expenses, like so many others, we have less coming in, at the same time prices are going up. The city of Chico has no sympathy for the problems we face everyday – making decisions over whether or not to buy groceries? Has Ann Schwab had to decide whether or not she can afford a jar of peanut butter at $7.99?

Screw sacrifice – I been pouring over my grounds for a couple of years now Babee, you don’t even want to know what happens when Juanita runs out of cheap arabic coffee. Okay, I’ll tell you – ever hear that story about four guys on horseback?

I’m sorry, I get so overdramatic when I look at the city budget. What a mess, you really should read it. It’s like diving into your kid’s room instead of sitting out on the patio with a beer and saying, “get that mess cleaned up!” Yes, there’s a sandwich in there, a moldy sandwich, stuck to a plate, with a couple of shirts laying on it, and you need to get it out yourself. They will hide it because they know you’ll throw a big hissy fit and say, “Is this THAT SANDWICH! I told you to throw this away last time!”

Well, this time, you better throw it out yourself. As for the budget, here’s a few items that might catch the attention of the health inspector:

One moldy budget sandwich is a $434,000 expenditure for “Rehabilitation of Taxiway H and holding apron, and airport layout plan update for Chico Municipal Airport.”

Meaning, they slapped some asphalt on a runway and made a plan to do some more work and charged the taxpayers over $400,000, $21,000 of which was charged to the RDA. That means we pay back at least $60,000.

Here’s another stinker: $83,000 (another $20,000 of it from the RDA) for the “Evaluation and assessment of multiple airport facilities that will be vacated by Aero Union Corporation. The evaluation will identify the repairs and upgrades that are necessary to rehabilitate the properties to be suitable for leasing.”

$83,000 for $taffers to “evaluate and assess” repairs for an old abandoned building. Do you see the irony here? Aero Union left Chico because they got sick of the runaround from the city. The city of Sacramento threw out the welcome mat and cut the bullshit, and there Aero Union went. And here’s the city of Chico piling on more bullshit. Only we’re the ones picking up the dime.

And here’s an item that really sums up the scam the city is pulling on us – RDA is supposed to be used to prevent and clean-up blight and help stimulate neighborhoods economically. So, here we have $30,000 for a project to prevent “blight” at Stansbury House. You know, that neat old Victorian where they have events like ice cream socials a couple of times a year. Did you have any idea how that old crapper was pulling down the rest of that neighborhood? Yes, here it is:

$80,000 for a  “Building assessment to develop a budget and improvement strategy for publicly owned historical building.  Payment of funds will assist in the elimination of blight. The ultimate improvement of a publicly owned building will reduce deterioration and dilapidation in the project area.”

To “develop a budget.” Hmmmm.

So, this is why they need to tax us on our PG&E, water and phone bills, to pay for $taff to do crap like this. We might as well pay them to sit at their desk and play tiddly winks.  If you aren’t outraged, you need to put your hand in boiling water for 30 seconds.

If you are outraged, do what I do every year: save your utility billing paperwork and go to the city finance office in May to take your UT rebate. You very likely qualify – a family of four can make over $35,000 – I’m not sure on that figure, it might be as high as $45,000. You don’t have to be destitute to take back YOUR money. The forms should be available at the city website by the end of March, but I have had to e-mail the finance office the last couple of years to remind them. You should keep an eye on that. I’ll be sure to let everybody know.

When I’ve gone in over the past few years, I’ve asked the person at the desk, and they’ve told me – nobody goes in for this rebate, and I’m guessing at least a third of the households in the city qualify. We could certainly make a blip on their foggy radar if we all started going in to demand our rebate.

The least amount I’ve gotten back was about $35. I received an all-time high of about $103 one year, when we were living in a big old house with an ancient heat and air system. Sometimes I apply the money toward bills, sometimes I do something special with it. But it’s always worth that feeling of standing on my hind legs for a few minutes.

Hey, Shuberts is within blocks of the city building, do yourself a flavor!