Monday, March 3, 2014

Yes, the City of Sierra Madre Really Does Have the Highest Utility Taxes in California

Sierra Madre has, overall, the highest utility taxes in the State of California. They are not just high, they are shockingly high. We will be talking about this a lot in the run up to April's election. With fourth man Noah Green's campaign having ground to what is pretty much a halt, the three new City Councilmembers are already for all intents and purposes elected. Which leaves only the fate of Measure UUT in question.

Today we are posting two charts from a report called Utility User Tax Facts, which was prepared in August of 2013 by a website called CaliforniaCityFinance.com (link). The first chart, which I've posted just above, shows the range of utility tax rates charged, and from all across California. To find Sierra Madre on this graphic, you would need to look all the way to the far right hand side of the chart. At 10% we would appear to be among those taxed at the very highest rates in the state.

And had City Hall ever taken advantage of the 12% utility tax option as Mayors Buchanan and Walsh had hoped to do, you can see by this graphic that Sierra Madre would have literally been "off the chart."

So, you ask, how can we tell for certain that the City of Sierra Madre truly does have the highest utility taxes in California? Because you do know that there actually is a city that beats our 10% UUT rate by a full percentage point. That would be Culver City and yes, they do have an 11% UUT rate. In the categories that they do tax at this extremely high rate, they are reigning the utility tax kings. Even we can't touch that. Though we could have had we gone with that 12% rate Walsh and Buchanan wanted.

Using the MuniServices UUT tracker (link), we can identify exactly what the utility tax categories are in Culver City. Here are their numbers:

Culver City
Telephone (includes Intrastate, Interstate, Int'l, Wireless) - 11%
Electricity - 11%
Natural Gas - 11%
CATV - 11%
Water - 11%

Sierra Madre doesn't have an 11% utility user tax. Again, ours is mainly 10%. So how can we be the highest in the state, you ask? Here are our numbers:

City of Sierra Madre
Telephone (includes Wireless, Intrastate, Interstate, Int'l) - 10%
CATV - 10%
Electricity - 10%
Natural Gas - 10%
Water - 8%
Sanitation (sewers) - 8%
Solid Waste (garbage) - 10%

As you can see, while Culver City taxes five utility categories, the City of Sierra Madre taxes seven. Or every possible utility that can be taxed. This is how we maintain our position as the City that taxes its residents more for utilities than any other in California. We tax for two full extra classifications, and when combined that is more than enough to keep us at #1 in the most taxed for utilities category.

If you refer to the "Cities and Counties With UUTs" chart I've included above, you will get to witness two more interesting facts that will help to highlight just how extreme utility taxes in Sierra Madre are right now. For both residents and our largely at-risk small businesses as well.

In the category of sewers, only 4% of California's population is charged a utility tax. Out of the 154 cities taxing utility usage, just 13 of them do so for the use of city sewers. We are one of them.

And where we are extra special is in the 10% utility tax we charge for garbage. Only 1% of the residents in this state are socked with a utility tax for garbage removal. We are one of only ten cities doing that.

One other category where we are especially uncommon is water. While the chart shows that 21% of all California residents get hit with utility taxes on water, we are still in a special class. Ask yourself this. How many of those 83 cities that charge a utility tax in this category do so on water they themselves are selling to their residents?

In other words, the City of Sierra Madre taxes the exact same water that it sells to its customers. Our City Hall is working both ends of the transaction. I can't imagine there are that many cities capable of doing that.

Why are our utility taxes so high, and why is the City forcing us to endure a do-over UUT vote this April? After all, we did vote ourselves some utility tax relief in 2012, and overwhelmingly so. Which, when you think about it, also makes City Hall's do-over Measure UUT vote an unacknowledged attempt to raise utility taxes 25% in 2015.

City employee pensions could be one reason, and certainly benefits such as health care would be another. Sierra Madre, a city of less than 11,000 people, has a municipal government that apparently believes it needs to run its employee compensation affairs like the City of Los Angeles. This could be why City Hall failed to negotiate good deals for we the taxpayers with our city employee unions, and in the final result gave them among the richest benefit packages in the state.

This also clearly contributes to our having the highest utility taxes in California. This despite what the two pro-UUT City Council candidates holding our Police Department and library hostage have been telling you.

But that is a topic for another day. As one person posting on The Tattler commented last week, this pig is just too good to eat at one sitting.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

56 comments:

  1. Vote NO! on Measure UUT.

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    1. the UUT has nothing to do with the SMPD and the Library - why do those running or elected keep spinning nonsense and misinformation?

      this is a repeating pattern with the last few Councils.

      if we can't sustain a library, so be it - the shuttle runs to the Pasadena library and while I frequent the library and enjoy it, it's been a scare tactic from previous Councilmembers Stockley and Buchanan that unless we do things that are pro development (which happens to benefit their employers directly), we will lose the library.

      what we all need to understand when we hear that the library and public services are in danger unless we support the UUT, it's a lie - plain and simple.

      Walsh and Harabedian kept the lie alive and now we have Goss and Green spewing the same lines

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    2. The UUT is meant to pay for salaries and benefits. In a few years the entire budget will be for salaries and benefits. The City's next step will be special assessment districts to pay for Police, Fire, Library, Roads and Sewer maintenance, and Lighting. Hold on to you wallet because your property taxes are going to go up at least a thousand dollars a year. Plus there will be an annual increase because of inflation.

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    3. we should be all that surprised that the Council is screwing around and then having to raise our utlity taxes - we elected two Councilmen that were employed by utility companies and all they ever did was to push utility issues and development which benefited their employers

      but heck, Sierra Madre residents can be proud, we are first in something!

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  2. Thanks to the Tattler for bringing all this to our attention. Its often hard to connect the dots on these things. After the water rate increases were passed using the prop 218 method whereby if you don't vote it gets counted as a yes vote, this time we will have a real vote of the people. Hopefully, Sierra Madre residents will wake up to what's going on here and what's the real reason for needing more revenues: ever higher salaries and benefits for union employees. Because two of the city council candidates, Goss and Green are in favor of further taxes, we are shown the mindset that will lead to other opportunities for expanding city government and the need for still higher taxation should they get elected. It never stops. City government and salaries will exapand in direct proportion to the amount of money given to it.

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    1. I'm still confused on how Green and Goss are qualifed. Green says he's a lawyer and that's all we need to know and he's only lived here for a couple years and Goss teaches political science at a city college, which why do we need a theory guy - those who can't do teach?

      I'd rather see the Council at 4 members - if they get a 2/2 vote - they stay in a locked room until the reach an informed and sound decision

      The realtor crowd keeps wanting a 5 person Council cause they know that we'll always have candidates like Goss, Green, Harabedian, Walsh, Mosca, Moran, Buchanan, Doyle, Stockley (etc) to where the majority is dominant with pro development mindsets and agendas.


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    2. jeez, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people who would take less money for many of the jobs in city governments but those in government can't be fired or held to the same standards that us in the public workforce are held to

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    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    4. Somebody is having a not nice day.

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  3. Over 1,000 Sierra Madre households voted no on the water rate increase by mailing in a Prop 218 ballot. That represents approximately 2,000 actual votes. As you know, while Prop 218 prohibits everyone from voting, this April's election is open to all. In a city where only 30% will actually cast a ballot this year, those 2,000 votes is an unbeatable majority.

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    1. I will vote NO on the UUT and scratch out Goss and Green from my ballot

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    2. yeah but how many of those will blindly vote for Goss or Green

      what's depressing is that by default, one of those will be elected

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    3. I figure there are about 600 Yellow Dog Dirts in Sierra Madre. As in they'd vote for a yellow dog if the Buchanans or Morans told them to.

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    4. Please don't insult yellow dogs by associating them with Goss and Green.

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    5. Green Goose?

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  4. Vote no on UUT
    Please

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    1. Done deal. 3 votes NO.

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  5. Elaine Aguilar, Sierra Madres city manager came from Glendale. Glendale and Pasadena are run a lot alike especially in the pension department. Mr. Tattler, you have shown us the problem. Elaine Aguilar is running Sierra Madre like LA CITY, you are so right, their in lies the problem. I wonder if she is fulfilling the contract she was hired under. Reading her contract would be very interesting, especially the failure to perform clause. Oh, do you think they even have a failure to perform clause in that contract? It sure seems that many SM employees show great respect to her, wonder how many employees she has let go and how many she has hired? Wonder if she let some go only to hire or promote her best followers? So many questions about how this city has been run and taxed. Who is the city manager really working for, doesn't feel like us home owners now does it?

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    1. she's fully supported by the realtors and that is all that matters in SM

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  6. Goss and Green run in the same circles. Those circles have a lot of contact with SM's city manager. They have functions together and lunch some times. Just look at the Chamber of Commerce, look at the members and who the president is. A lot of tax money has been spent on what the Chamber wants not on what the tax payers want, you know, things like down town improvements, the street fair just to name a couple. I am not voting for more taxes and especially not voting for tax me Green.

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    1. our Chamber had the brilliant idea to bring in food trucks to compete with our restaurants

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    2. Green jumped into the "in" circle as soon as he moved into town so he could be somebody amongst us "townies"

      I'm sort of sick of those who run that tout a volunteer resume of profile organizations, always as management and never as an unsung hero

      too many wannabees running for Council

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  7. Noah Green has nothing to hide.

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    1. that's what he said but then he takes down his junior high pics

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    2. Noah's campaign is a total mess. Gives you a good idea what kind of city councilman he'd make.

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    3. It's been a very long time since Mr. Green has seen a junior high.
      He's supposed to be an adult.

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    4. I think he wore his birthday suit the day he turned 35.

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  8. Uh, Sierra Madre voters!!!!!!!! ATTENTION, PLEASE!!!!!

    Candidates for your City Council are in FAVOR of..(they want to tax you more) INCREASING THE UUT even more!
    DUH, people.

    Two Candidates have publically stated they are in favor of this INCREASED UUT TAX....they want you, the "townies" the dumb public to vote for them:
    They are"
    GOSS AND GREEN.....they are enemies of your wallet.

    Two candidates want you to VOTE NO on the UUT
    DELMAR and ARIZMUNDI

    What the hell else do you need to know?????? VOTE NO ON UUT and VOTE FOR ONLY DELMAR AND ARIZMUNDI

    SIMPLE....you bet it is!!!!!

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  9. we have the highest utility rates and yet so much to show for it - aren't we lucky?

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  10. The city never shares this kind of information with us. I had no idea that only very few cities charge utility taxes for garbage and sewers. This on top of what are already very high tax rates is just wrong. The lack of transparency makes it worse.

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  11. you right john Crawford...

    city hall has it head right up its sewer....

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  12. UUT, property tax, and utility rates all go together. Culver City pays very high rates, but very low property tax rates. We actually pay higher than typical property tax rates as well. But if we raised property taxes, we shouldn't need higher UUT rates.

    All cities have a pension funding problem. Most of them are just delaying figuring out how to fund it till later. Because we pay our police directly, we aren't able to delay figuring it out as much.

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    1. So this really is about health care benefits and pensions? Not all that other stuff we are being told?

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    2. Honestly, it's about the police. And the library. Really.

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    3. And services. Don't forget services.

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    4. Remember, we're a full service city. Except for the pool. Wait, except for the pool and parks maintenance. Wait, except for the pool, parks maintenance and janitorial.

      Wait, maybe we're not a full service city.

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    5. The city heavily subsidized the pool. Not that waterworks is running it, the city gets money and the pool is open year round and no subsidy. Perhaps all the departments should be run like that.

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    6. Didn't we contract out building inspection or some such, too?

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    7. We should contract out city hall. Keep the PD, keep the library. Boot the bureaucrats.

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    8. 4:50, what a great idea.

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  13. If you don't want to negotiate for lower pensions and lower wages, then it is about all that other stuff, because once you agree to pay a certain amount, then you either have to raise more money to pay for other thing or cut other things.

    Every city is cutting back on everything else in order to pay for pensions (or they are delaying those cuts). Paying attention now is a good idea.

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    1. We are a small city. Asking us to fund these kinds of things is crazy. It is like we are being held hostage by our own employees.

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    2. I don't get why our city staff has just kept growing larger. Our population numbers are far more stable than that would lead you to think.

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  14. Isn't it Glendale that is circulating a petition to get rid of their UUT?

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    1. Heh. Yeah, that is going on. The city should be grateful it is only going down to 6%. There are tax revolts against utility taxes in this state that could bring the number down to 0%. And then wouldn;t they be sad.

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    2. Good for them!!It is going to take more than a petition , however,for us to crawl out from under this mess!Our only hope is for more exposure of our City's deceitful and larcenous actions towards it's citizens!We my neighbors are being had!

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    3. People who are against Measure UUT don't love Sierra Madre enough.

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    4. Tax Me! I'm not worthy!

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  15. We can eliminate the UUT, but are people aware of what that means? We have no tax revenue from our business district and the state and county take the rest. We need to be realistic, we can't have our own police department without paying for it. I am for contracting out and other drastic cuts to eliminate the UUT. Why don't we close the library, every city around us has one that residents can utilize. Only a small percentage of residents use the library and closing it will save us just shy of $1,000,000. Seems too many people on this webpage want their cake and to eat it to, if you are really for tax reform, lets cut the government to its basic services, the library isn't one of them.

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    1. I thought the UUT increase in 2008 was to fund emergency services? Isn;t that what those UUT Oversight Committees kept an eye on all those years? Has the library taken on disaster preparedness as well?

      Hardly anyone wants to get rid of the library. What is offensive here is funding some of the highest city employee benefit packages in the state. Keep the library, rein in the giveaways.

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    2. It ain't the library. It's the retirement benefits. The city got us a bad deal. Vote NO! on Measure UUT.

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  16. The best way to keep city hall and the council honest and accountable is to make sure they don't have any more funding than they absolutely need. Vote NO. On UUT.

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  17. I think Bart Doyle, he of the El Monte Titan scandal among other famously bad things, has 2 Noah Green signs up outside his house.
    He's probably hoping for new recruits in the jacuzzi.

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    1. Makes sense. Bart has recruited some of the weakest and most unqualified City Council candidates this town has ever seen. Noah fits.

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    2. Bart collects wounded souls, and uses them.

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