Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sierra Madre: Despite Your Votes to the Contrary, Are You Still Paying 10% Utility Tax Rates?

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The residents of Sierra Madre have twice voted themselves a Utility User Tax (UUT) cut. The first time was in 2012, and the second 2014. This had to be done twice because, as you likely know, City Hall does not give up its tax money easily. One vote apparently wasn't enough for them, and two might not be, either.

As I am sure you already know, the city just might try to raise utility taxes again in 2016. To 12% no less, highest in all of California. And after they fail to win that vote, in 2018, 2020 and 2022 as well. They are stubborn like that. But then again, so are we. What choice do we have? It's not like City Hall really cares to hear from anyone who doesn't want to give them more money.

As you might also be aware, and we did cover this momentous event here on The Tattler, July 1st was a very special day (link). Because the citizens of Sierra Madre voted themselves tax cuts in both 2012 and 2014, that was the day utility taxes actually started going down here. From 10% to 8%.

Making it the first time ever in the history of the Foothill Village that taxes actually decreased. That never happened here before. No tax has ever gone down in this city. Not once.

Or at least that is what we had believed to be true. I mean, the vote of the people is sacred, and no government official, elected or hired, would ever dare to mess with that, right?

Well, unfortunately that might not be the case. At least not in Sierra Madre.

One couple in town had been looking closely at their utility bills to see what effect the utility tax cut was having on their monthly cash outlay. They live on a fixed income, and the money they thought they'd save through voter approved utility tax relief would have an important effect on their budget.

Well-compensated city officials might not have to worry about saving money, but many people who actually live here do. There are quite a few fixed income people in Sierra Madre. In some ways they are this city's forgotten citizens.

So what our couple noticed is that the UUT cut was not making any difference whatsoever in their monthly utility bill costs. Not in July, and their August bills also showed no effect of these voter approved tax cuts. They were not happy about this and, sensing something is wrong, began to make phone calls.

One company that immediately responded to their request for tax information was Verizon. They are a big corporation that provides both cellular and land-line phone service here, so obviously they follow the utility tax requirements of Sierra Madre. The law forces them to collect such taxes.

Shockingly, what Verizon told our concerned couple is that as far as they know utility taxes in Sierra Madre are still 10%. Nobody ever informed them that tax rate changes had been made here, so that is the rate they continued to collect in both July and August. Not 8%.

Verizon even sent our couple detailed accounting sheets for all taxes attached to their phone bills. It is a long list. And as you will plainly see, Sierra Madre utility tax rates did not change. Or at least nobody told Verizon that they did, because the below statements show July and August utility tax rates are still 10%.

Here are three statements Verizon sent to our concerned Sierra Madre couple. The first one covers the month of June, 2015. Here Verizon identifies Sierra Madre's UUT at 10%, which is correct.


However, for the months of July and August, when the UUT rate here had legally fallen to 8%, the Verizon statements for those two months clearly show the rate remaining at 10%.                                                                  

And that is what our concerned couple found to be very alarming. Look to the right side of the statements, eight lines down from the top.



Remember, utility taxes in Sierra Madre cover a long list of categories (link). Everything from telephones (landline, cellular, intrastate, interstate and international) to cable TV, electricity use, wifi, gas, water, garbage collection and even sewers. This stuff does add up. And if City Hall somehow neglected to tell all of those folks to start collecting less in utility taxes, as directed by the voters, then some pretty serious laws have been broken.

Obviously an investigation is in order. Along with some refunds.

sierramadretattler.com

52 comments:

  1. well, you know, Mod, City Hall is just overwhelmed and understaffed and they just haven't had the time to notify all those utilities about the change in the tax. And, you know, it's really just the cost of a latte a day, and it is unreasonable for the residents to expect to keep their own hard earned money. Geez, give them a break at City Hall! they are trying really hard to do their jobs.

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    Replies
    1. Just call City Hall today to find out where and when the refunds will be doled out. They will receive the overcharged money, Elaine should have all the answers.

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    2. Question: Is this another example of incompetence or just thievery?
      Answer :probably both.
      How sad it is to say of our City Management that we expect either incompetence or theft.
      Do you think that they would have made the same "error" if taxes had been actually raised?
      Where is the City Council in this?
      Sitting on their hands.
      Just how much of this incompetence do they need to see before they act ? Aguilar is ultimately responsible.
      This is what happens when you appoint incompetent,unqualified and politically motivated people to a job .Yes this was a mistake made by a previous Council,but the current Council needs to deal with it -pronto !

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  2. It feel like they do their jobs when it's time to collect from us but not when it's time to give back to us. Take from, yes, give back, no.

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  3. This needs to be investigated. How many laws do you think this breaks? The city of now open to a lawsuit.

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  4. We are not paying Sierra Madres employees enough. If we payed them better salaries their work would be better. Maybe their pensions are not enough either. It is said, better pay better work, and they are proving that.

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    Replies
    1. I think this is because of all the work they have to do on the Huck Finn Fishing Derby. It kept them from notifying people like Verizon.

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  5. 6:15 is so right, who do we call for an investigation, not our local PD that's for sure.

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    Replies
    1. Not unless you give them some potato salad first.

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    2. "It's been handed over to the detectives bureau"

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  6. I think that if you are on a fixed income in Sierra Madre you are expected to sell your house, move out and make room for a McMansion. That way the city can collect more taxes and employees get better benefits.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly, I feel the same way! Thanks for making the statement.

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    2. You're invisible, that's for sure. Once Sierra Madre started getting more up market, the income averages were skewered by some big salries moving into town. Everybody's forgotten what kind of town this really was; low key, modest incomes, and not desirable enough for over-development. Then they ran out of room elsewhere.

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  7. What water does city hall drink? Maybe they don't drink our water, maybe they are still drinking the Cool Aid from way back when. What is the City Attorney's office drinking? Aren't the attorneys suppose to see that things are kept legal? Remember, the best attorney wins in a court of law, truth does not matter, how you bend the law does.

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  8. City staff didn't have time to notify because they were too busy spending 700 hours on the Mt Wilson Trail Race

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    Replies
    1. Don't forget the parade.

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  9. There are only so many hours in the day.

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  10. ##***!!!##, Now I have to take the time and go check MY uut charges from the past few months. I'm tired of babysitting this city hall. Why can't they get their act together? Maybe they are incompetent or just shrewd at adding a few more dollars to the city coffers. Time to clean house!

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    Replies
    1. My Verizon bill looks nothing like that, and I agree 7:00, now I have to calculate everything. So the only bill that I know is accurate is Athens, because they sent us a letter announcing the change.

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    2. Those are the sheets Verizon sent after the residents here asked to see all of the tax details. It is a transparency effort.

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  11. I'm guessing that when first started the UUT was not put in place for a time and that they are now making /catching up on back money owed.

    Benefit of a doubt.

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    Replies
    1. A little bit of a stretch. The UUT sunset was scheduled to begin on July 1. Nothing about any overtime period.

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    2. Give me a break, how many years have we had the UUT? They have had time to implement proper changes. Funny how the City can get the new water increase rates set in place for July first. Oh ya, that would be to their benefit!

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    3. Back money owed? You mean they've been kindly extending some or all of us credit for years? No, don't think so.

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    4. Back money owed: Better stated as over charged for two months money, How does one get their over payment refund ?

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  12. Maybe the City Manager issued an UUT Executive Order that we don't know about.

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  13. Much ado about nothing, well 11 cent actually. Yes I know pennies add up but 11 cents?
    You may recall the phone company is very slow. When I applied for my discount it took 3 months after being notified for them to apply it to my bill.

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    Replies
    1. Telephones are just one of many categories shbject to the utility tax.

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    2. Why the he double toothpicks do we have to "apply" to get the tax reduction we're legally entitled to?

      Does any attorney want to file a class action lawsuit on this? Yikes.

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    3. 11 cents cuts both ways. If it's so little the City shouldn't miss it, either.

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    4. Much ado @ 8:04,
      Are you from city hall doing "damage control"? It's 2% of every Verizon uut collected from the Verizon user's in Sierra Madre for the months of July and August. Believe me, those pennies will total more than 11 cents.

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    5. Yes I'm sure a class action lawyer will jump all over it.There's 10's of dollars at stake possibly 100's

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    6. Question for you. If there is so little money in utility taxes, why did the city fight so hard to keep the UUT at 10%?

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    7. Class action lawsuit will go 6, 7 figures. Hope the City has the cash set aside in the petty cash box.

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  14. Regarding the monthly charges: Is the UUT charge the same as a Franchise fee charge?

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    1. The franchise fee is what SM charges the utility to do business in SM. The utility passes that charge to us.
      Just another TAX the city charges us.
      Crap by any other name still smells like crap.

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  15. The federal government... The state government... And the cities, Sierra madre city hall to be specific, has clearly shown that they want to make and enforce their own illegal practices. Who is going to fix it? Vote Donald Trump for 2016

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    Replies
    1. The Stupid is strong with that one (8:58).

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  16. Just another day in The 'Dre.

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    Replies
    1. Another day, another overcharge.

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  17. Was this just sloppy work do you think? Or done deliberately thinking nobody would notice?

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    Replies
    1. To quote Hillary Clinton:
      "At this point, what difference does it make?"

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    2. To the people who had to vote twice to get the tax hike they deserved? A lot.

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  18. What you have are 'drug addicts' at the controls of the city of Sierra Madre it's high time to start making personnel changes and that includes City Council representatives as well. You already know what your going to get every time with the batch that's running this city down hill.

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  19. I've had plenty of fights with Verizon - could it be their mistake and not the city's and they didn't heed the message? Just a thought.

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  20. Will this hit Susan Hederson's rag do ya think? Does she do any kind of investigative reporting?

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    Replies
    1. I've heard she has a hard hitting report this weekend on budgie care.

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    2. Makes sense. She publishes a great cage liner.

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  21. If true, it should be costly to Elaine. But it won't. CC is in her pocket. The Mayor loves her and he will excuse her because they don't have enough help. On the other hand, the other UUT's are not affected. They seem to be the right charge on my bills. So maybe it's all Verizon's fault. Even so, Elaine should have caught it.

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  22. Yes, you're correct, the mayor does love her and shows his favoritism. He's a shill for the City and doesn't represent the people.

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