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.