Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 22, 2015

Exercise in utility

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

One interesting thing that came up as part of last Wednesday’s City Council meeting, which was sort of a budget workshop (good watching for anyone that was a general overall understanding about the City’s budget) is that one of the items of revenue that the City could be taking is, but is not, is around utility users taxes.

Essentially it was reported last week that the City of Alameda’s ordinances around utility uses is around 20 years old and so it doesn’t take into account some technology, like cellular use, and therefore the City is unable to collect taxes that could go into the General Fund to help bring in some much needed revenue.

It sounded like at least two members of the City Council (Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft and Frank Matarrese), probably more, would be interested in working toward updating these ordinances.  According to City Staff to update these ordinances which would then either add a tax or collect a tax would require a vote of the electorate.

The good news — if you are the City trying to get more revenue to the General Fund — is that for taxes that go toward direct municipal services that the threshold is 50% + 1 as opposed to the percentage required for parcel taxes which is 2/3.

Hopefully this is something that the City Council will move on pretty quickly in order to rectify “lost” revenue.  It will be interesting to see if this will be able to get unanimous support from our City Council.

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11 Comments

  1. How would such a tax be collected and from whom?

    Comment by Denise Shelton — April 22, 2015 @ 8:02 am

  2. Well, we do have cell towers in town, so perhaps you would tax the company that maintains the tower by volume of calls, then that company would tax the individual cell companies that use that tower , who in turn would tax you and me , according to our usage of that tower .

    Comment by Not A Alamedan — April 22, 2015 @ 8:53 am

  3. From Ballotopedia:

    The rate of a UUT is set by the city in which it is levied. UUT’s can be imposed:

    As a special tax, earmarked for a specific purpose.
    As a general tax to be used for a variety of municipal service needs at the discretion of the city council.
    The tax is levied by the city, and then collected by the relevant utility as a part of its regular billing procedure. The utility then sends the tax it has collected on behalf of the city to the city.

    And

    When California cities realized that the wording of their UUT ordinance, by tying which utilities are covered by the tax to the FET’s definition, did not allow them to extend their UUT to charging the tax on cell phone usage. Since cell phone usage is becoming more common, even replacing landline use, especially for younger people, cities feared loss of UUT revenues.

    As a result, a number of city councils began putting before voters ballot measures to change the ordinance defining which telecommunications services could be taxed with their local UUT so that they could tax cell phone usage.

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 22, 2015 @ 8:57 am

  4. In other places where I’ve lived, the UUT has appeared as a line item on my cell phone bill.
    In Oakland the carrier collects the tax and remits it to the city (at a 7.25% rate).

    Comment by AK — April 22, 2015 @ 10:00 am

  5. My cell phone bill shows “alameda telecom utility tax” $3.48

    Comment by Al P — April 22, 2015 @ 10:37 am

  6. How, exactly, is it “good news” that it is easier to raise taxes?

    Comment by ummm... — April 22, 2015 @ 10:50 am

  7. I would say it is pretty much impossible. I have a 415 area code, how would they know which city to tax…we have 4 cell phone lines but 2 are in El Salvador. You can tax the towers but who is going to collect from people just traveling through. They obviously need to bring in more business and tax them…but they don’t want that either. Maybe they can put a toll on the bridges and tunnels?…that I guess would be the oblivious benefit of being a island…but would be totally ridiculous. We will get a tax tomorrow on water and sewer charges because they want everyone to conserve then they make less money. I suggest taxing old people for exercising because they may live longer? We are changing our lights to save energy and conserve…we buy low fuel cars to help…we exercise, don’t smoke to be more healthy…let them tax soda because I don’t drink soda…but I guess next they will tax milk because cows fart to much….they tax me now because my house is bigger then my neighbors house…and if they got down being more personal that may or may not be true…we live in a mobile society so taxing cell phones just won’t work…when the mayor is out there drinking at Rockwall Winery…ask her and tax her wine…she doesn’t want new business, changes or more houses in Alameda but what is her plan…buy her a double so she can tell you about it…she has no plan she can’t even walk from City Hall and to the Market Place which are like 3 or 4 blocks away…Trish get off your tush and walk a couple of blocks and don’t tax my cell phone. You may need to give me a call to get a ride back to your office.

    Comment by Jake. — April 22, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

  8. #7 It is by billing address

    Comment by AK — April 22, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

  9. Do we have cellphone towers in Alameda? From the reception level, I didn’t think so; thought they were banned by the height ordinance. They need to spend the money on more towers if they collect it, or it’s taxation without representation (service).

    Comment by Linda on Otis St. — April 22, 2015 @ 5:18 pm

  10. Utility User Tax was considered by the City of Alameda 9 or 10 years ago. If I remember correctly, the reason that it was not pursued at the time was because the tax was being legally challenged in one or more of the cities had implemented the tax. The tax would be by billing address.

    Comment by dc — April 22, 2015 @ 5:21 pm

  11. I love that system someone has a dollars and everyone else want a piece of it ? sound like socialism to me

    Comment by mijoka — May 3, 2015 @ 8:17 am


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