Will the City Council Choose to Overtax Residents This Week?

(Photo by Micah Escamilla/The Sun)

On Tuesday July 24th at 6pm the City Council has the task of looking at the next years budget and the impacts of $120 to $150 Million in debt over the next ten years. There are a lot of tax ideas on the table and for the most part the city staff and the budget advisory committee have not advised any additional tax increases.

What the council chooses to do is always a surprise……

The scary thing is that even looking down the barrel of hundreds of millions of dollars in debt the current council seems to be spending money like drunken sailors. Most recently the massive 8% raise that Rialto Police Department got with a 2 year retro pay back wasn’t cheap. Early calculations put this raise at almost an additional Million Dollars a year (money we don’t have). There is no fund plan to replace equipment for these cops or to add additional officers to the streets as Rialto prepares to open a 2nd major retail development, we simply paid off the cops for some reason.

What is sad is the Fire Department and other city departments all are still waiting for their turn to get a hand out and sadly we’re not sure there is anything left.

Some of the taxes your council will be looking at adding to your bills are:

  • Sales Tax – Several cities impose a sales tax surcharge of 0.25% to 1.0% to help pay for public safety services. Local cities with such levies include Riverside,  and Menifee, among others. If the tax measure restricts the use of funds for a specific purpose such as public safety, then
    Proposition 13 requires a 2/3 super majority vote. This creates a high hurdle for passage,due to the absence of overwhelming popular support. To avoid the 2/3 vote requirement, some cities establish the tax measure as a general tax (so they can abuse and steal this money as they see fit) and commit to use the funds to maintain or enhance public safety (often with advisory votes). Sales taxes are the City’s largest revenue source for the first time in years, due to the completion of several retail projects (Rialto Marketplace) and the capture of sales taxes from the Medline Industries facility. The City forecasts that it will receive $16,231,000 in FY 18, a growth of $9,053,377 since FY 12. Medline Industries reported quarterly sales taxes to the City for the first time in June 2017 and the City projects full year returns of $4,400,000. The City agreed to rebate 50% of this amount to Medline as an incentive to relocate its point of sale to Rialto, so the net benefit to the General Fund will be $2,200,000. As the Renaissance Marketplace completes toward the end of FY 18, sales taxes should receive another boost of approximately $750,000 per year in FY 19.
  • Utility Users Tax – The City adopted the Utility User Tax in 2003 as an 8% levy upon all utility consumption. This revenue projects for FY 18 at $13,890,500. On June 5, 2018, the City’s voters approved a permanent extension of this revenue source. This revenue has grown reliably by approximately $500,000 each year because of economic expansion, and may receive continuing boosts in the years ahead from new development (Niagara and Building 5/6). The principal risk (other than repeal) is the trend toward co-generation and legislative exemption of certain utilities from the payment of local taxes. Households are also “cutting the cord” and eliminating cable TV service and landline phone service, depressing those sources of utility tax income. This is now a permanent tax at 8% and is supposed to be reduced to 6% as promised after the passage of the tank farm tax. 
  • PERS Tax – In 1958, the City adopted Ordinance No. 414 creating a property tax surcharge to fund employee retirement. The City Council annually established the tax rate and collected the property tax. The rate ranged from a low of 0.1000 to a high of 0.1506, with a historical average of 0.1316. When voters approved the Utility Tax in 2003, the City Council did not abolish the tax, but simply set the rate to 0.0% each year thereafter. The City retains the authority to levy the tax. The current City Attorney opines that the City may use the revenues from the PERS Tax only to pay for benefits.
  • Residential Community Facilities District – A Residential Community Facilities District imposes a special tax upon the owners of new residential units offsetting the cost of public services, ideally producing a neutral fiscal impact to the City. Generally, residential development costs the City more in services than it provides in revenue, thus the special tax. The Developer of a new residential project approves the special tax and then passes it along to the homebuyer. The homebuyer considers this tax in the purchase decision.
  • Transient Occupancy Tax – Most cities in California levy a transient occupancy tax on short-term stays in local lodging facilities. Rates range from 4% to 15% statewide. Rialto’s rate is currently 9% of gross room revenues. Rialto does not have a significant lodging sector; however, developers propose two new hotels in the Renaissance Specific Plan and the City Council set high priorities for such development. Increasing the TOT rate may discourage these uses, and the City Council has reduced other development impact fees to incentivize the new hotels. An increase in the TOT requires a majority vote of the electorate at a general election. The current rate is 9% in Rialto.
  • Fire Protection District – A Fire Protection District provides a variant to the other forms of public safety taxes. A city may establish a Fire Protection District upon 2/3 voter approval – they are deemed special taxes under Proposition 13. The new district may levy an assessment as an ad valorem tax, a parcel tax, or other approved structures. The monies raised go directly to a special fund available only for fire protection
    services. These funds may supplant or supplement funding from other sources, including the General Fund, Community Facility District levies, and others. Ultimately, the new revenues from this structure release existing general fund revenues to support other services. The responsibility for managing the Fire Protection District typically resides with the City Council. The District could establish the tax at the full net cost of Fire Department (approximately $16 million) or some lesser amount. (This tax is levied on everyone, there are no special exemptions for Seniors or Low Income individuals)
  • Measure U – Adopted by voters in 2014, Measure U established a business license tax on fuel storage capacity. On November 4, 2014, Rialto voters approved a tax of up to $1.00 per cubic foot of liquid storage capacity for any wholesale liquid fuel storage business. The primary targets for the new tax were the businesses that operate the “tank farm” on Riverside Avenue, south of the I-10 Freeway. The businesses scheduled to pay the tax included, among others, Kinder Morgan, Tesoro, and Shell Oil. The tax did not apply to retail service stations. The City Council pledged to reduce the utility tax from 8% to 6% upon implementation of Measure U. On February 22, 2017, the Superior Court for the County of San Bernardino ruled in favor of the City of Rialto and determined that the tax was valid and enforceable. The plaintiff businesses then filed an appeal with the Appellate Court of the State of California. The parties expect to present the case to the Appellate Court in May 2018, with oral briefings approximately 6-9 months thereafter (late 2018 or early 2019). The City expects a decision before June 2019. Depending upon the outcome, either party could appeal to the California Supreme Court, lengthening the time before a final determination. The City holds approximately $22 million in escrow pending the court determinations. The annual revenue averages approximately $8 million. The pledge to reduce the Utility Tax by 2% reduces the annual revenue yield by approximately $3.6 million. (this tax was sold as the savior to our financial woes and now there are talks of settling with the tank farm operators making this entire effort a wash if the council were to keep their promise on reducing the Utility Users Tax).
  • Truck Transportation Fee – The BAC and the City Council have asked whether a fee can be levied upon truckers or trucking operations that burden City streets. The City would levy the fee on a per trip basis or some other logical driver using tracking technologies. The City Attorney opined that state and federal law likely prohibit a fee upon trucking for the use of City streets. A fee based upon weight may be permissible but the City could only impose the fee to recover permitting costs (and not generate revenue for public service costs). Based upon
    CA opinion, it does not appear to provide a significant revenue source except as a cost recovery mechanism for the regulatory costs. Keep in mind the Trash Fee (TAX) is completely legal. The city charges you a fee every month because trash trucks cause to much damage to the road. So the city can tax you but not the people responsible for the damage!!!! Also remember Burrtec has a 10 year contract with the city and single handedly funds the Mayors campaign efforts.
  • Code Enforcement – Cities often levy fines for non-compliance with property maintenance codes. Rialto issues administrative citations for code violations and collects a small amount of fines, penalties, and interest. The City Council directs Code Enforcement to obtain compliance, rather than collect revenue. Consequently, our implementation procedures routinely waive fines upon compliance. The City
    does collect out of pocket abatement costs. In 2015, staff proposed to levy additional costs for re-inspection costs but the City Council tabled the proposal for further clarification, again repeating the primary purpose of Code Enforcement. The City currently does not collect significant sums from code enforcement violations, primarily cost recovery for third party abatement costs.  The Staff Recommendation is that City Council revisit added costs for extraordinary Code Enforcement compliance issues, notably repeat offenders. BAC Recommends that the City Council add stronger provisions to the Rialto Municipal Code authorizing administrative citations to encourage compliance, seeking restitution from repeat offenders, and instituting procedures to resolve code violations expeditiously. Get ready for the hammer to drop!!!!
  • Street Sweeping Program – Most cities cite vehicles parked in areas scheduled for street sweeping. Throughout California, Regional Water Quality agencies are aggressively requiring cities to implement storm water remediation programs, and street sweeping programs implement this mandate. The City is developing the mechanics of a program to improve the efficiency of street sweeping. The City currently contracts with Burrtec for street sweeping services. Burrtec simply avoids parked cars, resulting in inefficient sweeping. The City must incur capital costs for signage installation, and recover its costs from fees. The goal of this program is compliance and neutral costs, and not primarily as a revenue generator. The City estimates the potential 1st year net revenue at $700,000.

So residents have to decide how much more taxes are you prepared to pay? How much more control are you willing to give and why are you allowing the council to act so recklessly with your money?

If you’re scared of talking to these people in public face to face then email them or call them. The only way they get the message is by knowing that there are others out there with questions!

MAYOR: DEBORAH ROBERTSON

drobertson@rialtoca.gov

(909) 873-8874

(909) 644-8520 Cell

MAYOR PRO TEM: ED SCOTT

edscott@rialtoca.gov

(909) 875-0653

(909) 746-7643 Cell

COUNCIL MEMBER: JOE BACA, JR.

jbaca@rialtoca.gov

(909) 820-2519

COUNCIL MEMBER: RAFAEL TRUJILLO

rtrujillo@rialtoca.gov

(909) 820-2525

(909) 562-2476 Cell

COUNCIL MEMBER:

ANDY CARRIZALES

acarrizales@rialtoca.gov

(909) 820-2525

(909) 586-2020 Cell

Planning Gina Gibson

ggibson@rialtoca.gov

(909) 421-7240

Robb Steel Development Services Director

rsteel@rialtoca.gov

(909) 820-8008

Ahmad Ansari Interm City Administrator

Office: (909) 820-2528 |

City Cell: (909) 644-2032 |

Email: aansari@rialtoca.gov

Travel and Transparency Remain Out of Control in Rialto

Rialto Police Department wants you to believe that they are concerned with providing money to keep your Police Department fully staffed. They went as far as to scare local residents into voting for a permanent tax this month to keep police services at their current levels.

This blogger would like to remind you of the following:

  • We have harped on out of control spending on travel.
  • We have told you that there is Zero transparency in the City of Rialto.
  • Outside of this blog NOBODY is reporting on or writing about Rialto.

At the June 12th city council meeting the city council approved

Request City Council to Approve a Travel and Training Request for
Lieutenant Dean Hardin to attend Senior Management Institute for Police
(SMIP) of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in the Estimated
Amount of $10,405.60, Budgeted in the Proposed Fiscal Year 2018/19
Budget.

As you can see from the photo above the estimate that Rialto Police Department submitted was from April 30th yet they are barley bringing this item forward on June 12th? The date of travel is July 7th, not sure about you but airline rates get more expensive as you wait to book your flight closer to the departure date. Don’t worry being frugal with tax dollars is a thing of the past now.

Literature that looks like it was copied on a machine from the 80’s state this is a training for Chief’s of Police. Are we spending over $15K to give a Lt. andance training so he can qualify for a promotion? Shouldn’t that be the burden of the employee not the Tax Payers?

“Chiefs must find new ways to address these issues and deliver a wide’r scope of services, often with fewer resources.”

Also this was stuck on the consent calendar meaning their was no discussion and very little input on why this travel expense was relevant in the 1st place. This must be why people like to work in Rialto they get to travel for FREE on your tax dollars.

Are you done wasting tax money on wasteful spending?

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Rialto’s Budget Advisory Committee Proposes to Bring Back PERS Tax

Look we don’t want to say we told you so but…. we did!

We told you it was only going to get worse and we told you that the people leading this city could care less how much people struggle and how expensive it already is to live in the Inland Empire. Yes the Police, Fire and City Staff want to squeeze every bit of money you have until you are sucked dry!

The video above is a portion of the Facebook Live we did at the last Budget Advisory Committee meeting. In this meeting a tax that was fought off years ago never went away and there are a lot of people on the committee that want to bring it back including Police and Fire union reps. The fire union thinks you will be ok with another tax because this one can’t be abused like the Utility Tax, Trash Road Fee and all the grant money that spills into the city. You see this money can only be used to Pay PERS, it wont cover all of it but will cover a portion of the massive $20 Million a year (growing by $1.5 Million a year).

So ask yourself, Are you ready for ANOTHER tax?

Hmm seems like we have been saying that a lot lately? We wonder if the people are going to wise up soon?

More taxes on the horizon are:

  • Increased gas taxes
  • Sales Tax
  • Fire Tax

Heck soon you will be taxed on the air you breath!

Rialto After the June Primary Elections

 

Anyone that felt like I did about the June 5th Primary here in Rialto probably said “why did I waste my time”.

City Hall, the Unions in this city and Table Rock Capital the company responsible for the massive water rate increases with nothing more than a few new water meter to show for it made a full court push to remove any accountability from the City Council to spend our money wisely.

The phone calls from prominent people living in Rialto were non stop and made this blogger very sad for Rialto’s future. The police and fire unions did everything in their power to make sure you were scared to tell the city that their reckless spending would not fly any longer.

What was worse were the calls from supporters the next day to fluff their feathers and show off!! The most disappointing one was long time resident Gretta Hodges who was swayed because someone named Mr Willson and Amy Crow said they would be fired if the measure did not pass. These two people who had no idea who would be let go used their power and influence to sway a person who was dead set against loosing the checks and balances of a 5 year sunset.

So I guess everyone is prepared for loss of control and higher taxes for the sake of other people who they don’t even know.

Bright spots after this election?

Jason Anderson beat District Attorney Ramos from his seat in office. Hopefully this means that the Public Integrity Unit will finally start doing their jobs and not allow dirty reckless politicians hide their laundry list of dirty deeds.

The Utility Tax can still be defeated in November as there will be a measure on the ballot to undo any tax that isn’t passed by 2/3 of the voters.

A measure to roll back harmful gas and car registration fees will be on the ballot giving taxpayers thousands of dollars back in their pockets.

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Common Sense Says No To Measure M

TheREAL FACTS About Measure M
  • Measure M is a tax increase. The 8% Rialto Utility Users Tax (UUT) was given to the city council and all they did is abuse the tax and waste time and money. Now to remove any responsibility to the voters they are giving themselves a permanent TAX increase FOREVER!!!!!!!
  • This levy on utility bills provides roughly $14 million in revenue per year. These funds go into the General Fund and are abused by the city. The mayor and council play games with your taxes and name buildings and parks after their political allies. The council needs this money to cover the MILLIONS in Lawsuits that they have single handily brought on Rialto Tax Payers.
  • To scare you into voting for this measure the city is using the old scare tactic of taking away police and fire services. Councilman Ed Scott has been Quoted saying that rialto police the bottom of the barrel.
    • The police never respond to complaints and are causing more problems then they solve. Rialto Police are famous for the drive by they do when they respond to a call. This consists of cruising by the location at 45 MPH. Rialto Fire spends more time outside the city under a mutual aide agreement than they do inside the city. Also they are preparing to stack a Fire Tax on top of this one next year. ALL WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT!
    • Reducing the Public Works Department by 11 positions, will make little change since the city looks horrid as it is so nothing will change.
  • Had it not been for dedicated people like us the Council was HELL bent on charging this tax on all seniors!
  • Rialto Fire charges annual fees to pick you up in an emergency leading to more people avoiding calling for help and risking further injury by waiting or self transport.
  • Rialto charges you a TRASH TAX because BURRTEC trucks are too heavy for Rialto streets but we can’t charge BURRTEC for it because they are political allies of Mayor Robertson.
  • $100,000 a year is paid so that our elected leaders can travel all over the country on your DIME.
  • Even if this measure passes Rialto will still be bankrupt in 4 years. The only difference is you will be stuck with a Utility Users Tax that NEVER ENDS!!!!!
  • The people signed onto this TAX are doing so to keep the flow of your tax money into their pockets. A small handful have been bullied into signing on to this tax. Multiple people have reached out saying that the Mayor said get on board or else.

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Once Again Fontana Leaders Are Able To Pull Off What Rialto Can’t

City council and the Mayor have told us Rialto is never getting anything nicer than a Stater Brothers and there seems to be no plans for a decent regular market North of Baseline for the foreseeable future. The common reason that is given are Rialto’s Demographics not sure what they mean by that and I would hate to speculate but………. From what we have been told there are to many people here that don’t make a lot of money.

What we find hilarious is the fact that we never run into elected officials anywhere in Rialto but man you sure do bump into them outside the city. Not to mention the normal middle class family spends about $500 a month or more at stores outside of Rialto. To add insult to injury just one mile outside of Rialto in the same area as the new Renaissance development is a Sprouts shopping center. Sprouts is a healthy organic store that works to provide local produce whenever possible. Their produce is better than any other store in Rialto now and in most cases much cheaper.

So what do you do when your elected officials spend thousands of dollars traveling to far away locations and eating and hobnobbing with rich developers all on your dime? What do you do when they promise you we did everything we could?

The problem is they only work hard for items that will help them out financially look at the companies that get the most attention in Rialto. Burttec gets a 10 year no back out contract plus we will tax the citizens for the damage your trucks do to the city streets. What does the Mayor get in return? Campaign Contributions and Burttec holds private parties and campaign fundraisers for the mayor. Lewis is another big example of buying influence. Lewis owns every single elected leader because if you cross them not only will they not give you money but they will spend money to keep you out of office. The City Manager has facilitated opportunities for Lewis employees to corner residents that have questions about their contracts and bully them into being quiet.

Our leaders are not out for the people they are out for themselves!!!!!

Seniors Under Attack by Rialto Mayor and Council

 

A few weeks ago the City Council was tasked with a job. They were asked to look at Rialto’s financial future and take a series of actions to begin to lead us from the eventual cliff. What they did was very different.

The city of Rialto has had a Utility Tax since 2003 according to staff reports. Many cities have utility taxes but Rialto’s is unique since it contains a sunset. Every 5 years our Utility Tax comes to and end forcing the people to vote to reinstate the tax normally for another 5 years. As you will see from Interm City Manager Rob Steel’s presentation.

Rob Steel laid out a very comprehensive breakdown of the history and future of Rialto’s need for this tax. Next was the BAC (Budget Advisory Committee) with their recommendation to City Council. The BAC with much debate and study came to the conclusion that keeping things the way they are is the best bet for Rialto and is the least risky of the options. Rialto City Council barked that the BAC was not formed to mull over the UUT (Utility Users Tax) but to look for alternatives to new monies in Rialto. The problem is without the UUT there is no more of a Rialto. The UUT represents 18% percent of our general fund budget. Our general fund is already barley functioning and under $130 Million in unfunded burdens over the next 10 years and we can’t afford to loose 18% of our budget. Also City Council ASKED the BAC for their thoughts on the UUT and where things should go. Really City Council was simply looking for a rubber stamp to attack seniors and play Russian Roulette with Rialto’s Future.

After this the Mayors true plans and intentions were brought to light. She did all she could to poison the Budget Advisory Committee and bend them to her will. She found out that not everyone believed the same thing but that the recommendation was built off of a majority vote of the residents on the committee not any of the employees representing the various bargaining units. What Mayor Robertson is about to show you is she has little concern for Rialto’s ability to have sustainable growth in a safe city.

Given the chance these people would find any legal way to tip the scales in their favor to win an election for themselves but when it comes to obtaining a ballot measure that will pass and give Rialto the chance at a sustainable future they ignore every poll and conventional wisdom and make the most illiterate decision.

Now Ed Scott wants you to believe that the big bad unions are inside the Budget Advisory Committee meetings strong arming the residents on the Committee. Nothing could be farther from the truth the Union representatives have been helpful and respectful they are not even voting on the various recommendations the Committee is send out to Council (recommendations they choose to ignore). Ed Scott asks the residents to take the Committee by the horns well were doing just that but were taking City Council down to the Corruption starts with the failed leadership of the city. Does anyone believe the way you manage a horrible upcoming situation by spending your savings and saving less? Councilman Ed Scott does!

Ed Scott brings up the Monrovia Example, this has not been brought up but I asked Iterm City Administrator Robb Steel about it here is what he told us:

“Monrovia adopted a multi-prong strategy to pay down its unfunded liabilities for pensions.  The key component of it was to issue pension obligation bonds for their unfunded liability ($111 million).  I have attached the staff report that describes their program, which includes modest employee concessions and other revenue enhancements.  I have also attached the rating agency report on the proposed bond issuance to provide a sense of Monrovia’s overall financial condition.  The basic strategy with POB’s is to borrow funds at say 4% and invest with PERS (or a separately established trust) that earns say 7%.  If the raised monies are used to pay down the unfunded liability with PERS (for example), the City’s annual payments to PERS will be re-amortized and reduced (similar to using one time money to pay down your mortgage, then refinancing the balance).  The freed up cashflow can then be used to sustain services, or pay down the debt even faster.  The potential savings are significant (on $100 million as example, a 3% spread represents $3 million per year in interest savings in year 1).

This can be a good strategy, but it is not without risks.  The City establishes general fund secured debt that must be paid as a priority above all other expenditures, which limits financial flexibility and may force cuts in essential services during a financial disruption.  The bond investors may condition the financing on compliance with certain financial standards (minimum reserves, balanced budgets, etc.) that may seem reasonable but which may limit choices.  It can be a good move; it just warrants some discussion of the risks.  Our neighbor to the east defaulted on its payments for POB’s and spiraled into bankruptcy largely to shed that obligation.  

Jumping in to the hot topic of the day, in order to issue POB’s the City must demonstrate balanced general fund budgets and stable financial futures.  The S & P Report attached describes Monrovia’s current financial posture as quite stable and strong, with but a few reservations.  We would not receive a similar finding, in large part because our revenue stream is interruptible.  It would be very difficult (I think impossible) to borrow monies at reasonable rates when 20% of your revenue stream may be cut off every 5 years.  A permanent revenue stream (of some sort, does not necessarily have to be a utility tax) would be necessary to address this issue and allow the general fund to issue debt with a strong repayment forecast.  Alternatively, the City would need to compress expenditures by 20% to balance its budget and that we know would require dramatic service reductions.  At present, the City General Fund would not in my opinion receive an investment grade credit rating unless we collateralized the debt with something very secure (substantial cash reserve).”

Anyone interested in following in San Bernardino’s footsteps?

Joe Baca Jr. is not a risky guy when it comes to politics. He is a moderate like his father and isn’t known for taking on causes unless he knows for a fact he can shield himself from the consequences. For example when the city was in the process of selling of our water for 30 years he was the lone no vote. This did nothing for the people and Joe Baca Jr was well protected since he knew that the rest of the council was in lock step to sell away Rialto’s Water future. So in this matter why would he risk going after seniors and putting Rialto into a very tough spot financially? He doesn’t have to agree with his fellow council members on anything other than the fact that there is a need for a financial emergency. There seems to be more to this that what we see on the surface and there are a lot of behind the scenes conversations taking place to get everyone on the same page on such a horrible idea.

Not only is Rafael way out of his league here but he missed a golden opportunity to show he is the man of the Hispanic people. He has no idea what he is doing and his ignorance isn’t something that you can say comes from a good place because he is trying to make a difference. To add insult to injury he missed a golden opportunity to plea for better bilingual outreach. He left that up to Mayor Robertson and the Vice Chair of the BAC.

Councilman Carrizales is sitting in a seat where a man once sat who stood up for Rialto better than any other elected official and he had no use of his legs. Everyone is waiting for Councilman Carrizales to work to represent the people on the dias, nothing personal he is a great man and a devoted husband and father but Rialto needs leaders that lead in tough times like these not read off a pre-written script. When people act so far outside their character it leads one to believe what is really going on here.

Joe Baca Jr. went into what they can do in the future if the need for the Utility Tax ever changes but these are just words that will never happen to distract people from what is really going on.

Finally Dennis Barton reminds the Budget Advisory Committee that the council only cares about a recommendation that is unanimous meaning if certain members have different ideas of feeling those are to be shut up and closed down. Then the Mayor pitches a fit because she wants to make sure she is around to control this process and make sure her will is done. Also see Rafael Trujillo’s ignorance of how elections are run because he doesn’t even know that ballot information is in English and Spanish.

 

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