Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Dirty Tricks, a must read

The following is lengthy and detailed but sheds light on some serious stuff that affects your wallet:

Hi Friends,

I'm writing to you today to let you know the outcome of a project that we set in motion late last year concerning what we saw as exorbitant Sewer Service Charges on our Property Tax Bills. By way of background, we bought our home in 1999. We were billed the following Sewer Service Charges for the subsequent years we lived on Crest Drive: 2000 - $766.96; 2001 - $766.96; 2002 - $766.96; 2003 - $646.46; 2004 - $1,210.54; 2005 - $1,442.08.

You'll notice there was a substantial increase in 2004 (nearly double the charge for the previous year). When we received our Tax Bill in 2005 I got a little concerned about how high it had become. So I inquired about why our Sewer Service Charges had escalated so dramatically with no corresponding change in the way we used water or the amount we sent to the sewers.

We were informed that the drastic change was the result of a sewer rate increase which had been approved by the City Council. In addition, when we asked why our neighbors across the street were paying less than $200 per year we were told they were in a different sewer service district than we were and they were not subject to the rate increase.

Well, after I had seen the way City Council had tried to pass Props A and C by presenting them as something they decidedly were not, I was very skeptical of the answers I was getting about the Sewer Service Charges. One bit of useful advice I received and acted upon was to install a water sub-meter to measure the actual amount of water we were using inside of our house that eventually found its way into the sewers and, for which, we were obliged to pay a service charge. (In case you aren't aware, the water we use to irrigate our lawns and gardens and fill our swimming pool and spas does not go into the sewer so is not subject to the Sewer Service Charge.)

Prior to installing the sub-meter, like most of you, our Sewer Service Charge was based on the total amount of water we used during the year. To this amount, the Sewer Department applied a factor that they claim results in a representative reduction in the total amount of water in an attempt to reflect the amount that finds its way into the sewer and for which we should pay a Sewer Service Charge. Many of you are currently being billed in the same manner for your sewer access. Those of you who live along Crest and Wotan Drives (and parts west) and north of Melba Drive, are being drastically overcharged through this flawed formula. And to be clear, it is the formula, not the rates that are causing the problem!

To illustrate, please refer to the amounts of our Sewer Service Charges for previous years that I listed above. Then consider that after installing an $850 sub-meter, our Sewer Service Charge for 2006 dropped to $228.82 based on our ACTUAL output to the sewer system. You can see from our example that the City of Encinitas has, in effect, been collecting an ILLEGAL tax from a group of the City's residents and has been DISCRIMINATING against those who live in two of the City's three sewer districts while charging substantially lower Sewer Service Charges in the remaining district.

And the only relief the City has offered is to inform us that we can install a sub-meter at our own expense (which is pretty substantial -- $850 in our case). In fact, we are all free to install sub-meters to preserve us from the damaging effects of this illegal tax. But we believe the City is counting on the fact that the substantial expense of installing a sub-meter will deter the majority of residents from considering installing one. And so, they will go on charging and collecting this unfair, illegal and discriminatory tax unless we do something to stop them.

I hope you are as outraged as we are at what you have just learned! The entirety of Cardiff-by-the-Sea is affected by this unfair and discriminatory rate formula as is a great deal of the rest of Encinitas so you have plenty of company. I have to do some more research, but if this can be shown to be as I see it to be -- an illegal tax -- then perhaps we could receive some help from the Howard Jarvis Homeowners Association. I will be looking into this further.

But in the meantime, there is something we can all do together that will have a more immediate effect...

Keeping in mind that the current City Council members approved this flawed rate formula and refuse to listen to complaints that it is flawed and considering that they remain unmotivated to do anything about it, I propose we elect fresh faces to replace those who are coming up for re-election. I would make sure the new candidates understand the scope and severity of this problem and determine where they stand on the matter before you place your vote next month.

We should look for a fair-minded person who would not tolerate such a flagrant abuse of government power if it was within her ability to do something about it. I hope you will educate yourselves about the candidates before you place your votes in November. The Union-Tribune has endorsed Dan Dalager and a friend of his named Long under the curious, confusing and misleading assessment that Encinitas is "relatively free of financial problems and political scandals". I guess if you compare the Cities of Encinitas and San Diego, you could kind of come to that conclusion. But the preponderance of the local news reporting (even by the Union Tribune itself) does a poor job of leading a rational mind to the same result.

So, this is the bottom line... If you live in one of the two sewer districts that was subject to a rate increase that was approved in 2004, then you are probably paying as much as 6 or 7 times what you should be paying for Sewer Service Charges. I hope you will organize an effort to fix the City Council's oversight in as expedient a manner as possible and through all channels that are open to you.

Best regards,

Bob Evermore

see also MORE FEES FOR YOU

and the now classic
FINANCIAL FLIM FLAM

23 comments:

  1. I am definitely getting my bills out tomorrow and checking them. I have lived in Cardiff for 20 years, so I guess I am one of the unlucky ones. If this is all true, and is really an illegal tax, then I certainly would like my money back.

    On another note: I would like to offer a public ( or bloglic) apology to Jerome Stocks. My comments on the other blog about his weight at the the Community Forum, were insensitive and not kind. My car bumper sticker says " What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness." I truly believe that. I was not kind in saying it looked like Jerome had gained 20 pounds. I am not a fan of Jeromes', so I think, in trying to get out my point out about how much we spent on the Japanese, I used him as an example for my own psychological reasons.For this I am truly sorry. If you read this blog Jerome, I hope in some way you can let me know if my apology is accepted.

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  2. Broheim has been looking a little chunky now that you mention it.

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  3. Cue Dan Dalager calling this guy a whiner is 3,2,1...

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  4. Another example of why Dalager must go. He was voted in to protect his friends and neighbors from this kind of shit. He has done nothing but go along with every fee and tax increase since day one. Dan why have you backstabbed us so?

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  5. Well, Jerome did vote to pass the Consent Calendar last Wednesday, but "respecfully voted no" on item #3, which was final approval of Council's pay increase of 20% they just voted themselves, including Dan Dalager, unfortunately.

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  6. Bob Bonde and Co.

    A bunch of whiners that decided to first petition the county and public for better representation and when that failed they "whined" all the way into incorporation.

    We need more "whining" and less taxes.

    Sure hope someone "whines" about this water department bull, because Dan and associates HAVE the power to do something and do nothing but say, "move along folks, nothing to see here, move along."

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  7. I think the poster "not a whiner" has a learning disability.

    There is no "H" in winner, bro.

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  8. According to King Dalager if you question how council is using your tax money you are a whiner.

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  9. Thanks Bob Evermore, you wrote a great post; thanks JP for posting it!

    Bob, you were very wise, it appears, to get that water sub meter to measure your actual discharge to the sewer.

    It certainly seems unfair that the fee inceases are according to the sewage district, really, and not actual usage.

    People in Cardiff are subsidizing the General Fund, in terms of excessive property taxes. Jarvis Taxpayers Association could, and we hope will, help us look into this.

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  10. Dr. Lorri, it is nice of you to apologize if you feel you were unkind.

    However, you had every right to mention Jerome looked heavier, and to comment upon the excessive spending by taxpayers for Christy Guerin's bday bonanza.

    I'm glad people like you, and Bob Evermore continue to post here!

    I'm grateful for Bob Bonde and Donna Westbrook too, and all our "unsung" heroes.

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  11. Let's vote to be Charter CityOctober 27, 2006 12:40 PM

    From a previous thread:

    Go figure said...
    Hey, no one will probably read this, because we are on to newer posts, but I don't like our current "consulting" city attorney.

    Unfortunately, we, as voters, and citizens cannot go "hire" a different consulting attorney. We seem to have no say whatsoever in who the "city attorney" is, like him, or not.

    The problem is, he doesn't care about what we think or want, only what Council wants, and unfortunately, they, for the main part, don't care, either, except perhaps when they are running for election or re-election.

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  12. The council would look very good in stripes.

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  13. Hi Bob-
    You are 100% corret when you say a formula is used to compute sewer fees. Unfortunately the formula is blind to spas, swimming polls, lawns, gardens and other water using areas of your home that do not go into the sewer. It only looks at the four lowest months of use and uses them to compute the fees. Your "project" made it clear that the amount that went into the sewers from your resident use was SUBSTANTIALLY less then the figure arrived at using the sewer district formula. The savings on your first year of use appears to have almost paid for the sub-meter and that does not even take into consideration the potential tax benefit.
    The savings would appear to indicate that you use a fair amount of water at your residence but that ONLY a small percentage actually hits the sewer system. There are many homes in the district that would benefit from installation of such a meter and you have shared your project with others here on the blog and that is commendable to say the least. It is not a solution for everyone but certainly a solution for individuals with your type of residential use.
    The problem if coming up with a fool-proof formula for every home and business. THAT would be a real contribution if some one could develop a more equitable formula.

    In a perfect world every home would be equipped with a sewer sub-meter and every resident would only pay for their flow to the sewer. This might cause the rates to be raised again so that those who really do send a lot to the sewer system would have sharp increases to make up for all the residents who recieved reductions due to their sub meters. It costs a certain amount of money to treat the sewage and SOMEBODY has to pay.

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  14. Yes, somebody has to pay, but we are concerned that money is missing from the sanitation district, that ultimately was siphoned to the General Fund (we hope) under Kerry Miller, big spending former City Manager.

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  15. We use some grey water, just a plumber. Are the sub-meters always so expensive to install?

    Does a plumber need to do the installation?

    Just wondering.

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  16. I posted about the sewer fee seeming really big on a previous post. I now realize we are getting gouged. No taxation without poop measurementation

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  17. Just a plummer is a on it. The real issue is not how the bills are determined. Someone will have to pay for the city's spending spree and hiding a tax increase in the water bill is a great place to do it.

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  18. This hidden tax is about the sewer bill, not the water bill. The city uses the measurement of how much water flows to the sewer from your house plumbing to charge the sewer fee. The water fee on how much water you use is a different fee. Very confusing, huh.
    Residents in the Cardiff sewer area and the Encinitas sewer area and also in the San Dieguito Water District, have seen large fee increases in sewer and water.

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  19. Dear Residents of Our Great City --
    While it is not my intent to defend
    the actions of our City Council,
    criticism is something that always
    produces very mixed results.
    Bear in mind that those people
    who shelled out the money to ef-
    fectively monitor their outflow
    to the sewer system became the
    winners for now.
    Dan Dalager cannot be supported
    by me because he is my opponent.
    We need to understand that there
    is an enormous difference between
    capital spending and "payin' the
    bills".
    A large number of interrelated
    agencies and governments them-
    selves are responsible for any
    flaws in the management of the
    overall system(s).
    Please, everybody, let's make
    city government an enjoyable
    place to do business by our mutual
    involvement.
    Our future depends on it!!!!
    Thank you for your interest.
    Sincerely,
    Paul "Pablo" Martens
    vote4pablo.com
    e-mail at
    martens5o@cox.net

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  20. Cardiff sewer ratepayers pay a hidden tax. Encinitas sewer ratepayers pay a hidden tax. San Dieguito Water District ratepayers pay a hidden tax.

    All the hidden taxes go to pump up the city's general fund.

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  21. How come Olivenhien in a different water district pays no sewer useage or capacity fee? I guess their plant is exempt or not in a operating limit as the one IN Cardiff. I suggest some one check the numbers at the plants discharge meter for accuracy and the discharge logs for the past five years.This increase is or is not legit, to me it has the KERRY MILLER suspect sharp practice look.

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  22. Just a plumber is correct. The resturants will end up paying more.

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  23. Hey,
    When I did my initial research, I talked to Bill Wilson at City Hall and he explained how the sewer service charge is set up and assessed. He is also responsible for informing me about our option to install a sub-meter.
    However, when asked about the boundaries of the various sewer/sanitation districts, he said there was no reference material or map available. I was skeptical of this at the time, but didn't have time to investigate then and only remembered his comment recently as the topic has once again surfaced. Time to dredge this up and get a real answer!!!
    Someone (Anonymous) suggested that Olivenhain is not subject to the excessive sewer service charges. But to set the record straight, I believe Olivenhain may, in fact, be served by one of the affected districts. However, there are a number of residences in Olivenhain that are not hooked up to the sewer system because they have septic systems.
    Here's a tidbit for all of you to digest...
    Of the 5 City Council members, three reside in sewer districts that are assessed the exorbitant sewer service charges. However, one of them, who resides in Olivenhain, may be on a septic system so may have avoided the illegal taxation. Another, Dan Dalager, resides in Leucadia and would be subject to the inflated charges if his residence was connected to the sewer system -- but it's not. Who was the remaining City Council member??? It was Maggie Houlihan, who paid between $400 and $500 last year for sewer service charges.
    So, it would appear, not only does Maggie suffer discrimination by not being appointed to serve on committees for which she is very qualified, she also is the only City Council member that we can confirm who is subject to the discriminatory, reprehensible and exhorbitant sewer service charges.
    No wonder City Council is not motivated to correct this problem! The only Councilmember who has a personal stake in this is also the one who has been shunted to the margins by her peers.
    This is the kind of scandalous behavior that should spell the end of the political careers for every councilmember who does not take an active, vocal role in repealing the usury rates we're being charged for sewer service charges. And they will be stopping short if they do not make this repeal retroactive to 2004 when these flawed rates and formulae were approved and implemented!
    Don't let this one be swept under the rug!

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