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Dusty logic?

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Posted: Sunday, April 6, 2008 10:00 pm

In a desk drawer, I keep a small dictionary that I have used since my school years. I know in today's Internet world that a dictionary is odd, but I still use it and today I used it to look for two words - fee and tax.

I did this because our City Council is considering increasing the fee we pay for garbage services and I see it as an increase in our taxes.

According to Webster's New World Dictionary, a fee is "a charge for professional services, licenses, tuition, etc." That same dictionary defines tax as "a compulsory payment, of a percentage of income, property value, etc. for the support of government."

Well, using those definitions, it is clear that we should pay a fee for the garbage services. It is also understandable that the garbage company wants a higher fee if they are going to provide street sweeping and leaf pickup. What is not understandable is that our tax dollars have been used for years to provide those services, and now we have to pay more for it. (Please refer to the definition of "tax.")

It is important before going further that you understand something very critical - our city council CANNOT raise your taxes without letting you vote. They cannot raise your property tax, income tax or sales tax without letting you vote.

What they can do is increase your fees. Better yet, if they pass the service on to an outside provider with a contract, as they will in this case, you really cannot even complain about the fee. (In this case, the annual percentage increase is even going up. Did anyone check the profits of the garbage company before agreeing to that? I'll answer - no.)

Our city's management will tell you that by eliminating the costs of street sweeping and leaf pickup, the savings will be used to pay for better street maintenance, improvements to the wastewater system and other needs that are paid through the general fund - and if this change isn't made, "fees" for wastewater will need to go up.

Are you kidding me? You don't want to increase my fees, so you will just let the garbage company do it. Do I have this right? Let me make sure I fully understand: My bill is going up and my services are not changing?

If I look at the definition of "fee," it doesn't match. This is an increase and it is a tax, albeit an indirect one. The money that was spent will now go to other things that are already supposed to be paid for using tax dollars.

It is time for the city council and city management to be honest - we do not have the money to continue some services that are currently provided, so "fees" are going up because we cannot tax you. (Did you know that approximately $9.7 million of the amount paid for electricity in Lodi goes to support the general fund, to support government? Look at the definition of "tax" and let me know what you think.)

My solution to this proposed new contract with the garbage company is simple - lower our water and wastewater bills by the increase in the garbage company's fee. Then, let's have a discussion about the type of place we want to live, how much that place will cost and how much we are going to pay for it. Then let's vote for the necessary sales tax or property tax to make it work and let the majority rule. If the vote fails, we cut to make the budget work without increasing "fees."

John E. Johnson, CFA, is a business appraiser with his practice in Lodi. He is also the chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee for the City of Lodi. He can be reached at 369-1451 or at john@johnejohnson.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 7:41 am on Sun, Apr 13, 2008.


    I goofed. Wrong article

  • posted at 4:00 am on Sun, Apr 13, 2008.


    I am disappointed in Jeff. When he worked for the Record he had some integrity. But I guess when you go to work for the Dark Side you say what they want whether it's true or not. Oh I'm sorry, you spin it however they want.

    Whoa Nellie I don't know the identity of our banned friend T&C. However I do believe he was a lot closer to some of this stuff than they liked. Yes he ranted but so do a lot of people. Is that any reason to ban him?

  • posted at 1:38 pm on Thu, Apr 10, 2008.


    wtf - What laws are you referring to?

  • posted at 7:03 am on Wed, Apr 9, 2008.


    Whoa Nellie I kind of figured you were kidding. However I for one would like to see some news on these matters before they become a done deal.

    Having read the LNS from cover to cover it was apparent sometime ago that the waste fees were going up. But not a peep from the CC or anyone else until it's a done deal.

    When they raise the electric rates again, that too will be buried in the back of the daily fish wrap until the CC has already decided.

    We are only sheepl after all.

  • posted at 4:23 pm on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    My friend OTH- I was joking about the paper not knowing. Of course they know, but I guess it's not page one worthy.

  • posted at 11:49 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    Well, commonsense1, you are finally living up to your name!

  • posted at 9:23 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    Nice letter, well written.

    However in your recommended solution you need to first determine what would be cut if the proposed vote for an increase were to fail.

    If you wait until after the vote has failed and then try to cut spending you will end up with the "borrow and spend" mentality found in Sacramento and Washington. Elected officials always have a difficult time cutting expenses.

    By deciding before the vote what would be cut at least the voters could make an informed decision.

  • posted at 7:01 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    I'm mad as hell and can't take this any longer. Once again, city management has made a decision without consulting T & C. The only way we can get this city on an even keel is to elect Johnson and Lea to the City Council along with Mounce. This tying to improve effiency and service has gone way too far.

  • posted at 6:33 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    Contracting the sweeper service out "IS ALREADY A DONE DEAL"! Allowing us to believe for one moment that we can persuade the city council NOT to contract out is stupidity! Yhey made their decision behind "Closed doors" and all the council is doing now is "LETTING US VENT" in the hopes that the council will change their mind! Well reader's "It ain't gonna happen! Those so-called minimal fees will IN FACT go up and up and "We the people" of Lodi Have absolutely no choice but to grumble and Pay! They are not held to quality service by anyone!

  • posted at 4:58 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    Whoa Nellie You may be right about the LNS not knowing about the bond mess but I highly doubt it. Ever hear of the rumor mill? These people go to the same social functions and belly up to the same bar at the country club.

    That said, I am not naive enough to think we the citizens will get the whole truth about anything fron the LNS. My high school journalism class put out a better paper than the LNS.

    When you're afraid of stepping on toes it affects what is printed.

  • posted at 4:41 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    Excellent letter, and, as most have said, right on point. Another thing that happens when government services are privatized is the company employees the service "spins off" to is not bound by the same laws as the government employees.

    This is why certain locations and corporations use a "private" police force rather than the local one.

  • posted at 3:45 am on Tue, Apr 8, 2008.


    The unfortunate part about these blogs, scrutiny, is that they are filled with so many uninformed comments. Your statement , as an example.

  • posted at 2:46 pm on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    OTH writes, "How long before the LNS has the guts to publish something on the bond mess?"

    You are going out on a limb thinking that the LNS knows of the bond mess, understands the bond mess, and can bring the readers a well written, well researched, and unbiased article.

    As our banned friend T&C always said, they're all GOBs.

  • posted at 11:07 am on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    JJ- I couldn't have said it better.

    Neo, I think you meant "This is a tax increase. no if, ands or butts." Afterall, ButtHeads seem to be running our city.

  • posted at 5:08 am on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    This is a tax increase. no if, ands or buts. The city needs dollars in the general fund and is being as creative as it can.

  • posted at 3:57 am on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    I have to agree with 16925. You've got this on pegged for what it is. Unfortunately I'm afraid we don't have much say in the matter. The citizens are only sheeple after all. People are already spending the money on police, parks, all the goodies already voted down.

    How long before the LNS has the guts to publish something on the bond mess? I realize they can't pass gas without CC permission but if the Stkn Rec. can publish articles how about LNS.

    That's another boogeyman that is going to result in higher electric rates down the road.

  • posted at 3:50 am on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    Scrutiny maybe that's what we need is more people on the CC to say no instead of spend, spend, spend.

  • posted at 3:34 am on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    If it were up to Mounce NOTHING would ever get done except plaques put on walls. She votes no on everything!

  • posted at 2:15 am on Mon, Apr 7, 2008.


    I don't always agree with you, but you have this one spot on. The word on the street is people are made about this one. I'm sorry you aren't on cc helping Mounce. She could certainly use your help.


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