‘Cord Cutters’ Calls for Update to Brawley’s Utility Tax’ Holtville Tribune

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BRAWLEY – The growing abandonment of traditional cable TV and landline services has helped the wallets of individuals and families, but it has done a disservice to communities that depend on utility taxes.

Brawley, as one of the only towns in Imperial County to tax its residents more for services such as telephone, cable, electricity, water and sewerage, waste and natural gas, felt the effect of the “cord cutters”.

Brawley City Manager Tyler Salcido | ROTARY PHOTO BRAWLEY

The defection of the masses from the old services has resulted in a drop in the city’s income thanks to the 30-year-old utility user tax, Brawley city manager Tyler Salcido said last week.

In the past, the city could get just $ 2.4 million or $ 2.5 million from the tax, but as more people are phasing out their old landlines and TV providers for streaming services, and as the cell phone became the home phone, Brawley saw his utility tax revenues drop to $ 1.9 million a year. The city’s budget projects that number will stay the same at the end of this year.

To stop the decline, the town put the U measure on the Tuesday November 2 ballot, where it appears residents of Brawley responded favorably to adding a 4% tax each on the use of the cell phone and video streaming services in addition to the 4% already in place on most other city utilities.

Tuesday’s general election, which was limited to three local elections, saw a turnout of just 18% Friday afternoon November 5 for Brawley’s Measure U, the election of three rural school district administrators of Meadows Union in El Centro; and members of the Salton Community Service District Board of Directors.

Measure U is in the process of being adopted, with 54.5% (1,285 votes) of those who voted in favor of the enlargement and extension of the tax and 45.5% against (1,073 votes ).

Salcido was a little worried about talking about the election results until they were final, but the city manager added that it was not seen as a tax increase but as another part of it. that had already been collected.

The tax supports the general fund, which in turn finances the police and fire department, the Brawley Senior Center, the library, the Lions Center Pool, all parks and recreation programs, animal control, town planning and construction. , building maintenance and city development, and municipal administration, he said.

“This will help us continue to provide these services to everyone,” added Salcido.

Salcido himself has already cut the cord and is ready for the higher rates, but says he’s okay with that as the tax will do a lot for Brawley. He said he would have been okay with that whether or not he was a city manager.

“Nobody likes paying more taxes, we all pay too much tax, but all this money goes out of town to federal agencies and doesn’t come back to individuals,” Salcido said. “Here the tax is used 100% to provide services to the people who use them in the city.”

This tax does not have a sunset clause, so if it is not needed in the future, the city council may place it on a future ballot for removal.

This pressure for a change in income streams for cities has been the norm across the country. As more and more people are opting out of cable or landlines, the taxation of wireless businesses, internet and streaming services is on the rise.

COURTESY GRAPHIC

States like Connecticut, Delaware, and Florida have created separate taxes on streaming services, and Chicago actually levies a 9% entertainment tax on streaming services.

However, with these taxes come risks and challenges, with many arguing that ISPs do not use utilities and therefore should not collect taxes on utilities from users.

Here in California, the city of Lancaster has attempted to extend to streaming providers a 5% utility tax increase on gross revenues. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that the state’s 2006 Video Infrastructure and Competition Act did not extend revenue to streaming service providers and dismissed the case.

The court said, “Neither Netflix nor Hulu built or ordered the construction of the ISP networks providing its service to subscribers. Netflix and Hulu do not control where ISP network cable lines go or how its signal travels over the ISP’s network.

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Similar cases were dismissed in Arkansas, Nevada and Texas, with judges saying the video service did not qualify for income tax.

It remains to be seen how this will affect Brawley and only be a problem if challenged. Holtville already has a current 5 percent tax on utility users that includes a tax on cell phone services.

At Brawley, there are still some adjustments to be made. If passed, the tax will not go into effect immediately, Salcido said. Companies like Spectrum or AT&T should always be contacted to discuss the increase.

Meadows Union, Salton Service Elections

The Meadows Unified School District will bring new blood to its board, including Liz Cardenas Goff, the lead candidate with 36.55% of the vote cast, as of Friday.

Cardenas is currently the Deputy Principal of Heber Junior High School, previously worked for the Imperial County Office of Education and the McCabe Union Elementary School District, and with all of her experience, she said she felt the need and willingness to working with children.

If she is on a board, she believes it will give her the opportunity to develop policies that will help Meadows students and be able to provide more support to students.

“I wanted to be able to guide them and do my part,” Cardenas said. “There is something deeply burning in me that says I must help the children.”

The last two seats are so far in the possession of Ernesto D. Pinedo (26.42%) and Beatriz Barajas Rodriguez (22.17%).

The race for the Salton Community Service District board of directors has seen eight candidates vying for three seats, and those leading so far are all new faces. Manuel H. Ramos leads the polls with 19.41%, followed by Lidia Armida Sierra with 18.84% and Rogelio Flores Robles with 17.24%.


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