Utility Tax Refunds

Published in the Hollister Free Lance, April 1998
Dear Editor:

In the April 3 Free Lance, Mark Paxton took aim at the utility tax refund we recently received. Not surprisingly, the main instigator of the refund, Dick Lusink, followed this up with a letter in the April 15 Free Lance (and in his column in that "other" local paper).

Mr. Lusink claims that Mr. Paxton doesn't get it, but, in reality, I think it's Mr. Lusink who doesn't get it. Don't get me wrong -- I understand the principle behind the issue, that government shouldn't keep money it isn't entitled to. I have no problem with that in general, but it's this particular instance that troubles me.

What Mr. Lusink, the self-appointed protector of the taxpayer, seems to be forgetting is that much more taxpayer money was spent issuing the refund than we taxpayers got back. This is called "throwing good money after bad", or "being penny wise, but pound foolish".

My refund was all of 16 cents. For this, the city spent far more than that to issue the refund, probably several dollars when taking personnel, processing, and supply costs into consideration.

Mr. Lusink claims these costs could have been mitigated by not using an outside accounting firm (which I agree seems stupid) and by issuing a credit on the water/sewage bill for those people served by the city. Those make sense, but even if it was more cost effective to do that, I bet it still would have cost more than the total amount of the refund to reprogram the billing software to read in the refund information.

Mr. Lusink also claims that Mr. Paxton "seems to be advising that it would be all right to teach our children to steal as long as they only took a small amount." I don't think that's Mr. Paxton's intention at all; he's telling us it's not worth fighting for ridiculously small things.

As Mr. Lusink owns an insurance business, I wonder what Mr. Lusink would do if someone accidentally underpaid their insurance by 16 cents. Would he spend several dollars pursuing it, including hiring a collection agency to prevent his rights from being trampled, or would he decide it wasn't worth the cost? (Knowing how businesses work, I suspect the former, but you never know.)

Since Mr. Lusink is such a critic of local government, often saying people go into government because they can't succeed in business, I have a suggestion for him. He seems like a reasonably successful businessman, so why doesn't he run for City Council or the Board of Supervisors? Let's see what a "real" businessman will do in the position. I wonder if he's willing to put his money where his, er, pen is. To help, I'll even donate my 16 cent refund check to his campaign fund if he decides to run. After all, I think he's earned it.

Want to comment on this? E-mail me at [steve@svpocketpc.com].