The residents of Covington overturned the City Council the first time they passed the utility tax. Many of us were upset when they passed the tax again within a couple of short years.
However, this time there was no initiative effort to overturn it. as us citizens probably realized the council was going to do whatever it wanted to one way or another.
We can thank our newer city manager and the council for an unexpected bonus to all of this.
When the tax was passed, the city manager assured us that the impact would average about $200 per household per year. That was reasonable to support the added services.
But what is this bonus that I mentioned?
My Verizon wireless bill arrived this month and was just over $8 more than normal for our family plan. I thought we had some text or photo charges.
But that wasn’t the case. The entire increase was due to a new surcharge called “Effect of city tax” applied to each phone.
I called Verizon about this new surcharge. The first representative had no information about it, and he connected me to another representative specializing in surcharges. That representative couldn’t locate any explanation of the surcharge. either, so he forwarded me to one of the financial reps. This third person was finally able to track down a little bit of information about this surcharge.
The city’s utility tax is applied both to individuals and businesses in Covington. Verizon submitted a request to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission to pass this added cost directly on to its customers.
The commission recently approved that request. The result is that Verizon isn’t paying this additional cost, but rather the Verizon customers in Covington now are.
The surcharge was two-and-a-half times the amount of the actual tax withheld. The end result is another $100 a year that I have to pay to cover the city’s utility tax, now taking it to $300 per year.
And since Verizon succeeded, I can only imagine that the other utilities will quickly follow, and I can’t wait to see how much more all of this is really going to cost me. I will be watching all of my utility bills closely in the next several months.
I argued for a property tax after we voted the utility tax down, and it is looking more like that was the right solution for the citizens of Covington.
My thanks to city manager Derek Matheson for this unexpected bonus to his brilliant solution.
Gary Wigle is a Covington resident.