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Judge rules Menlo Park failed to make findings for its utilities tax, and may have to refund the money

Original post made on Apr 5, 2023

A San Mateo County Superior Court Judge issued a tentative ruling Monday that Menlo Park that favored plaintiffs who claimed that they were owed a refund on their Utility Users Tax dating back to 2020.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 5, 2023, 11:07 AM

Comments (15)

Posted by Michael
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2023 at 1:52 pm

Michael is a registered user.

Dear City of Menlo Park. Please feel free to keep whatever refund is due me. I understand taxes is how we run our community and am happy to pay my share.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 5, 2023 at 2:42 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


I don't have a problem paying taxes either. But I want them honestly collected. The city blew it and then compounded their problem by deciding to just keep illegally collecting the tax. I'll take my refund. And if they want to continue collecting the tax, they need to put it on the ballot again since it expired and cannot legally be collected. The voters will likely approve it again. Until then, they need to stop collecting the tax.

Posted by Frozen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 5, 2023 at 3:25 pm

Frozen is a registered user.

It's generally prudent for local governments to obey the law. Even the most generous, trusting residents might not be too happy if our city began flouting all the rules.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2023 at 4:45 pm

Brian is a registered user.

First the city screwed up in letting the tax expire and then they proposed raising the tax from the 1% to I believe the mas 2.5% (does anyone have the details on this?). Then when caught not following the law to renew the tax they chose to spend our money on lawyers to fight what seems to be an obvious failure. I will take my refund, thanks

Posted by Taxed to Oblivion
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2023 at 9:15 am

Taxed to Oblivion is a registered user.

If your government can not operate with the already disgustingly high amount of local taxation, then they are either incompetent or just frivolous with YOUR cash. There is no other explanation.

Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 6, 2023 at 1:10 pm

new guy is a registered user.

If "no one, not even the president of the USA is above the law" - then neither is the city of Menlo Park. Please let us know which office to visit to pick up our money.


Posted by Iris
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 11, 2023 at 8:01 am

Iris is a registered user.

Something is really wrong that the City did not keep track of this for multiple years. That is where a lot of focus should be - figure it out, hold those involved accountable, and design a better way for the future.

What else is falling through the cracks?

Posted by Frozen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 11, 2023 at 3:21 pm

Frozen is a registered user.

City operations have become increasingly opaque. I've heard rumors that many operations have been outsourced, and city management seems to be trying to stay under the radar. With a bunch of ideologues running the council, I guess we shouldn't be surprised if there are other irregularities.

I'm glad that this particular oversight was identified, but residents should not be responsible for uncovering irregularities.

Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 11, 2023 at 4:01 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

"City operations have become increasingly opaque." Interesting – I think the city has recently stepped up their game considerably when it comes to communicating with residents.

Re: the UUT debacle, my guess is that the every-other-year renewal requirement got lost in the shuffle during a period of key staff transition in 2015. Web Link

2015 was an off-year in the cycle of renewing the UUT (council merely took the annual vote to keep it at 1% and wasn't required to reauthorize it). If the new finance/administration team in 2016 decided to copy-paste the budgetary process from the previous year without going back to the original law, they would have missed the reauthorization requirement.

And since the renewal was usually a consent calendar item during the budget meeting and didn't typically generate much (if any) discussion, even council members who had previously voted to renew the tax wouldn't have necessarily noticed its omission.

It's an understandable mistake – albeit one with painful/expensive consequences. But the principals on staff who would have been directly connected to/responsible for this mistake are long gone. Given how conscientious our current city manager is, I'm guessing the discovery of this oversight led to renewed scrutiny of our internal processes and documentation.

Posted by Your Money
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 11, 2023 at 10:49 pm

Your Money is a registered user.

Pistorino says in his letter addressed to City Clerk Judi Herren that he began investigating the UUT after a majority of the council told City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson and her team to begin looking at collecting the utility tax at the maximum voter-approved rates in order to help fund ways to get people to take out their gas-burning appliances, such as furnaces and water heaters, and replace them with electric ones.“. Not what the UUT is for not what the voters approved! Shame on the ideological thinking council. Use the UUT for electrification and leave none for police and operations as it was intended! Brilliant no one notices when we break the law and do whatever we want!

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 12, 2023 at 7:12 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

It may have been a mistake, but then council doubled and tripled down on it. First they ignored the fact the tax could no longer be collected and chose to go on collecting it illegally then increased the already illegal tax. Then tripled down when they chose to fight it in court, making the taxpayers pay for their mistake and hubris. I want my refund and I want council to come out of pocket to pay the legal bills they racked up fighting to preserve what at that point was an illegal tax. I know that will never happen, but that is how angry I am with the council for the way they have handled/mishandled this entire situation.

Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 16, 2023 at 9:20 am

Thoughtful is a registered user.

"I want my refund and I want council to come out of pocket to pay the legal bills they racked up fighting to preserve what at that point was an illegal tax. I know that will never happen…"

Best conceptual argument ever for why we should never have government healthcare. Government actors never actually are accountable for their bad acts.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 17, 2023 at 8:09 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


these particular actors can be held accountable in two ways. Either by being recalled or not being reelected. A recall is unlikely as there are too many virtue signalers living in this city that think the three folks that are pretending to save the world are doing a good job "saving the world". They can all pat each other on the back for their "good job" pretending to do something, all the while doing nothing or worse, creating all kinds of unintended consequences. They're likely to get reelected for the same reason.

Posted by Menlo Cyclist
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 12, 2023 at 6:19 pm

Menlo Cyclist is a registered user.

Well folks - Looks like in order to get our overpayment of Utility Users Tax (UUT) each one of us would need to do a lot of work to provide to the City of MP what they require to have payments calculated and paid back to us. Might not be worth the effort to track down, complete pages of forms the City of MP requires and then photocopy all the past bills and mail them to the City. Argh! Who has the time to do that for probably a pittance of money.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 12, 2023 at 7:39 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Menlo Cyclist:

All of the utility bills can be downloaded in pdf form, then easily sent to the city. I don't care how little I get, it's about the principle. If the city hadn't tried to keep collecting a tax they could no longer legally collect and then fought the lawsuit, I probably wouldn't bother. But they did and so I will.

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