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Cable customers mull Rocklin fee increase

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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With the city of Rocklin forced to dip into cash reserves due to the recession, the Rocklin City Council approved a resolution on Aug. 29 to raise cable TV bills citywide by an additional 2 percent. The measure maxes-out the cable franchise fee at 5 percent for customers of WAVE Communications, AT&T and Sure West. Customers with a typical $100 invoice for cable TV service would see a $2 monthly increase. Councilman George Magnuson opposed the fee increase and labeled it a tax. “We’re raising a tax on our citizens,” Magnuson told the council during the budget hearing. “Even though it raises money for us, we’re taxing our citizens an extra 2 percent. I can’t go with that.” Vice Mayor Scott Yuill voted “no” because he said taxpayers were not asked to vote on the measure. “I’m not inclined to support a tax or fee that doesn’t directly benefit community services or assets,” Yuill said. Those in favor of the fee increase said there was little opposition. “This one is minor,” said Councilman Brett Storey. “We are catching up to the rest of the other cities in the area that handily charge this.” Franchise fees are governed by the Federal Cable Act, which entitles municipalities to a maximum of 5 percent of gross revenues derived from the operation of the cable system for the provision of cable services. Rocklin had been charging 3 percent until a budget hearing last weekend forced their hand, city officials said. The measure is expected to generate approximately $110,000 in additional revenue annually, according to city documents. Councilwoman Kathy Lund said citizens she talked with don’t mind paying a little extra to help the city balance the budget in a recession. “I have not found one person opposed to it. I’m sure they’re out there,” she said. Rocklin cable subscriber Steve Watkins said $2 a month is acceptable now that the recession has driven housing values down and inadvertently lowered his property taxes. “From my perspective, I don’t mind paying a little bit more on the cable bill because I pay less in property taxes,” Watkins said. WAVE Communications customer and Rocklin resident Kirby Andruss opposed the fee increase because he said he’s already paying more across the board as the recession hits every aspect of his life. “I don’t like it,” Andruss said. Magnuson said he’s disappointed with the vote but is resigned to pay extra for cable TV. “I’ll pay it like everybody else does,” Magnuson said. Yuill said the city needs to do more to help spur a local economic recovery. “We need to keep our taxes low,” Yuill said. ”We need to bolster our economic development efforts and market the city to capture good employers and sound retailers as the economy rebounds.” The city is expected to notify cable providers about the fee change in the next 60 days. Jon Brines can be reached at jonathanbrines@yahoo.com.