Let’s talk about the city’s spending problem – time for an intervention?

4 Mar

Here’s my kitchen table analysis of last night’s decision by council to put only half that “found” $4.8 million toward our deficit.

Let’s say I owe $7.8 million on my credit card. While cleaning my car one day, I find $4.8 million in the seat cushions.

I think that part of the analogy is good – Frank Field’s explanation just sounded like sloppy book keeping.  So, I drop a lot of change out of my pockets – same difference. When you’re dealing with somebody else’s money, it’s easy to get a little too comfortable being a slob, isn’t it?

Given – this found money doesn’t cover my whole bill, and we’ve gotten so used to living on credit these days. What’s a little debt, eh?  So I just keep on spending as I have, racking up the bills, and I think, “maybe I should use the found money for something extra…”

My son’s birthday just passed, and my husband’s birthday is around the corner. I would have liked to buy my son a new computer, they expect the kids to have all the latest technology for school these days. And, my husband likes to watch sports while he’s working around the house, I’d sure like to present him with a new tv for his shop, something big that he can see from the garden. 

And, frankly, like the city of Chico, I’ve continued to spend money.  “Necessity” dictated that I go out and buy that new washing machine. People expect you to be clean these days, just a couple of years ago the library tried to pass an ordinance that you couldn’t come in there with body odor. So, I’d added about $500 to my deficit before I’d even found the money!

At this point, most of my friends would be worried. I would be worried. That sounds, well, irresponsible. 

But the city of Chico has a list of stuff they’d already spent – sounded like Christmas came early down at the cop shop. The city had already been spending on fancy new gadgets for the police, even when they were still digging that 1,000 foot hole that dbski4it (sp?) was talking about in the comments section of the ER.  They hired three new police officers recently, with nothing but best wishes to pay for it.  

Do you think they already knew about this found money when they were on that spending binge?  Do you think the found money was concocted so they could give the cops those raises they’ve been negotiating in closed session?

Like I said,  last night’s meeting raised more questions than it answered.


Wow! City just found $4.8 million laying around the office! Under the couch cushions or what?

2 Mar
I’m too busy to talk about this right now, but I will say, this article raises more questions than it answers. Read it good.
Chico City Council to decide how to spend extra $4.8 million

What: Chico City Council meeting

When: 7:30 p.m. for council business

Where: 421 Main St., Council Chambers

Other details: Joint meeting with Airport Commission at 6:30 p.m. precedes regular City Council meeting

Chico >> What would you do with an extra $4.8 million?

The city of Chico will have such a decision to make Tuesday, as it is determines how to spend a surplus of funds revealed during the 2013-14 audit. Council directed staff to bring back a report on possible expenses during the development of the 2015-16 budget, and three options are being presented to the council.

The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., an hour later than usual because the council will meet at 6:30 in a joint public meeting with the Airport Commission.

In his report to council, Administrative Service Director Frank Fields notes that while the one-time savings are very positive, more needs exist than the one-time money can meet. As the city continues its road to fiscal recovery, a strategic plan on how to spend these funds would continue those efforts.

“It’s simply imperative that we remember where this city was just under two years ago, and that council action has gone a long way to bring the city back on a path to fiscal health. However, the city is not fiscally healthy,” he wrote. “As a result, utilization of these one-time funds has to be done strategically and consistent with current fiscal policy.”

The city has already spent nearly half a million dollars on previously approved items that were unbudgeted. They include $190,000 for three new police officers, $120,00 on a waste franchising consultant, $120,000 to fix inadequate infrastructure in a flood-prone neighborhood, and $48,000 for repairs to Sycamore Pool.

That leaves about $4.4 million to be spent.

One proposal is to dedicate more than $4 million to reduce the city’s general fund deficit, which sits at $6.97 million. The remainder would include a fund balance carryover of $200,000 and $181,000 transfer to the Zone 1 Neighborhood Parks Fund.

The other two proposals would transfer far less to the deficit, for which an annual paying-down plan is already in place.

Most proposed additional spending would go toward about $450,000 in city maintenance, infrastructure and equipment. Both proposals include $85,000 for a streets condition assessment, $75,000 for city-wide time-keeping and police department advanced scheduler program, $74,000 for a laser mapping system for the Police Department to use at crime scenes and major accidents, $50,000 for LED street lights at critical intersections, and $50,000 for city hall monitoring equipment.

The only non-city expense in both proposals is $25,000 for the Chico branch of the Butte County Library. The city reduced its annual contribution from $100,000 to $75,000 for this fiscal year, and the county opted not to backfill the funding gap in hopes a new agreement could be made later in the year, which means that without additional funds, the library will be forced to close Mondays and open two hours later Tuesdays through Thursdays, writes county Chief Administrative Officer Paul Hahn in a letter to council.

Councilor Sean Morgan said he has some concerns about that allocation and its fairness to other community agencies that received less funding from the city for this fiscal year.

“If we are going to look at one organization’s request for public funds that is used to getting them, we have to look at everybody,” he said. “It’s not fair to do it one at a time.”

The one difference between the two remaining proposals is one would reduce the general fund deficit by about $2.5 million, and use the remaining $1.5 million as transfers — $200,000 to the airport fund, $181,000 to neighborhood parks, and $1.2 million as a general fund balance carryover.

The other proposal would reduce the deficit by $2.3 million and spend $1.6 million on $500,000 to the airport fund, $181,000 to neighborhood parks, and $200,000 transfers each to technology replacement, fleet replacement, facility maintenance, general plan fund and as a general fund balance carryover.

The $4.8 million in excess revenue was the result of both revenue enhancement and expenditure savings. One factor was the 2013-14 budget did not includes estimates of impacts of the city’s second round of employee layoffs and negotiated salary and benefit concessions, which resulted in $1.1 million in savings from the Police Department, $630,000 from general government and $300,000 from public works. Additional savings were realized from the Fire Department and Parks Department.

The city also received an additional $560,000 in sales tax revenue, $325,000 in increased property tax revenue, and $800,000 in miscellaneous revenue related to a property tax administration refund and fund contributions related to waste hauler negotiations.

Contact reporter Ashley Gebb at 896-7768

Unbridled greed seems to be in vogue this season!

26 Feb

I was sorry to see the Butte County Supervisors vote to raise salaries at the sheriff’s department by 5 percent. They had to eliminate four positions to do it, at the same time they are implementing Measure A. They say they want to make the job more attractive to new recruits, but cut positions. 

You know the old saying – “If it smells like horse puckey, it probably is…”

I’ve long heard, from people I know in the sheriff’s department, that they’ve had a gripe with Chico PD, whose salaries have been a lot higher for years. Instead of joining the movement to bring police salaries, and benefits and pensions, back into a reasonable range, the sheriff’s department has jumped on the chuck wagon. They’ve been eating steak, believe me – now they want caviar. 

Meanwhile, Chico PD fights to get their salaries even higher. They also are asking for five percent raises, and I’m guessing they will get them. Along with plenty of other perks and benies. Alot of benies.

They’ve mounted their typical campaign – “Crime is on the rise in Chico!” This is the same dog and pony show they trot out every time their contracts are on the table. Recognize the pattern here?



Get your yard ready, we will have to mount a campaign against the sales tax increase that will be proposed for the 2016 ballot. It will be interesting to see who brings it up. 


Weird twist – just hours before scheduled CPOA contract negotiation, clerk announces “closed session” is open to public?

26 Feb

I got this notice from Dani Brinkley while I was out running errands yesterday afternoon, after I’d received a first notice the day before.  In this notice you see they are allowing the public in?

1.1. Special Council Meeting – 5:00 p.m.

1.2. Call to Order – 5:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber, 421 Main Street

1.3. Receive Public Comment – The public may provide comments regarding Items on the Closed Session Agenda

1.4. Adjourn to Closed Session in Conference Room 2, 421 Main Street


2.1. Roll Call

2.2. Staff Present


Negotiator: Mark Orme, City Manager and Timothy Davis, Burke, Williams & Sorensen

Employee Organizations: CPOA

3. ADJOURNMENT – Reconvene to an Open Session in the Council Chamber immediately following the Closed Session for any announcement, and adjourn to a regular Closed Session on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 in Conference Room 2 at 6:00 p.m., followed by a Joint Meeting between Council and the Airport Commission at 6:30 p.m., followed by a regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber.

She didn’t send this out until after 12:30, for a 5:00 meeting. I’ve seen nothing about it in today’s paper, but I probably read yesterday’s edition. Is this what they call sunshine? Here’s the one I got the day previous.

1.1. CLOSED SESSION – 5:00 p.m.

1.2. Call to Order – 5:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber Building, Conference Room 2, 421 Main Street

1.3. Roll Call

1.4. Staff Present



Negotiator: Mark Orme, City Manager and Timothy Davis, Burke, Williams & Sorensen

Employee Organizations: CPOA

3. ADJOURNMENT – Adjourn to an adjourned regular Closed Session on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 in Conference Room 2 at 6:00 p.m., followed by a Joint Meeting between Council and the Airport Commission at 6:30 p.m., followed by a regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber.

I’ll keep trying to get information, but it’s like digging through a pile of manure.

UPDATE: A friend of mine contacted the city clerk’s office, asking about the open/closed session meeting between council and labor negotiators, and got this answer, in tiny blue writing: 

“Yes, all Closed Sessions are required to be noticed pursuant to the Brown Act.  The meeting was called to order in Open Session (in the Chamber) and then the meeting  recessed to Closed Session.  One matter was discussed, no action taken, with nothing further to report.


The reporting out on this matter will occur under Closed Session Announcements at next week’s meeting. I hope that helps clarify the process.”

Well, no, not really. Something was discussed, and we’d like  to know what, but city management continues to hold us out of this discussion by the forehead. Try to find the proposals, which are supposed to be somewhere on the website for everybody to see. I could give you a hint but am unsure myself. They were buried in the agendas, then one disappeared and was replaced by a new proposal. Good luck.

Scuse me while I wash these sticky fingerprints off my forehead.

Jerry Haynes resigns as CARD General Manager, cites differences with the board

25 Feb

When I read the story in the ER, my first thought was “don’t let the screen door hit you on the rear end Mr. Haynes.”

Haynes is the guy who yelled at me – should I say raised his voice? – over the phone when I called CARD one day to ask about the assessment process. First he denied any assessment plans, said CARD hadn’t even talked about putting an assessment on our property taxes. That was frustrating to me because I’d sat in meetings hearing about how they wanted to do just that, and articles have appeared in the paper.

I let that go, and asked if I could be put on the notice list for the Aquatic Center Advisory Adhoc Committee. He angrily denied there was any such committee. When I read to him  the agenda item about Bob Malowney being named to that very committee, he admitted there was a committee but denied they were planning to have any future meetings. He denied there was a notification list, but wanted my e-mail? He was so mad I didn’t feel comfortable giving it to him, telling him I’d contact CARD via the website. As I was saying ‘thank you’ he hung up, without so much as “excuse me I have to go to the can.

Urseny reports that Mr. Haynes cited “significant disagreement between myself and the board that I can’t work out,” as his reason for leaving.  I can see that. The board disagrees within itself, and one of the major disagreements seems to be the aquatic center. Board members Ed Seagle and Tom Lando have expressed doubts that the agency should be pursuing a big project like this at a time when they can’t even seem to pay their employees. Over the last couple of years they’ve cut their part time staffers, the people who actually do the work, cutting their hours back to 28 or less a week so they don’t have to pay healthcare. At that time the recreation director said she had to drop about 200 kids from an understaffed program. Lando pointed out that these people were paying customers. Nobody cared – they’d just made an unscheduled $400,000 payment on their CalPERS retirement fund, for the 33 management employees that are actually covered with benefits.  

Seagle has since lost the election and been replaced by aquatic center proponent Bob Malowney.  I’m sure it was the aquatic center proponents who whooshed both Malowney and aquatic center proponent Jan Sneed into their chairs. If everybody who voted for Sneed would write a check for $100, they’d have quite a bit of money  toward their project, but the board has made it clear they intend to go for a property tax of some sort to pay for their Taj Majal dreams.

Seagle and Lando are right – CARD can’t even pay it’s bills. How would they build and manage an aquatic center? I don’t even believe they intend to build it, I think they want an assessment to pay off their CalPERS and other employee compensation obligations. Here’s an article Laura Urseny wrote about a year and a half ago. 

By LAURA URSENY-Staff Writer

Posted:   07/12/2013 12:28:50 AM PDT


CHICO — Like walking a tightrope, there is little wiggle room when it comes to the 2013-14 budget of Chico Area Recreation and Park District.During a budget workshop Thursday, General Manager Steve Visconti said the numbers in the preliminary budget are balanced as they stand.

Visconti estimated CARD’s projected revenue will be down by $250,000 to $270,000 less than this year’s because of anticipated declines in property tax revenue and program revenue because of a staffing shortage.The preliminary budget shows total general fund revenue of $6,310,970, and expenses of $6,180,970.

“We feel the property tax revenue will be shy. It’s still in downturn, flat,” Visconti said.

The program revenue decline is a product of adjusting for the extra cost of the Affordable Care Act, which provides medical coverage to full-time employees.

The act changed the definition of a full-time employee from 40 hours weekly, to 30 hours. Because the act would force CARD to provide medical coverage to more employees, employee hours were further reduced.

Less staff hours means reduced program availability.

Director Ed Seagle noted some of the staffing gaps might be covered by interns from Chico State University, who wouldn’t have to be paid.

But Director Jan Sneed noted having staff train interns would take away more time from their overloaded duties.

Seagle noted college part-timers may stick around for a couple of years, so the training would be worthwhile.

Visconti said there was room in the budget to hire part-time temporary employees as long as they were truly part-time and temporary.

Director Tom Lando said he had a “philosophical difference” about using part-time workers rather than offering a full-time position with a “liveable wage.”

“To fill one (more) full-time position, we’d have to pull it out of reserves,” Visconti said.

The board talked about the Affordable Care Act and its impact in light of the recent federal announcement to delay implementation for a year.

Business manager Scott Dowell noted it would only give CARD about a six-month reprieve. Dowell said it costs CARD $10,000 a year per position to provide medical coverage.

Board members talked about having part-time workers put in more hours until the Affordable Care Act kicks in, an option that will further discussed at the next meeting, July 18.

BACKGROUND: The Chico Area Recreation and Park District is dealing with less projected revenue in its 2013-14 budget.

WHAT’S NEW: Because of the federal Affordable Care Act, CARD has been working to balance revenue and costs.

WHAT’S NEXT: CARD will take public comments at its next meeting, at 7 p.m. July 18 at Chico Community Center, 545 Vallombrosa Ave.

There, Lando mentions a “liveable wage” – CARD employees something like 300 employees, and only the 30 or so management employees have any kind of coverage.  And, $10,000 per employee is an average – here’s the link to the State Controllers website:


I guess Urseny’s article is over a year old, so that $10,000 figure is off. Way off. There’s only three management employees who get less than $10,000 worth of pensions and benefits. Look at those figures again.  CARD management employees, according to former finance director Scott Dowell (now with the city of Chico), pay nothing toward their benefits or pensions. We pay the figure you see, and then the rest floats on the stock market. CalPERS demanded that $300,000 “side payment,” saying they’d forgive penalties. They are demanding more money all the time, these public agencies have been taking huge pensions out of the fund without paying up front. That is the giant “pension liability” that is hanging over the head of every California taxpayer like the sword of Damocles. 

The city just handed them Sycamore Pool. They’ve neglected Pleasant Valley and Shapiro pools into disrepair and threaten to close them next year. 

I don’t know what Jerry Haynes’ problem is with the CARD board, but I know there’s definitely something funky going on at CARD. Want to find out? Invite me to a meeting. 




City Council to meet with labor negotiators in closed session tomorrow (Feb. 25), discuss CPOA contract

24 Feb


I don’t know if there are any new proposals from either the city or the union, all I have is what I’ve posted previously.

Well, FINALLY! Clerk posts CPOA filings, rec’d Feb. 20 – over two weeks late

24 Feb


She must have posted them yesterday, I looked over the weekend and they weren’t there.  Nothing exciting, just two pages – two pages that were required by law to be in the clerk’s office by January 31.

I don’t know if she fined them the suggested ($5 or $10?) a day. If you want to know, you can contact the clerk’s office at debbie.presson@chicoca.gov; heather.kavanaugh@chicoca.gov; dani.brinkley@chicoca.gov

Presson has two assistants, not just one as I had believed. What’s the problem down there? Health issues? After the week I’ve had, I don’t want to hear about your health issues.

We are less than two years from another election. If you are interested in helping out with ideas let me know. Tell me if you don’t want your comment posted.  I’ve been getting a lot of feed back from people who feel it is risky to talk publicly about the cops or fire department.  

That’s a sad commentary – our police union makes us afraid. 


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