CARD and the income gap: How public agencies perpetuate poverty and disparity in the pay scale

3 May

For a long time now I’ve complained about the disparity in the salaries Downtown and at Oroville. The management make 10’s of thousands more in salary and pay less than half their “share” of benefits and pensions premiums, while the lower paid staffers pay the whole share. You must realize, living in the same town on a $35,000 salary with people making over $100,000 is difficult, and I think that’s an understatement. They drive up the price of everything from housing to daycare to gas to a dozen eggs. 

And then there’s the problems the medical benefits packages cause. Our mayor receives a package valued at about $21,000 a year. That’s more than $1500/month. How much does your health care package cost? My family can’t afford $1500/month, that’s for sure. So, when we go to the doctor, we are competing with these benefits packages we pay for – isn’t that ironic?  You can pay your premiums for years, and then when you need help, you find the ER does not accept your insurance. 

Believe it or not, a lot of public employees are in almost the same boat as their private industry counterparts. Sure, they get a nice package, but they don’t get the same packages their bosses get, and they pay more. 

I know I’ve bitched alot about city salaries and benies, but recently I started taking a hard look at other agencies, “special districts,” “quasi-public” – like the Chico Recreation and Parks District, who is fishing around for a property tax bond or assessment to pay off their CalPERS “side fund payoff”. 

The first thing that gripes me about CARD is how they tried to insinuate they would use the bond proceeds to build a new aquatic center, when they’d just bottomed out their capital projects fund to make that CalPERS payoff. They LIED  to get people to go along with this bond crap.  They knew damned good and well, as board president Ed Seagle admitted at last month’s meeting, an aquatic center is unrealistic at this time. They have ZERO money in their capital projects fund, having spent the $350,000 or so they had on their side fund payoff.  But they went ahead and printed those surveys and sent them out, and Ed didn’t say anything until after the fact. Thanks for nothing, Ed.

Ed Seagle needs to get his story straight. He also told me and my husband, when he accosted us at that CARD meeting, that CARD employees pay their full share. Either he’s an ignoramus or a big stinking liar. Which is it Ed? 

Because when I asked Finance Director Scott Dowell about salaries and employee shares, all I got was a notice that he’s out of his office until May 6. When I asked General Manager Steve Visconti for the information he sent me to the State Controller’s website – no link, no notes, just “go to the State Controller’s website…” So, I did. Here’s the link to the “special district” page for Chico Area Recreation and Parks District:

http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrict.aspx?fiscalyear=2011&entityid=1875

You’ll note that General Manager Steve Visconti does not pay his own share.  We pay not only a $12,704 “employer share”, but another $7,462 of his “employee share.” That’s the “EPMC”, or “employer paid member contribution”. That they even bother to call it the “employee share” is insulting to me.   Then another $10,000 plus for vision and dental!  Add that to his $115,000+ salary, and this man is getting over $150,000 a year to run a parks district into the ground. Not only did they tap their capital projects fund making  benefits and pension payments, they went so far over budget they can’t afford to hire enough part timers to do the actual work.  

And let’s talk about the workers. CARD employs about 33 people full time, including Visconti. These people all make over $40,000 a year, with 15 of them making over $50,000/year, four of those making over $70,000/year. Just in salary. These folks all get the same deal as Visconti – we pay the lion’s share of their benefits and pension premiums. Their packages range from Visconti’s $30,000+ down to about a $16,000 package for a maintenance super.

Meanwhile, check out the salaries of the people who actually work in the afterschool programs, supervising our kids, that’s on page 2.  $38,000 for an instructor, $29,000 for a recreation supervisor. Steve Visconti makes over $150,000 a year to sit in meetings, but the people who are in charge of the kids are paid less than $50,000 a year. That’s why I quit taking my kid to CARD programs, it was pretty clear they don’t spend the big bucks to attract talent to hang out all day with your kids. 

That’s the excuse Seagle gave us when we asked him about the pensions and benefits – he said they were trying to attract “quality employees.” Oh sure – $38,000 is enough to pay somebody to spend all day with your kids, but we need the big bucks to get the right kind of stuffed shirt to pilfer and embezzle.

 And don’t forget the lowest paid, non-benefitted, non-pensioned employees – the guys who go out in whatever weather to mow, pick up garbage, clean up vandalism, stripe the ballfields, etc. I see these guys when I go out in the wee morning with my dogs. We like to go out along that levee next to the ball fields, roust some quail, see if we can spot a big rattler in the morning sun. We see young men in their 20’s, wearing poor clothing, looking poorly coiffed and underfed – they do all the real work. They get the ballfields ready for the fee-paying leagues. See, we pay for those ballfields, but we aren’t allowed to use them – I’ve been kicked off with my kids, when there wasn’t a game scheduled THAT DAY. “Field reserved,” we’re told. But we’re still expected to pay those bonds and assessments. 

For what? These salaries? 

$8,592
$8,584
$8,573

Yes, that is a year’s salary there. Please note, those columns to the right – that’s where the benefits and pension contributions would be, but these people don’t get benefits or pension.

I wonder if these people can even afford to live in Chico. They’re not high school kids who live at home with mom and dad – I’ve seen them, they’re well over 21. They’re part of our economy.  Like a ball is part of a ball and chain.

CARD and other public agencies create this disparity, and we pay for it, in more ways than you are thinking. 

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