Time to write letters

8 Sep

I know some people think I’m just a broken record, that I hate taxes and have no use for any tax.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I know our community depends for many services on  a steady revenue of taxes from “users” like me.

But, our entire country is on a dangerous path to insolvency because of the pensions of public  workers. I didn’t make that up – google it, and you’ll find intellectuals across the country voicing the same concern.

I don’t consider myself an intellectual, I consider myself a person with common dog sense. There is nothing sensible about the public pension system. The CalPERS system is consistently underfunded, and we just found out why – the guy who was in charge of investing for the fund was nailed for accepting bribes to buy bad stocks. That’s apparently why CalPERS has lost money for years and depended on one bail-out from the state legislature after another. They’ve also been making demands of their participating agencies – pay up on your pension liabilities now, or face high interest on your debt.

Those agencies – from small agencies like Butte County Vectors to huge agencies like City of Chico always turn to the taxpayer to pick up the slack. This time it’s Chico Unified School District, with Measure K. They say they want money to fix their facilities – they said that with Measure A, and they said  it with the refunding bond, E. And here they are again, hand out for $152 million they predict will be $270 million in pay-off.

It’s been in the newspaper.  The district notices their meetings quite loudly.  But I don’t go – the district is a machine. They have so much money – they’re like blue jays. Blue jays take over your back yard feeder,  because they’re loud and obnoxious. As soon as they get the leg up, they eat all the food, way more than they need. They grow very big, and then they take over your entire back yard. Next thing you know, all you got is blue jays.

That’s why I don’t feed wild animals, and for the same reason  I am suspicious of new taxes. Lately all the public workers seem to be  hands out for us to fund their crazy pensions – for most public workers, it’s 70 – 90 (“public safety workers”) percent of their highest year’s salary, available at age 50 – 55. Teachers must wait til 60 – 62 years.  A paycheck  for life, with cost of living increases, health benefits, even life insurance paid in full. For this teachers pay 9 – 10 percent of their pension contribution.

Non-certified employees pay only 7% for employees hired before 2013 / 6% for employees hired after 2013. What? It went down?

According to assistant superintendent Kevin Bultema, “Administrators with a teaching credential usually participates in STRS and administrators without a teaching credential usually participates in PERS at the same rates.”

The district retirement is handled by both California Teachers Retirement System and CalPERS – obviously the teachers pay into CalSTRS.  CalSTRS did not have a guy accepting bribes to make bad  investments, so they are doing okay. But of course, both are demanding more money all the time. And, the taxpayers still pick up more than twice the employee “share.” 

Am I wasting my time fighting this bond? No, but I know what I’m up against, and I need other people to wade in here. Please write letters to the papers, let other voters know what’s going on. Don’t take my word for it – go to the district website and look for the budget – it’s not there. I had to ask Kevin Bultema for it – that’s kbultema@chicousd.org

Read the  budget, see for yourself, the administrators are lavishly salaried, and pay the same percentage for their pension as the teachers. Hey, teachers don’t do too bad. Full time teachers are making in excess of $65,000/year, some of them tipping in close to $100,000/year, plus benefits. And, if you look  at the publicpay.gov website, you’ll see, they list their overtime pay (which  I have been told includes subbing for another teacher or even playground supervision) separately, anonymously, so you don’t really know how much these teachers are yanking in. 

For their average salary, they figure in everybody – including part time workers making less than  $1,000/ year off the district. Blue jays cheat and play dirty, you can  expect them to bend the facts any way they want. Read it for yourself. 

And then write a letter to the editor of the daily or the weekly, or both if you want. If we fight this thing, inform the other voters, we have a rat’s ass of a chance of beating this bond. 

Do you want to pay $60 for every $100,000 assessed against your house? For what? 

Here’s my first volley:

In 1995, Chico Unified School District placed Measure N on the ballot, a $32 million bond specified “to acquire land and to construct new high school facilities and to construct new and renovate existing facilities on the Pleasant Valley High School Campus.”  The measure failed.  

In 1998,  Measure A specified $48.7 million would be used to “acquire land and to construct new high school facilities.”  This measure barely received two thirds approval.  But, the district reneged on the new high school, instead using  Measure A money for many uses not specified in the original measure. The Grand Jury investigated, but declared the school board was allowed to spend the money however it saw fit. 

In 2012,  complaining about aging facilities in disrepair, Measure E asked another $78 million, promising “local Chico  school  facility improvement.” This bond passed because the threshold had been lowered to 55 percent. 

Four years later,  the district still has the same complaints – schools over 50 years old, failing roofs, sub-par playground equipment, etc. Measure K asks for $152 million, $270 million with interest. 

While they say they will fix facilities, yearly budgets show a pattern of increasing employee costs and decreasing maintenance expenditures. The  district practices “deferred maintenance,” spending less than 8 percent of their total budget on maintenance while spending roughly 90 percent on salaries and benefits. 

If they really care about the students, they would have been maintaining the facilities instead of padding their pensions.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

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