Sales Tax Increase Anyone?

30 Jul

The headline read, “Chico government can’t be trusted with tax increase.” The letter implied current city management is deceitful in its handling of city finances. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the letter writer attended monthly Finance Committee meetings, any accusation of supposed mishandling of taxpayer monies could be explained. I know, I attend those meetings.

Since our new management staff (Mark Orme, city manager, Chris Constantin, assistant city manager, Scott Dowell, administrative services director, and Barbara Martin, deputy director-finance) took office many positive changes in financial reporting have taken place. Detailed financial reports are presented at both the committee meeting and at City Council meetings. Those reports are published online for all to see and pick apart if the public chooses. I cannot recall the letter writer coming forward with a question, comment, or criticism this entire year.

Most of the letter seemed focused on past majority driven ultra-liberal councils (2004-2012) and the old management team that was either unwilling or incapable of controlling their spending. Things have changed dramatically. All it took was one conservative council member and the Grand Jury report of May 2013 to shed light on the mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.

I have no misgivings in suggesting that the city raise sale tax by one-quarter of 1 percent (7.25 percent to 7.50 percent) equaling $4-$4.5 million annually. I will gladly pay that extra 12 cents on a $50 purchase if that meant we could repair/replace our hazardous city streets in this century.

— Stephanie L. Taber, Chico


My response to Taber, e-mailed 7/29/17 (we’ll see if this is printed, ER staff removed similar comments I made on Taber’s letter )
We have been assured that all Chico’s financial problems have been put to bed under our “new” staff.  
Former finance director and current assistant city manager Chris Constantin instituted the policy by which whenever a fund is in deficit money is “administratively” transferred from other funds. For example, the gas tax, which most people believe is dedicated to road repairs and improvements is routinely “allocated” for  salaries, pensions and benefits, just like when Jennifer Hennessy was our finance director.
Current administrative services (finance) director Scott Dowell was with Chico Area Recreation District when they failed to make recommended repairs to Shapiro Pool, instead spending $400,000 on a “side fund payoff” to CalPERS.   When he left that agency CARD had over $1.7 million in pension deficit for less than 35 employees, despite spending over $300,000/year in regular payments.

The city’s pension and benefits liability is now over $180 million, and the state is demanding an escalating payment scale. Meanwhile, we continue to pay the majority of our employee benefits, giving them raises to cover their increased shares.  We will never get out of our financial morass until our management staff agrees to pay 50 percent of their own pensions and benefits without corresponding salary increases to cover it.

A quarter cent sales tax increase would be spit on a griddle.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

10 Responses to “Sales Tax Increase Anyone?”

  1. bob July 30, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    Taber is either clueless or somebody’s tool.

    Until the employee compensation issues are fixed (particularly the pensions) there will always be a shortfall.

    All a tax increase will do is encourage the politicians to put off dealing with the compensation issues.

    And if a tax increase passes they will divert even more of the current money that should be used for roads (the non-sales tax increase money that is currently supposed to go for roads), since they will have additional money from a tax increase. (And even if the tax increase money is supposed to be dedicated to roads, they probably will find a way to divert at least some of it, too).

    • Juanita Sumner July 30, 2017 at 8:23 am #

      Thanks Bob l couldn’t have said it better

      • bob July 30, 2017 at 9:23 am #

        Thanks for keeping an eye on this and making people aware.

        Did you see this?

        It sounds like Stone is the only one on the council who sees the urgency of the pension situation. My understanding is Stone does not support Taber’s tax increase.

      • Juanita Sumner July 30, 2017 at 10:49 am #

        Thanks for this article too – an excerpt:

        “Meanwhile, local governments around the state are in no mood for happy talk about the nation’s largest public pension agency. Their required CalPERS’ pension payments are soaring and appear likely to keep increasing for years to come – even if CalPERS achieves its 7 percent return goal. Aging public agency work forces are swelling the ranks of retirees and “smoothing” practices that phased in CalPERS rate increases over the last 15 years no longer offer much of a cushion to governments’ bottom lines.”

        How to get people to listen, is the thing. I guess nobody remembers when I hollered my head off that Scott Gruendl and Mary Flynn were acting weird and irrational. Scott alternately denied the city was having money problems and screamed hysterically for more taxes. Mary just denied, denied, denied. Just like they both denied compulsive drug and alcohol problems.

        I wonder what we’re going to find out about our current council after the cow gets out of the barn.

  2. bob July 30, 2017 at 9:26 am #

    Here’s the ER article the link referenced

    • Juanita Sumner July 30, 2017 at 10:37 am #

      Thanks Bob I been too busy to look for that article. I guess Taber forgot – I’m assuming she was at the meeting when Dowell gave the report. She’s right in that they disclose this stuff – at 9 am meetings with Taber the only non-employee in attendance.

  3. bob August 2, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    Anyone see this? The city council has finally started talking about the pension problem but as the Colonel pointed out, their solution is to give the city manager a $9,000 raise! We truly live in bizarro world.

    • Juanita Sumner August 2, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      How do we get people to stop drinking the Kool Aide?

      • bob August 2, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

        I think it is completely hopeless.

        They will continue to allow everything to go to hell (like the roads) AND they will tax us as much as they can but it won’t be enough so the whole ponzi scheme compensation system will have to blow up.

      • Juanita Sumner August 3, 2017 at 4:23 am #

        I was in Bidwell Park yesterday, and I think you’re right. I think the biggest problem we have right now is most of the people who actually go out and vote in this town are public workers. The other problem is, the general public is completely clueless, and wants to stay that way.

        It’s pretty obvious our town is tanking – right next to the article you sent about Chico’s pension deficit is an ad that says Sears is closing.

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