Archive | September, 2017

O-ville talking bankruptcy? Time for public employees to take a walk in “the real world”

30 Sep

Thanks again Dude, for this link – I’ve been too busy to read the papers lately, get a load of this story from the Oroville Mercury Register – Oroville going bankrupt?

http://www.orovillemr.com/article/NB/20170927/NEWS/170929752

“The city’s finance director Ruth Wright told the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) finance and administration committee last week that the word “bankruptcy” was being thrown around, though not at council meetings.”

Not at council meetings? Council still in denial? Well, here in Chico, we have a $186 million deficit, and council is fully aware. So they handed out raises to top management! Now that’s a plan!

“The city [Oroville] cut down its $1 million deficit to achieve a balanced budget this year but is not exactly thriving financially, operating with low staffing levels and recently negotiating a 10 percent pay cut for police, with more negotiations to come.”

A 10 percent pay cut for police? You could expect Chico PD to walk out on any such negotiations – they threaten to cut service – which is essentially a STRIKE – if they don’t get raises.

Oroville’s finance director Ruth Wright says CalPERS is the problem and CalPERS needs to fix it.

“’All cities and counties cannot keep up with the increases,’ she said. ‘I think it’s up to them (CalPERS). They need to do something. They need to do a better job investing.’ The organization announced in December that discount rates would drop from 7.5 to 7 percent over the next three years in an effort to make the fund more stable, but with impacts to state and local governments.

“’CalPERS has a few levers to pull in dealing with pensions, having to do with discount rates,” said Wayne Davis, head of public affairs for the pension fund. “We’re very much aware of what lowering the discount rate means.’”

Well,  “we all” don’t know what he’s talking about – “lowering the discount rate…”

From CalPERS – straight from the horse’s ass –

https://www.calpers.ca.gov/page/newsroom/calpers-news/2016/calpers-lower-dis

“Lowering the discount rate, also known as the assumed rate of return, means employers that contract with CalPERS to administer their pension plans will see increases in their normal costs and unfunded actuarial liabilities. Active members hired after January 1, 2013, under the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act will also see their contribution rates rise. Normal cost is the cost of pension benefits for one year.”

Remember, I asked Chico Unified School District finance chief Kevin Bultema about this, right after the passage of Measure K in last November’s election, and he said the district would need to find more funding to pay pension costs or cut programs for the kids.

So, of course, this means a bigger deficit for Oroville, and don’t forget Chico.

“Oroville’s finance director said the number of city representatives coming to confront CalPERS has been growing. At the meeting last week, officials from cities such as Chico, Santa Rosa, Laguna Hills, Lodi, West Sacramento, Vallejo, Yuba City, Hayward, Manteca and Concord were there. A legislative representative for the League of California Cities also participated.”

Well, that’s funny – this hasn’t come up in the Chico paper, which is edited by the same David Little that edits the Mercury Register. Neither have we talked as a town about the $186 million deficit, or the $500,000/year “side payments” (in addition to the regular premium payments), which will balloon to over $1.5 million/year within the next three years.

And the sky is the limit, since our elected morons – both Chico and Butte County – keep giving out raises as though everything’s just rainbows and lollipops. They’ve acknowledged the mess we’re in – because they want us to pay more taxes.

The reporter finally talked to Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell – formerly with Chico Area Recreation District, which has a $1.7 million deficit for less than 35 employees. Dowell doesn’t think Chico will go into bankruptcy, but has been trying to work with CalPERS.

“Dowell was hoping the pension fund representatives would do some research on the possibility of freezing cost-of-living adjustments, meaning retirees would receive a flat rate every year. They would no longer receive additional money — currently up to 2 percent of their annual salaries — to account for changing inflation.

The other concept was switching all employees onto the same kind of pension plan as employees who started after Jan. 1, 2013. The Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act went into effect then, offering fewer benefits to new employees. That could mean the difference between retiring at 55 and 62, Dowell said.”

Both no-brainers as far as I’m concerned, and “the way it works in the real world”.

 

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Council to confirm $taff appointments – get a load of these salaries! How will we pay for the pensions?

28 Sep

From next week’s council agenda:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=273

CONFIRMATION OF DEPARTMENT HEAD AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR APPOINTMENTS

Section 605 of the City Charter states that the appointment of department heads is subject to confirmation by the City Council.  In order to meet this requirement, City Council is being presented with the employment agreements for Administrative Services Director (Scott Dowell); Assistant City Manager (Chris Constantin); Chief of Police (Michael O’Brien); City Clerk (Deborah Presson); City Manager (Mark Orme); Deputy Director – Finance (Barbara Martin); Public Works Director – Engineering (Brendan Ottoboni); Public Works Director – Operations and Maintenance (Erik Gustafson). (Report – Mark Orme, City Manager)

Recommendation :A. In compliance with Government Code Section 54953(c)(3), the Legislative Body shall first orally report a summary of the recommendation for final action related to the employment agreements for: Administrative Services Director, Assistant City Manager, Chief of Police, City Clerk, City Manager, Deputy Director – Finance, Public Works Director – Engineering, and Public Works Director – Operations and Maintenance: “The City Manager is proposing to modify the employment agreements with Scott Dowell as the Administrative Services Director, Chris Constantin as the Assistant City Manager, Michael O’Brien as the Chief of Police, Barbara Martin as the Deputy Director-Finance, Brendan Ottoboni as the Public Works Director – Engineering, and Erik Gustafson as the Public Works Director – Operations and Maintenance; and The City Council of the City of Chico is proposing to modify the employment agreements with Deborah Presson as City Clerk and Mark Orme as City Manager; and The Legislative Body is proposing to modify the appointment of Scott Dowell with an annual salary of $132,873, Chris Constantin with an annual salary of $185,000, Michael O’Brien with an annual salary of $154,679.99, Deborah Presson with an annual salary of $144,039.67, Mark Orme with an annual salary of $207,500, Barbara Martin with an annual salary of $117,541.49, Brendan Ottoboni with an annual salary of $138,009.37, and Erik Gustafson with an annual salary of $135,397.50.” B. The City Manager recommends Council Confirmation of the modifications as indicated above. C. The Mayor, on behalf of the City Council, recommends Council confirmation of the modifications as indicated above for the City Manager and the City Clerk.

UPDATE: As a friend of mine points out, “So Orme now makes $9,000 more than last year’s contract.  Maybe one block could have been resurfaced and that would last decades. Whereas, in Orme’s wallet — it goes for a 1%er lifestyle.  And Constantin was hired to do 3 jobs: finance, HR and administrative director.  Now he does one and gets more $$ now than he did for a couple of years! “

I’ll add, Debbie Presson has a bigger $taff now, does very little work herself, but has got about $10,000 in raises, just over the past couple of years. When asked to pay more of their pension, management $taff demanded and got raises that more than covered their new portion.

Here’s my prediction – Presson is spiking up and will retire within the next year.

Who is at fault here? Well, us, cause we elected the $heissers on council who keep approving these contracts. 

Mark Yudof on his $360,000 University of California Pension: “This is the way it works in the real world…”

28 Sep

Thanks Dude, for the link you sent regarding outrageous pay and pensions in the University of California system.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-09-27/six-figure-pensions-university-california-teachers-surge-60-2012

Here’s the source article from the Los Angeles Times:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-uc-pensions-20170924-story.html

These are the kind of people who are bringing down the state, having already gutted our school system. 

 

Pensions are a promise“?  Who made that promise – most of us were left out of the conversation. The workers made up the rules, saying the taxpayers would be left out of their “closed door” sessions. In fact, through “collective bargaining,” most of the actual workers are left out of the bargain. They have no idea how their pensions will be funded, and they don’t care.

The taxpayers didn’t promise any such thing, and if these people want these pensions they need to come up with a plan among themselves to save their pension systems. 

Remember when Dad would pull the car over, and scream at the top of his lungs, “DON’T MAKE ME COME BACK THERE!”

It’s time to put public pension suckers in the back seat.

City has no financial emergency policy, $taff suggests a policy for revenue measures

25 Sep

The report I got is not cut-and-pastable, you can read it for yourself here.

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket-9-27-17.pdf

I’ve again asked the city clerk’s office to send me a cut-and-pastable copy, there’s stuff in this report that needs to be discussed publicly. 

Those of us who paid attention watched council first deny and then flub their way through near-bankruptcy.  They hired an out-of-town gun to “fix” things, he gutted $taff and walked away having established unprecedented salaries for management and a policy that allowed management to pay less than 10 percent of their own pensions.

So yeah, we need a emergency plan, but what I see here is a plan to pay down their pensions. 

“pay down scheduled debt payments…” 

The city’s biggest debt schedule is the $185 million-plus they owe on the pensions. $taff is currently paying $500,000/year on that debt, but payments will go up to $1.5 million within the next few years. 

How will they find the money?

“This policy authorizes the city manager…to investigate…enhanced revenue sources…including…tax increase proposals…”

I don’t have time to re-type the whole report, and our $100,000-plus clerk $taff screwed up sending me the report – as I’ve established with Presson and Brinkley, the reports are supposed to be loaded in such a way that they cut-and-paste, but Stina Cooley, recently promoted to the position, apparently does not know this. Or is just trying to put one over, I don’t know. 

Read it for yourself. 

UPDATE: Sorry to be so testy when I posted the above from my phone, but I get so sick and tired of $taff. Stina Cooley has been with the city for a while now, recently took on some clerk duties, and ignored me when I asked her to resend the reports in “cut-and-paste” format. 

I know people don’t hit the links – Word Press puts eyes in the back of my head. I know a lot of people read the posts without hitting the links, and I use cut-and-paste to quote sections of the reports so they will see, in exactly so many words, what $taff is up to. 

So today I resent my request, and done as I should have done in the first place – cc’d Cooley’s supervisor Dani Rogers. I cc’d Mark Orme because I want to keep him abreast of his $taff’s performance. 

And of course Rogers responded very quickly that the reports would be converted to text, and then she sent me the link. 

These people get paid a lot of money to have some old landlady tell them how to do their job. 

CARD makes “new” agreement with employees? Nothing really new, Willmann gets a raise but still only pays 2.5 %

24 Sep
 

Chico >> Ann Willmann, general manager for the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, noted good budget news following the conclusion of union negotiations.

Contract negotiations were concluded with different collective bargaining and employee groups, she noted during Thursday board meeting.

According to a staff report, each employee group with receive an annual cost of living increase of 3.5 percent each fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017 and ending July 2019.

Also, employees will be contributing more for their PERS coverage, ranging from a low of 2.5 percent per year to a high of 8 percent until 2020, depending on their collective bargaining unit.

Willmann noted that $1.7 million has been set aside by CARD to cover unfunded PERS liability, the exact amount of which changes.

On Friday, Willmann noted in an email, “The COLA increase is costing the district an extra $63,582.00 in this fiscal year.

“The increase in the percentage the employees are paying for PERS is saving the district $33,256.34 in this fiscal year.”

In addition, the negotiating units also agreed to reduce the salary schedule from the current 10-step configuration to a six-step schedule, which should be reached by July 2020.

City $taff will be as good as we demand

21 Sep

I sent the following letter to the Enterprise Record, regarding a meeting I attended September 11 – the reporter, who I did not see at the meeting, did not post her story until the following week (9/17), and didn’t do any background on Portland Loo. She allows herself to be led by $taff – makes the job easier. 

Committee members Andrew Coolidge and Reanette Fillmer were strangely silent during the meeting, listening to the report. Fillmer asked a couple of questions about Gustafson’s remarks, then left the room right behind me after adjournment. But Coolidge babbled at the reporter – why didn’t he make more comments on the legal record? He told the reporter he thought we needed more public restrooms? This is the guy who told a gathering of Chico Taxpayers that he had taught his own kids to call City Plaza “Bum Park”. When will we get some action out of these idiots? 

When we write letters, make phone calls, show up at meetings. My letter, run in the Enterprise Record today:

Chico Public Works Director Eric Gustafson reported to Chico Internal Affairs Committee (9/11/17)  that Downtown public restrooms are suffering “unsustainable vandalism”.  He suggested the city invest in Portland Loo. 

Portland Loo is a toilet designed to keep criminal activities – including prostitution and drug sales – out of public restrooms. With slats at top and bottom so police (and everybody else) can see inside, they are coated with vandalism resistant paint and made in such a way that they can be routinely hosed out by janitorial staff. They must be connected to water and sewer but can provide  their own lighting. They are supposedly tamper-proof.

The manufacturer lists a price around $250,000, but other cities, including Portland, have found initial costs can exceed $500,000 per unit. Both the city of Portland and the city of San Diego have installed and later removed these devices because of increased crime in the immediate area. In Portland, costs for cleaning the devices were so high – $99,000/year for two units – that water ratepayers successfully sued the city for  $617,588  spent on marketing and maintaining their Loo’s,  the cost attached to city sewer and water bills. 

Why do city staff continue to placate transient criminals? Gustafson is the staffer who told me transients have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to sleep in Bidwell Park. What about the taxpayers’ rights? 

More agencies scrambling out of CalPERS

18 Sep

Here’s another interesting article I found regarding cities/agencies leaving CalPERS, from the Sacramento Bee:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article172960601.html

“Trinity County Waterworks District No. 1 west of Redding and Niland Sanitary District from Imperial County are in line to become the third and fourth government agencies to break with CalPERS over the past 12 months in a manner that shortchanges their retirees.”

“shortchanges their retirees”?  No, I think, maybe the employees expected to get something for nothing, and that’s always a risky proposition.  These deals were cut behind the taxpayers’ backs – pensioneers can take it up with their labor negotiators, their city managers, their CalPERS board, but shouldn’t look at me.

“Trinity Waterworks is not in financial trouble, its district manager said. It voted to leave CalPERS in 2015 as it shifted its business model to one that relied on a contractor, meaning it did not have new public employees.

It has set aside money for CalPERS, but it does not have the full amount the pension fund wants.”

Trinity was wise to get out – CalPERS gambles funds on the market, in high risk investments. When an agency opts out, if they pay their liability, they are put in a “low-risk fund.”

“To fully fund their workers’ pensions, the two districts would have to muster up hefty termination fees. CalPERS asks for that money up front, and then moves the separating agency to a low-risk fund called the terminated agency pool.”

That’s the whole problem, CalPERS has continued to take gambles that have led their agency into near bankruptcy, they’ve had to be bailed out twice by the California legislature, that I know of. 

I don’t blame agencies for not paying their liabilities either – those employee contracts weren’t made on the level.  Let’s the employees come out and ask the rest of us for that kind of deal – they won’t, because they know it’s a rip. They do it behind closed doors, with “collective bargaining” and “binding arbitration.”  They pay their unions to pay off our legislature to uphold the laws keeping the public away from the bargaining table. 

Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of the end – 

“Three other small departments, including the Herald Fire District near Galt, have filed notices to separate from CalPERS.

The Herald Fire District voted unanimously in January to withdraw from the pension fund, citing a preference to expand its volunteer firefighter program. It’s not clear yet how much money it would have to pay CalPERS to find pensions for five former workers.”