Archive | February, 2018

CalPERS nears insolvency – meanwhile city of Chico uses “cost allocation” to rationalize fund pilfering to pay pension costs

27 Feb

Thanks Dude, for this recent article regarding CalPERS insolvency. Former CalPERS board member and erstwhile gubernatorial candidate (2006?) Steve Westly has been speaking up about CalPERS growing pension deficit, warning the agency will collapse if it is not bailed out or “reformed.”

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-02-24/former-calpers-board-members-shocking-admission-calpers-near-insolvency-it-needs

I don’t know what he means by “reform” – to me, this would mean, no more 70 – 90 percent of highest year’s salary at age 50 – 65, cut employer contributions to 10 percent (based on merit and years employed), and make the employees pay their own retirement package. 

Here’s an article from last year that chronicles this mess we’re in from the beginning.

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-pension-crisis-davis-deal/

Of course now everybody is screaming for “reform” because they know the system is about to collapse and they won’t get their dough.  Most of these “reformers” mean, taxpayers pay more. That’s what the city of Chico is up to at tomorrow’s Finance Committee Meeting.

Chris Constantin first introduced the concept of “cost allocation” a couple of years ago. It is a process by which they transfer money out of the general fund to pay salaries, benefits and pensions for city employees. It’s very confusing, unless you are the consultant who is hired to explain it every year. That would be Chad Wolford. 

Two years ago, Wolford told us we were “spending too much money on overhead” – meaning, management salaries, and particularly, management pensions.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/11/29/no-kidding-our-city-is-headed-for-deep-doo-doo/

In response, the city raised pension shares but made adjustments to ensure employees would not have to pay. Mark Orme and Chris Constantin accepted what amounts to 401K plans, which they report will not add to our pensions costs – wrong again Chris! They still got salary increases, and we will have to pay them that deferred compensation, it just routes CalPERS. To me, this is just greed. Look at their salaries:

http://www.chicoer.com/article/NA/20171002/NEWS/171009943

http://www.chico.ca.us/human_resources_and_risk_management/documents/OrmeEmploymentAgreement10-2017.pdf

Orme demands over $200,000 in base salary, but expects us to believe he has our best interests at heart? 

Tomorrow, at an 8:30 am Finance Committee meeting, they will go about “allocating” their fancy lifestyles onto the backs of the taxpayers, taking money that should be providing street maintenance, sewer plant updates and other services for those of us who pay for them, and putting it toward their 70 – 90 percent (do the math on Orme’s salary) pensions. Read the report here:

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/2-28-18FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

This is sneaky stealing, if you ask me. The taxpayers are never privvy to this stuff – wonder why they hold these meetings at 8:30 in the morning while you are rushing to work? 

 

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Janus vs AFSCME – “the worker bees” are rising against their oppressors! Go bees!

27 Feb

Yesterday the Supreme Court was scheduled to take up the case of Janus vs AFSCME ( American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees). The center of this case is what unions call “fair share fees” – fees conscripted from workers who do not wish to be members of a union. This practice (which reminds me of the kid who positions himself on a corner near the school and bullies others out of their lunch money) is protected by “collective bargaining agreement”.  Both the city of Chico and the county of Butte have made such an agreement with the unions. This is what used to be referred to as a “closed shop” so a lot of proponents of Janus vs AFSCME are calling for “right to work” legislation.

The plaintiff in the case, an Illinois public employee named Mark Janus, does not want  to pay into the unions. According to  CBS News, “Janus has painted his complaint as a free speech issue. ‘I’m definitely not anti-union. Unions have their place and many people like them… I was never given a choice…'”

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-case-that-could-change-the-face-of-unions-comes-to-supreme-court/

The media is warping this issue – journalism isn’t what it used to be. Notice the use of the word “painted“, as though Janus is being deceptive. That’s not news, it’s opinion. The appropriate way to say it would have been, “Janus says…” or even “Janus claims…”,  but the use of the word “painted” is obvious slant. In the past week I don’t think I’ve seen or heard one straight news story on this issue. Today I added a category to the blog – “Our News Media Sucks”.

Opponents say  the case “could fundamentally change the workplace for public employees nationwide. A court ruling against the union, an outcome many believe likely, could seriously dent public unions’ coffers by depriving them of a major source of these so-called ‘fair share’ fees.”   Yeah, unions are scared, because “Without fair-share fees, many unions could lose a large share of their funding. Across the border from Illinois, AFSCME Iowa Council 61 enjoys an overwhelming 83 percent support among covered workers — but only 29 percent of those workers are dues-paying members.”

What does that say to you? People are forced to pay, but still won’t join? Won’t add their voice? Why?

When my father was forced to pay union dues to get jobs as owner/operator of his 18-wheeler, he was very bitter, saying they took more than he spent on gas, tires, and other maintenance. He had it worked out to the per hour charge, it pissed him off so much. We’d ask him what the union did for him, and he said that was the joke – his employers were mostly small businessmen, friends of his, he didn’t need a union. But, highway construction is publicly financed, and the state required them to pay union dues.

Years after my dad died, Teamsters forced the company for whom he had worked many years out of business.  Here’s a related story – Teamsters bragging about putting employers out of business.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-port-trucker-settlement-20160714-snap-story.html

Again the slant is pro-union – “the latest victory,” as though private business and the jobs it creates are bad for California.  My dad drove  truck for nearly 50 years, and he never complained about his employers in front of us kids, neither did his co-workers, but they bitched about Teamsters over lunch, over beers, even over their CB radios. 

Remembering those days in the cab of my dad’s Peterbilt, it offends me  that some of these public employees even describe themselves as “workers”.  Soft-handed pussies.

Here’s a very interesting point: “The result of weaker unions is often less money for workers — whether unionized or not. After Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker restricted public-employee unions in the state, the rate of unionization fell by 6 percentage points and teachers’ salaries dropped by an average of $10,000. “

And they’re saying, that’s bad? Cause I’m saying, public employees have been overcompensated for the last 10 or more years, and it’s driving the economy into the dirt. If getting rid of collective bargaining and “fair share” theft is what we need to do to get rid of these over-fed blue jays, then let’s go for it!

The unions are trying to tell us this is bad for “workers” when it’s ” workers” who are pulling the rug out from under them.

 

City franchise fees amount to a shake down of the ratepayers – now they want a sales tax increase? Tell them NO! with a Utility Tax Rebate Form

17 Feb

I got an answer from City of Chico Administrative Services Officer Scott Dowell regarding PG&E franchise fees – the amounts I had seen in the old news story from Ch 7 were not supposed to be added up:

Ms. Sumner:

The amounts reflected in the article totaling $609,017.71 for the combined PG&E Electric and Gas Franchise fees were received in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

They are included in the total amount of $649,760.70 reflected on the budget summary for the General Fund 001.  The difference between the two amounts is other PG&E adjustments paid to the City from prior year adjustments.  The $649,760.70 may be found on page 17 under object code 40404 at the following link from the City’s website:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2014-15CityAnnualFINALBudget_000.pdf

So, the totals I saw added up to $609,017.71, but the city also received an additional $40,000 or so from the previous year. I want to blaspheme right now – this whole thing is so confusing, how are we supposed to keep track?

By fiscal year ending June 2017, the total had gone up to $690,768.

This fee is based on a percentage of PG&E’s total take for the year, and then pasted right back on to our bills like a big booger.

It’s not like they hide it, not exactly.  Look at your bill, page 2, which lists “Your Electric Charges Breakdown” (I don’t find one for gas charges). Besides “Generation, Transmission and Distribution”, you are charged for “Electric Public Purpose Programs” (which I believe fund low-income programs for other customers), “Nuclear Decommissioning” (I believe this pays costs of taking down disabled nuclear plants), “Competition Transition Charges” (???) and then there’s “Taxes and Other”.

“Taxes and Other”. I did the math – that does not include the Utility Users Tax, which is a percentage of your total usage charges, including “Taxes and Other”. 

There are other charges listed – more hidden taxes – like the charge for bonds issued by the Department of Water Resources.  But what I’m looking at right now is how much money the city of Chico steals from ratepayers through these hidden fees. These fees are tacked onto our bills. No matter how we try to conserve we are hit, our bills go higher and higher. The city does nothing to curtail PG&E’s insatiable rate increases, because they stand to make a direct profit.

But they still need a sales tax? Next week they will raise developer fees, which is why Butte County/Chico have become less affordable to live in, according to the most recent housing affordability figures:

https://www.car.org/aboutus/mediacenter/newsreleases/2017releases/2qtr2017affordability

Butte County is included in the list of 29 counties where housing has become less affordable over the past year, despite developers who’ve used the “housing crisis” to wedge in their sub-standard subdivisions. High density developers have been after the city of Chico to let them build without paying fees, but their housing just keeps getting more expensive anyway. 

Here’s what you can get in Doe Mill – with no yard – for $422,000.

https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/Doe-Mill_Chico_CA

Builders have been making the argument that we need more housing to make houses cheaper – really? How come they just keep getting more expensive? According to this index, less than half the residents of Butte County can afford a “median priced” home.

https://www.car.org/marketdata/data/haitraditional/

They list the median price at about $299,000. Have you seen a house selling for $299,000 in Chico? Cause when we were looking for a house for our kid, anything less than $300,000 was in a neighborhood where you would want to park your car in your living room at night and push your dresser up in front of your bedroom door.  Even in my old neighborhood, a 3 bedroom house down the street just went for over $360,000. Do you really think the city of Chico, starving for money, is going to do anything that will cut their property tax revenues? All that crap about building more to bring down the cost of house is just LIES.

The city of Chico is desperate for revenues. You know how junkies are – they will lie through their teeth to get money, lie, cheat and steal.  A city can pass “measures” and “initiatives” at council meetings without so much as a peep from the public, especially a lazy, stupid public. The city of Chico takes advantage of our stupidity and laziness to siphon funding through the utility companies, the developers, business owners – anybody who wants to do anything in the city of Chico must participate in the shake-down. And they go along because all they have to do is pass the buck on to YOU.

So now we have a select group of business owners and publicly employed hawkers telling us we need to pay a sales tax increase? Answer them with more than a million in franchise fees we pay through our Comcast and PG&E bills. 

And then gather up your utility bills and add up the amounts listed as “Chico Utility Users Tax”. They are listed on PG&E, Cal Water bills, and if you still have a landline, your phone bill. But you have to look through these bills, sometimes the UUT charges are listed separately and have to be added up. PG&E lists them in with each electric and gas charge separately, look carefully. 

Most people in Chico qualify for the Utility Tax Rebate – a family of four making $47,000/year or less qualifies. Here’s last year’s application form:

http://www.chico.ca.us/documents/UUTREFNDApplicationPageOneTwo_CombinedFILLABLE4-13-16.pdf

Applications for 2017/18 will be available in late April, or I’ll e-mail the Finance Office and remind them. You have May and June to turn it in, and I usually drop mine off to avoid paying postage on a stack of utility bills – yes, they want alllll your bills! But they will send them back – I’ve been doing this for over 5 years now, and I’ve always got my bills back with my check. 

When we didn’t know, we might have considered ourselves victims, but now that we know, if we don’t act, we’re idiots. Sending in your UUT rebate application is a way of telling them you’re sick of their constant wheedling and poking, lying, cheating and stealing.

 

 

 

City financial officer gives a much different figure for utility franchise fees – ???

16 Feb

City of Chico “Chief Administrative Officer” Scott Dowell finally gave Presson an answer to my question – how much money does the city of Chico receive in franchise fees from PG&E. 

I had found an article from Ch 7 news in Redding:

http://krcrtv.com/archive/pge-pays-millions-to-northstate-counties

detailing payments to Chico, Butte County, and other local cities and counties, it  reported a much larger figure – in fact, three figures that added up to over a million dollars for fiscal year 2011-12.

 Chico$ 407,735.25 $ 201,282.46 $ 609,017.71 

Dowell came back to me with $690,768. 

Hmmm. Not sure what to think, I responded with the figures from Ch 7 and asked him where I could find this information in the budget.

Look Scott, I’m not calling you a liar, I’m just asking, why the difference in figures? Maybe he’ll come back and tell me how these franchise fees are based. The article indicates local agencies collect more in franchise fees every year, but maybe that was some kind of sunset thing, and the sun went down on it. I’m willing to give a person the benefit of the doubt.

Gee willikers –  maybe Ch 7 screwed up and gave three years’ figures? 

We’ll see what he says – I’m not expecting an answer before next Tuesday. 

City of Chico gets over a million a year in franchise fees from PG&E – oh excuse me – I mean, from PG&E ratepayers

11 Feb

After we found out about the fees Comcast pays to the city of Chico

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2018/02/02/did-that-chamber-remodel-really-cost-345000-or-is-the-city-of-chico-secretly-siphoning-funding-to-pay-down-the-pension-debt/

several of us wondered about other utility companies and what they – meaning US, the RATEPAYERS -pay to operate here.  So I asked city of Chico clerk Debbie Presson.

thank you again,

I have had another question from readers – does PG&E pay the city a franchise or other license fee (not including the UUT), and if so, how much does the city receive in such fees from PG&E per year? 

 I’m pretty sure I know the answer to the first question but not 100 percent and don’t want to be accused of spreading misinformation. If you are not able to answer please forward my questions to someone who has the information on hand.

 Thank you, at your convenience, for your response – Juanita Sumner

To which she cheerfully responded:

Hi Juanita,

 I don’t believe that PG&E has a franchise agreement with the City…however, I will check with Administrative Services and have them get back to you.

 Have a great weekend.

 Debbie

No, no, no, that’s not right. I did further digging on my own.

From PG&E,

https://www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/newsdetails/index.page?title=20170417_pge_pays_337_million_in_property_taxes_and_franchise_fees_to_cities_counties

“Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is paying property taxes and franchise fees of more than $337 million this spring to the 50 counties and 243 cities where the energy company owns and operates gas and electric infrastructure that serves 16 million Californians.”

“PG&E pays franchise fees to cities and counties for the use of public streets for its gas and electric facilities. The energy company submitted the fees to counties by March 31 and to cities by April 15.”

And, from Ch 7 news out of Redding,

http://krcrtv.com/archive/pge-pays-millions-to-northstate-counties

“Chico$ 407,735.25      $ 201,282.46      $ 609,017.71 “

That’s for tax year 2011-12? Over a million dollars in franchise fees, plus the property tax paid to the county (also listed). 

The city of Chico gets roughly half of all property tax proceeds collected by the county of Butte.

So I guess I should have asked her, “how much money does the city of Chico get from PG&E. Period.” 

We’ll see what Administrative Services has to say.

The Buck Stops Here – sign the gas tax petition

11 Feb

I printed out a copy of the gas tax repeal petition, signed it, and mailed it in Thursday, I hope you will do same.

http://act.reformcalifornia.org/petitions/cartax/html/gen/

I am not contributing money to the effort but figure two more signatures – including my husband’s – will not hurt. 

Reform California is trying to get the tax measure onto the November ballot. Of course that’s a crap-shoot – what if the voters, heavily bent with public employees, pass it? Ever wonder what proportion of our population is public workers who  benefit from tax increases? Just ask Google!

http://www.governing.com/gov-data/public-workforce-salaries/states-most-government-workers-public-employees-by-job-type.html

This data is from the 2014 Census figures. Read the intro – education employees are separated out, the first number you see – 883,408 – is just state, county, and city workers. Scroll down to “Public Employment by Job Classification” to see school workers by state – select California. That’s another 633,301 for a total of over 1.5 million full time, pensioned public workers. 

Also according to the US Census Bureau, the population of California was between 37 and 39 million in 2014, and about 23 percent of those people were under 18, unable to vote. Last year the LA Times reported 18.2 million registered voters in California.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-sac-essential-politics-updates-there-are-now-more-registered-voters-in-1475694802-htmlstory.html

So, 1.5 million voters in that pool does not sound like much, until you take into account – how many voting dependents/relatives do these people have? 

It’s hard trying to predict what the voters will do. Will they even vote, is the question. 

I hate sitting back and waiting, so I try to act. Signing the petition made me feel empowered, as if I was doing something. I think others will act too, if they feel the effort will lead to something bigger. Overturning the gas tax is not only good for our wallets, it’s a strike against the outrageous and dangerous overspending that has become Business as Usual for California and much of the nation. 

My dad had a hat he liked to wear – it said, “The Buck Stops Here.” 

 

 

Gas tax opponents hold special petition signings around state

8 Feb

I missed the recent signature gathering event here in Chico – LaMalfa and Nielsen held another rally at Sinclair’s gas station over on Forest Avenue.

http://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/Local-Reps-push-to-repeal-gas-tax-471369534.html

Apparently, local Democratic wag Bob Mulhullond was on hand with protesters to tell us we need to shut up and pay. Mulhullond is not above using fascist tactics to shut down his opponents, even sending in pro-abortion protesters. This is not democracy, it’s more like Gangs of New York. 

Mulhullond would like us to believe he cares about highway deaths, but he’s really worried about his wife’s and other public pensions getting paid. 

Luckily the effort in Southern California seems to be going well enough without us.

http://www.kusi.com/83184-2/

I wanted to sign the petition so contacted the website, asking where I could sign – they told me to download the petition, print it, sign it, gather any other signatures I  could, and send it in. 

And I  got this note from organizer Carl Demaio:

Two great developments on the Gas Tax Repeal Initiative to share with you:

First, yesterday we hosted two signature drives at gas stations where people could fill up for as little as $1.99 per gallon, got coverage on every TV station in the area, and created gas lines with as much as a 3-hour wait! We got over 3000 signatures on the Gas Tax Repeal Initiative alone from the events.

Well good for that. 

Here’s my message Chico, Butte County and state of California public workers – I’m going to shut down your  gravy train, and spend it on the roads. 

Holiday, stop whining about your salary.