These public agencies need to clean house before we should even consider revenue measures

15 Apr

Oh for cripe’s sake, another letter from the Measure A people. Like a friend of mine has observed, they are still really mad they didn’t get this measure past the voters. I was hoping they’d just stomp their foot and disappear through the floor, but you can bet they’ll be back in 2022.

Letter: Reflecting on the failure of Measure A

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Great and timely article in the Sunday, April 5 Enterprise Record regarding “No Sports.” For those of us who sports and athletics is such a large part of our lives it is hard to not get our daily “Sports Fix.” We know professional, collegiate, high school and other amateur sports will resume as we recover from this COVID-19 Virus. Our hearts go out to those directly infected with the virus and all of us indirectly affected by staying home and not participating in work or athletic activities. It is a good time to reflect on why Measure A failed and how to move our local recreation and sports programs forward.

In the beginning I was in favor of Measure A. Over the course of the campaign I changed my opinion that the measure would fulfill our facility and program needs. There are too many reasons to cite in 250 words for the failure. No sunset and a CPI were two along with few specifics on what facilities were needed and would be provided by the parcel tax if passed. CARD ignored half of the electorate when they planned the measure.

We need to analyze what facilities are really needed and what programs need to be re-energized and focused on. The October 2018 facilities assessment study should have done this but did not. It was an overall marketing study of the amateur sports market with two of the three proposals being private/public partnerships with no explanation by CARD.

— Terry Cleland, Chico

Cleland is right about the the “no sunset” and annual increase with the Consumer Price Index – the measure was bad. He is also right about the lack of specifics – the measure promised nothing, except more revenues for CARD to spend as they pleased.

But he left out the bond measure – General Manager Ann Willmann admitted several times that the parcel tax proceeds were not nearly enough to pay for any of the over-the-rainbow projects mentioned in the Measure A campaign. Willmann said they would use the parcel tax proceeds to secure a $30-something-million bond, the debt service for which would have cost $2 million a year while only providing $1 million for projects. A million dollars a year? Let me put that into perspective – several years ago, the city of Chico spent a million dollars “upgrading” the public restroom at One Mile. Get it? 

Cleland also neglected to mention the pension deficit, or the fact that a simple majority measure goes into the General Fund, to be spent at the pleasure of the board and staff. He wouldn’t admit – the salaries and pensions at CARD are not sustainable, that they have bottomed out the General Fund to pay down the deficit created by their employees’ unrealistic and unreasonable “shares”. Willmann admitted many times they had deferred maintenance while paying their pensions.  

I feel Cleland is trying to nudge the conversation away from the fact that CARD is poorly managed and is not fulfilling their mission statement. 

Cleland attended CARD General Manager Ann Willmann’s “informational” propaganda sessions. He heard her tell the group that CARD is without debt, and he sat right behind Dave Howell as he corrected Willmann. Howell quoted the latest figure on CARD’s Unfunded Pension Liability as $2.7 million, because that was the figure Willmann had recently given the Enterprise Record. She admitted to him and the rest of us that it is actually over $3 million. How does it grow so fast? Because, only 5 years ago, agency management was paying NOTHING toward their own pensions. CARD was paying, in total, less than 10% of the cost. These agencies have put off paying the pensions, because they expect the taxpayers to foot it. 

As of 2017 Willmann was only paying 2.5% of the cost of her pension, with an annual salary increase, that’s why CARD’s deficit is growing so quickly. As of 2019, she was paying 8%, with another salary increase, up to $127,000/year. 

If you want to see the consequences of this kind of pyramid scheme, read the latest CalPERS “actuarial valuation report” for CARD.

https://www.calpers.ca.gov/page/employers/actuarial-services/employer-contributions/public-agency-actuarial-valuation-reports

Just type “Chico Area Recreation District” into the search engine.

Look at what CalPERs will expect CARD to pay in “catch up” payments within the next few years – and then remember, the taxpayers pay ALL OF IT, in addition to half the payroll contribution. 

And here’s another lie Willmann floated to the public during her little propaganda blitz – she said that CARD has no control over the shares or amounts they pay to CalPERS. “this needs to be handled at the CalPERS level and the legislative level…” she lied. 

Here’s two holes in that lie – 

  1. If it’s out of the agency’s hands what they pay to CalPERS, why are the city of Chico and CARD’s payments so radically different? CARD pays 14%, while the city of Chico pays 21 – 31%.  You can see the city even negotiates different payments for different employee groups, as well as very different shares per employee group. 
  2. According to the report linked above, “The employer contributions in this report do not reflect any cost sharing arrangements you may have with your employees.”  There’s the truth – Willmann told the public at those sessions that the board doesn’t have any control over the shares. Liar. 

Okay, here’s where it gets even murkier – Willmann claimed in those sessions that her 8% was more than half of the agency’s cost – she bragged about that repeatedly.   But, when I asked her, in front of the rest of the group, why the city and CARD pay totally different percentages, she would not answer me in the meeting, saying she needed to check her figures. No, it was because she didn’t want to tell the others the truth – her 8% is not MORE THAN half of what the agency pays, it’s not even half.  She admitted to me via email later, the agency pays 17%.   “ The Total Normal Cost is then split in to the Employee Contribution Rate and the Employer Normal Cost Rate. I was incorrect regarding our Total Normal Cost, it is currently 17.127% for our classic members not 14%.”

Why did she tell everybody else CARD only pays 14%? Obviously, Willmann knows the truth, she knows she pays less than half, but misleads the public, because it’s in her best interest to do so. 

 And, here’s the real pig sticker – the taxpayers not only pay over half the payroll portion, but make the entire “catch up” payments on the resulting Unfunded Accrued Liability. 

So, in answer to Mr. Cleland, I’ll say, before I would even consider a revenue measure for this sad little agency, I would demand the following (and this is just for starters) :

  1. new general manager 
  2. Tom Lando off the board
  3. ratify a new agreement with employees that they work toward paying more of the agency’s payroll costs (a LOT more)
  4. ratify a new agreement with employees that they will pay the same “share” toward the “unfunded liability”, or “catch up” payments

Meanwhile, we do need to poke our legislators to dump the California Rule, and to start dissolving CalPERS and working toward a more sustainable pension system for our certainly needed but much overcompensated public employees. 

Next time we’ll apply the same argument to the City of Chico, who may not be discussing their one cent sales tax increase measure in front of the public right now, but I assure you they are planning to put it on the 2020 ballot. You can find the same actuarial report for the city at the website I linked above, just punch in City of Chico. 

Click to access chico-area-recreation-and-park-district-miscellaneous-2018.pdf

Click to access chico-area-recreation-and-park-district-miscellaneous-2018.pdf

Click to access chico-area-recreation-and-park-district-miscellaneous-2018.pdf

Click to access chico-area-recreation-and-park-district-miscellaneous-2018.pdf

4 Responses to “These public agencies need to clean house before we should even consider revenue measures”

  1. Scott Rushing April 15, 2020 at 11:27 am #

    EXCELLENT SYNOPSIS OF THE ISSUE OF EMPLOYEES FEEDING AT THE PUBLIC TROUGH…. WITHOUT TRANSPARENCY!

    Without getting into weeds, that CALPERS system was broker *before *the coronavirus hit the economy. Employees should be given a *”defined contribution” *plan which, in effect, sets out who will contribute what amount to their pension with* no guarantees *as to the eventual pension amount. A “defined benefit” is the opposite pension plan, which, in effect, promises the employee a percentage of their salary as *a guaranteed* lifelong pension. A crazy, unsustainable strategy that depends on the highly risky and volatile stock market investments to fund *guaranteed * pensions. No worker in the private sector or self-employed individual gets a “guaranteed” pension! Non-government workers must save and invest wisely and manage their investments to provide for a comfortable retirement with* NO GUARANTEES. *

    Lastly, government employees get wages and benefits that are equal to or above private pay jobs for similar work. In a word. UNSUSTAINABLE.

    Keep at it, Juanita!

    Best-

    Scott

    On Wed, Apr 15, 2020 at 10:55 AM Chico Taxpayers Association wrote:

    > Juanita Sumner posted: “Oh for cripe’s sake, another letter from the > Measure A people. Like a friend of mine has observed, they are still really > mad they didn’t get this measure past the voters. I was hoping they’d just > stomp their foot and disappear through the floor, but you c” >

  2. Dave April 15, 2020 at 6:18 pm #

    “Tom Lando off the board”

    NO ONE who is receiving a CalPERs pension should be on the board. Why? Can you say conflict of interest? Because they have every incentive to divert more money to CalPERs to try to save their ridiculous pensions. And of course you realize that’s at the expense of the parks, right? That’s exactly what Lando has been doing. Why do you think he put $6,000 of his own money to try to get Measure A passed? What Lando has done should be illegal.

    • Juanita Sumner April 16, 2020 at 5:15 am #

      I don’t think people should be excluded from an elected position because of their profession – that could get away from us. But, the voters need to know that person has an interest, and then they need to watch that person’s performance. Lando has been around for years, he’s been doing this in agencies all over Butte County, but nobody seems to care. People need to pay more attention, instead they’re home binge watching some stupid cable show.

      I believe the voters should work harder to inform themselves. I mean, it’s all on the website, the meetings are open – people shouldn’t vote if they’re not willing to do some homework.

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