The city has $9 million to pay their Pension Deficit, but cut street maintenance and divert the trash tax money to the General Fund

6 May

Another fucking remote meeting.  Within minutes after the meeting started, I had to contact the clerk to tell her – no sound on the microphone, we couldn’t make heads or tails what Finance Director Scott Dowell was saying. We were using my husband’s phone to stream the meeting on our tv – sorry, we’re not public workers, we don’t get free devices or IT help. I had the tv turned up to the key of G, when the clerk swished in and turned up the volume on Dowell’s microphone – Dowell is an idiot – and whoa Nelly, the volume jump almost knocked me out of my chair. 

I know I can watch these meetings later, on video, but I do want to watch it live and participate if possible. It’s pretty onerous. I have to have one device to stream the meeting, and turn on my tablet to make comments, and with our cheap internet plan, everything slows down to a crawl. The meeting keeps refreshing, it’s hard to listen to that. Trying to comment takes forever. I couldn’t sign in to Chico Engaged on my tablet, I think I need my laptop to do that – another device? And, while I’m messing with the devices, the meeting is going on, and I’m missing it. 

Sitting in the chambers, I just have my notepad in front of me, and I can jot stuff down while still paying attention. Having to use two devices to watch the fucking meeting SUCKS.

I made it through Dowell’s finance report – having seen it once in a Finance Committee remote meeting, I had to see what he would present to council. It’s always worth paying attention to this guy. He’s trying to explain why we are ahead of budget but are still short by millions. Last night he referred to the Camp Fire as a “wind fall”. Oh yeah folks, city of Chico made so much money, mostly in sales tax, during the months after the Camp Fire, that it screwed up projections for this year. Yes, they over project, and when they don’t get the revenues they projected, they CALL IT A LOSS. 

Would you believe, they hired a consultant to help the finance director make these projections, and they’re still whack? They didn’t realize, the Camp Fire was an anomaly? The town next door doesn’t burn down every day – when has that ever happened to you? But yeah, you have a disaster that destroys a vibrant retail district near your town, you have all these refugees with no where else to live, no where else to shop, no where else… and your city manager tells anybody who will listen (council and the press) that these refugees are COSTING YOU MONEY? And then he expresses surprise a year later when it turns out, they SPENT MONEY IN YOUR TOWN? And raised revenues by about $8 million over the previous year? 

Our city manager is an ass. He’s been trying to tell us we’re broke for years now, telling us we need to pass a sales tax increase to pay down OUR? bills. But listen, there’s more.

Dowell has been presenting a “plan” to deal with our impending bankruptcy – he’s divided actions into 3 phases – I presented that here:

Dowell presented a different list last night, all out of order. Look at the list I posted, because Phase 1 is already complete. City management has cut capital works projects some time ago. I sat in a meeting almost 5 years ago at which they said they had NO MONEY for street repairs, and they were taking projects OFF the list because they had no money. Dowell spoke a lot last night about 11 positions that were just eliminated – all part time, hourly workers, including interns. He and Orme are constantly threatening more cuts.

But another suggestion that was on that list for the Finance Committee presentation was to defer “catch up” payments on the pensions. Dowell said that would cost the city about $350,000 in interest. Last night he said they didn’t need to do that – so he’s going to go ahead and make that $9 million payment toward $taff’s “Unfunded Actuarial Liability” – that’s the pension deficit. 

Yeah, they cut street maintenance and repairs, but are putting $9 million of the taxpayers’ money into their own pockets. Great. 

Later I want to present the rest of that “Pension Time Bomb” conversation, as well as my solutions to the city’s pension problem. Stay tuned! 

6 Responses to “The city has $9 million to pay their Pension Deficit, but cut street maintenance and divert the trash tax money to the General Fund”

  1. leonard a costa May 6, 2020 at 7:30 am #

    yes and now they will use the virus. All taxpayer funded jobs need to have the same options for healthcare and retirement as the rest of us. This recent crisis is going to reduce tax revenue in which they will seek to raise taxes that will be a further hardship on the taxpayer as we try to recover. They must be held accountable for the budget in which their benefits and pay should be reduced or eliminated during this crisis. Instead they continue to spend money on taxpayer funded jobs and projects of negativity that only increases negativity. Lets be real if your job is to work on negativity , it doesn’t get fixed because then your job will no longer be needed. We need to fired Mark Orme since he has not been able to manage within the budget and negativity has increased. We should not hire a new manager , instead have the assistant manager take over without a pay increase. If he is unable to do so then we fire him and hire someone that is willing and capable of being accountable

    • Juanita Sumner May 6, 2020 at 11:54 am #

      thanks Leonard, I wholeheartedly agree!

      Later I want to present some other solutions, stay tuned!

  2. BC May 6, 2020 at 10:52 am #

    What is the total budgeted cost of Chico pensions now, and going forward? If the taxpayers of Chico could see the big picture all in one document, you would generate a better understanding of how intractable this problem is and will continue to be.

    Over the next 10 years, and broken out by payer, what is the total cost of the pensions? What is the annual contribution by the employees? What is the total expected “normal” contribution by the city (taxpayers)? What is the catch-up contribution for unfunded liabilities? How much growth is expected in the portfolio (7% compounded?) and how is that allocated to taxpayers when/if it does not happen? Are there any additional sources of funds flowing into the pension pot? If so, where and how much?

    Another number that brings this into perspective is the overall size of the fund, and the annual distributions to retirees, including cost-of-living increases.

    With a bit of analysis, It will become clear that there is no source of revenue available now or in the future that can rescue this broken system.

    • Juanita Sumner May 6, 2020 at 11:55 am #

      Thanks BC, I want to present some of my own solutions when I get another chance to sit down, I hope you’ll be back to let me know what you think.

  3. Scott Rushing May 6, 2020 at 11:58 am #


    On Wed, May 6, 2020 at 5:49 AM Chico Taxpayers Association wrote:

    > Juanita Sumner posted: “Another fucking remote meeting. Within minutes > after the meeting started, I had to contact the clerk to tell her – no > sound on the microphone, we couldn’t make heads or tails what Finance > Director Scott Dowell was saying. We were using my husband’s phone” >

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