Bubble Bubble, Toil and Trouble: Chico City Staffers have been trying to foist their pension deficit off on the taxpayers for years now – are you going to bite the ice rink carrot?

18 Oct

Here’s a recent history lesson.

At a 2018 Chico Finance Committee discussion I attended regarding possible revenue measures, a consultant proposed a seasonal ice rink Downtown as a carrot to get the voters to pass a sales tax measure. He said he’d given a Tahoe town the same advice, they’d taken it, and their measure passed.

And so it goes. Council recently decided to spend $400,000 to install a seasonal ice rink at the Downtown Plaza. Just think what that money would look like on the street in front of your house.

The city of Chico funds Chico Chamber, and commissions the Chamber for various studies and reports. A 2018 Chamber of Commerce report recommended that city staff pursue a sales tax measure. Their recommendations for spending the revenues were $3 million to hire more cops, $90 million to fix roads, and $130 million to go toward the pension deficit. At present, council is not being forthcoming with a spending plan. They have proposed a simple majority measure, so they can spend this money any way they want.

A few years ago, the Finance Department staff, on the suggestion of another consultant, instituted a “Pension Stabilization Trust”. Funds are appropriated (embezzled) from each department based on a percentage of payroll into the PST. None of those department funds are restricted, meaning, they don’t have to be spent on sewer or streets or parks or whatever, they can be “allocated” away to pay for any whim of council. In fact, the PST is the only restricted fund the city has. Once the money is in the PST, it’s restricted for use in paying the pension deficit. Once a year the Finance Director makes a “side fund” or “extra” payment to CalPERS – the first year, about $8 million, this year $11.5 million. Staff and consultants have projected that the payment will reach $18 million by 2026. See where this is going? No matter how much they pay, given the ridiculous salaries, benefits, and employee shares – not to mention new hires – the deficit just keeps going up.

There is a faction that is trying to “defund” the police. Well, there you are folks. Make them pay their own benefits! I want good police, but I am uncomfortable with people who say they want to protect and serve as long as they are allowed to enrich themselves with mandatory overtime and an automatic “step increase” salary scale. Kasey Reynolds told me they need to offer these overly generous salaries and benefits to attract good employees, I think she’s got it upside down. Good people don’t hold a town hostage for their own enrichment. This is a racket.

Meanwhile, council has reinstituted the Shelter Crisis Designation, in order to kick children off of a public facility in favor of a tiny house village for transients who will not be served any other way. What ever happened to those days when the county opened the unused buildings at the fairgrounds during extreme hot or cold weather? Now we have a permanent homeless camp at a public property that at present constitutes one of our biggest tourist attractions? Including Andrew Coolidge’s Home and Garden shows – gee, while I’m perusing hot tubs I have to wonder who is breaking into/stealing my car? Screw that, I can buy a pretty spiffy tub online:

I actually owned one of these for years, it was incredible.

Keep those letters coming to the ER, and contact your council reps – remember, always cc the other six.

4 Responses to “Bubble Bubble, Toil and Trouble: Chico City Staffers have been trying to foist their pension deficit off on the taxpayers for years now – are you going to bite the ice rink carrot?”

  1. BC October 18, 2021 at 9:14 am #

    I think its a terrible waste of budget money. $400,000 for an ice rink! Of course the money could be better spent. But since it’s going in, I have a few more practical questions?

    Will we have rental skates?
    Is there a low income/homeless/student discount for skate rentals?
    How about the music. Can’t skate without music. Do we have a fully inclusive multicultural playlist?
    Did anybody bother to rent a Zamboni? If we just bought one we could have another full time city position: Zamboni Operator. $89,000 per year plus benefits and pension. Skate guards, custodians, definitely need some managerial oversight. This might be a new budget item.
    It this rink carbon neutral? We have to freeze the ice which takes electricity. If we hit peak power usage and PGE shuts us off, do we get to use it as a wading pool?
    And there are capacity issues. If we all skate wearing a large innertube, we will bounce off each other if we get within 6 feet. Social distance.
    Can we smoke weed and skate?. How about a bar in the plaza?

    One final thought. Lets rent some snow-making machines! Just from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Get the mood right in the city Plaza. We can issue Northface parka’s and gloves to the plaza residents to keep them comfortable.

    I love it! Double the budget!

    • Juanita Sumner October 18, 2021 at 1:02 pm #

      Thanks for the light take on this situation, you know me, I always get caught up in the gloom and doom side.

      The only reference I have is the Paradise rink, which will open November 11 and stay open until January 17, 2022. $12 gets you skates, you can skate all day (although I have to wonder how many people around here can stand up on a pair of ice skates for 5 seconds). I understand they have 5-gallon buckets for beginners to use as a crutch. You can save money with a pass if you intend to use the rink often – passes run from $50 (for 5 sessions) – $300. The session varies, depending on the day of the week – weekdays the rink opens from 2:30 – 8:30 pm. Open as late as 11pm on weekends.

      I can’t remember what the maximum capacity would be for Chico City Plaza, that’s in the agenda report. But I remember it was a tiny fraction of a fraction of the city population that would use this thing, even though we would all pay for it. Just like the consultant told the CARD board years ago, regarding the high-end aquatic center they were pitching. She said less than 15% of the public would use such a facility, and I’ll guess even less will use the skating rink. Personally, $12 is more than I’d pay for such a “rinky-dink” facility. Who skates more than an hour? Even if you can stand on a pair of skates for six hours, that’s $2 an hour to skate in circles at City Plaza. The rink won’t even encompass the entire plaza, it will be shoe-horned in between the benches and the water fountain, etc. It won’t be as big as the rink at Cal Skate.

      I’m with you – I’d need either THC or alcohol to enjoy this venue.

  2. Juanita Sumner October 18, 2021 at 1:07 pm #

    Dude commented, “My first thought is unbelievable. But after reading your blog for a while now, it’s more like business as usual.
    Second thought is that Orme is shameless, but apparently has a lot of money. You can’t say he doesn’t resemble a pig.
    It’s quite striking.

  3. Juanita Sumner October 18, 2021 at 1:09 pm #

    Thanks Dude, you said it.

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