Letter to the Editor: Patrick Newman claims our city is underfunded, I say it’s overspent

28 Jul

I saw Patrick Newman’s letter to the ER last week, the first part looked like a bitch-fight with Oroville taxpayer Steve Simpson, but I thought the last paragraph deserved an answer.

Newman opines, “Thoughts: 1) Chico police and fire are the only “fully funded” city departments – true since the beginning of Mark Orme’s tenure. 2) Like it or not, elected officials are tasked with spending money.  3) While I’m not convinced dumping more money into police and fire services will make us safer, I am aware that our underfunded city has a backlog of over $200 million in failing infrastructure – to include crumbling roads, a neglected sewage treatment plant, an under-maintained storm drain system, aging traffic signaling, etc.  4) There are flaws in any taxation scheme.  Chico can go on dithering, but the consequence will be exponentially more expensive infrastructure decline.

Wow, Mr. Newman is a pretty astute observer of city business, but he always twists things around his way. How can he say a city with a $211 million budget, 80% of which goes to salaries and benefits, is underfunded? So I wrote a letter about it.

In response to Patrick Newman:

  1. Yes, Chico PD and FD are fully funded. Public safety gets over 75% of the General Fund – proof that you can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it.
  2. Elected officials are tasked with spending money, and the public is tasked with making sure they spend it wisely. This isn’t always the case, and that is a good argument for a 2/3’s measure with specified spending goals. Instead council approved a simple majority measure that goes into the General Fund to be spent without public approval. 21% of the General Fund goes into the pensions.
  3. Our city is not “underfunded”, budgeting $28,890,000 in sales tax revenues for 2022, along with $11.5 million in property tax, $9.2 million VLF in lieu (your car registration fees) and $8 million added to your PG&E and water bills in the form of Utility Users Tax. Furthermore, the $200 million in failing infrastructure is a result of years of admitted deferred maintenance, while staff poured increasing amounts into their pension deficit – last year $11.5 million, this year over $12 million, $18 million by 2025, and so on.
  4. The major flaw in the sales tax increase measure is that it is not dedicated to any specific purpose. While staff and council have insinuated it would go toward infrastructure and services, they can’t promise that. They can promise a $12.2 million “catch-up” payment to CalPERS this year.

This is a bad measure, Vote No.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

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