Pro vs Con: Is Measure H right for Chico?

24 Oct

Juanita says: For those of you who don’t subscribe to the Enterprise Record, I wanted to provide yesterday’s (10/23/22) “Pro vs Con” segment – “Is Measure H right for Chico?” Mike Wolcott agreed to give me 400 words and promised to line up a proponent for, well, not exactly a “debate”. It’s more like a blind shooting match. You don’t know what you’re opponent is going to say, so you just put up your best argument. Slater obviously didn’t know what I was going to say, so he argued points that someone had made to him.

A couple of things I’d like to point out: 1) no, the city hasn’t “spent” $300,000 designing parklets, but they’ve “allocated it” to RGA (Gallaway), and the asst manager was asking for much more to build them. Slater forgets that it’s not the city’s money, it’s American Rescue Plan funding. A commenter also informed us that the city had intended to use that money in lieu of the fees that should have been paid by the bars and restaurants. 2) Slater insinuates that “one set of opponents” opposes all taxes, but offers no solutions. Well, you know that wasn’t us – I think we’ve made it clear that we wanted a restricted tax, dedicated to infrastructure. We also suggested the city offer more rational salaries and benefits. Slater seems uncomfortable with our solutions.

Read it for yourself and let me know what you think –

Pro/Brandon Slater

Chico has the lowest per capita general fund budget in the entire state, and it shows: overdue maintenance is piling up and public safety is decreased; and we can’t even begin to plan for a secure future. Bottom line, our town needs more resources in order to continue to be the community we love.

It has been a while since I‘ve seen a city issue galvanize support across ideologies the way Measure H has. It’s supported by our current mayor as well as seven former mayors, seven of the eight current council candidates, both local newspapers, prominent businesses, and community leaders from both sides of the aisle.

There has been a lot of misinformation thrown around. So, let’s start by getting the facts straight:

Accusation: The city spent $300,000 on the ice rink.

False: The net cost was $28,992.

Claim: The city spent $300,000 designing downtown parklets.

False: To date they’ve spent $24,515.

Claim: Measure H will cost an individual $800/year.

Response: Perhaps … for those making over $200k/year; average resident impact is drastically less.

Claim: Our city manager is the highest paid in the state

Response: Actually our city manager’s pay ranks 321st in the state.

Claim: Other cities have a much lower percentage of budget allocated to cops.

Response: Budget line items are assigned differently, so you need to know how to read a budget. If Chico’s budget included schools, recreation, transportation, and social services—like NYC (the example given)—Chico’s police percentage would be significantly less. NYC spends $12,052/citizen on cops, Chico spends $275. NYC has 4 cops/1000; Chico has one cop/1,000 citizens.

One set of Measure H opposition opposes all taxes, but haven’t offered any actual solutions for their complaints. Another group supports this tax, but just don’t want the current council to get the credit. At the end of the day, it comes down to setting aside our grievances in order to meet the needs of our community.

Think about all the great things we have: Bidwell Park, Chico State, homegrown businesses, designation as one of the top 100 art cities; and Enloe Medical Center, one of the top 250 best hospitals in the country. The list goes on and on. Just look around. So much great stuff in Chico worth our investment.

Vote Yes on Measure H.

YesOnHChico.org.

ER Intro: Brandon Slater is organizer of Yes on H campaign committee, President of D.H. Slater and Son, Inc., and Chairman-elect of the Chico Chamber of Commerce. 

CON / Juanita Sumner

Measure H proponents claim Chico doesn’t have adequate funding for infrastructure, but council approved a 2022 budget increase from $142 million to $211 million. The new budget included creation of three new positions – public information officer, assistant public works director, and homeless solutions coordinator, each over $100,000/year. Council hired a new police chief at more than the retired chief, a new city manager at an unprecedented salary over $211,000, and approved raises for management and the fire and police departments, without asking them to pay more of their pension costs.

Don’t believe promises, look at the budget. The police department gets 49%, fire department 28% – meanwhile parks get 3% and public works 1%. $25 million to pensions, while only $1.2 million to all capital projects. While surveys by both City of Chico and CARD indicated residents value public safety, respondents put an equal value on streets and parks, which is not reflected in the budget.

Proponents have admitted CalPERS is a major concern. In 2021-22, Chico paid $13 million in payroll contributions and another $12.2 million in “catch-up” payments on the pension deficit. Depending on group, employees pay 9.75 – 15% of the payroll contribution, while taxpayers pay 10 – 19%. That’s a total of 19 – 33% of total cost, leaving the rest to ride the stock market. With CalPERS returns at less than 7%, the taxpayers are on the hook for the resulting deficit.

A Human Resources staffer told me, “City of Chico employees are paying, or are nearly paying, HALF of the CalPERS pension costs.” [sic]. That’s not correct – employees only pay a payroll contribution, they don’t pay toward the pension deficit, which is at least half the cost. Last year staff reported that even with increasing “catch-up” payments made at the cost of infrastructure and services, the pension debt had gone up 43% in the last five years.

While it’s not mentioned in the measure, one proponent announced the city will use new tax revenues to secure bonds to ensure H money doesn’t go to the pensions. Bonds are debt. In 2021 a consultant reported that a bond for $180 million at 3.5% would cost over $73 million in interest. There are also brokerage fees to various middleman agencies. That amounts to nearly half the borrowed money going to bank costs instead of infrastructure.

Chico doesn’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. We can do better. No on H.

Juanita Sumner is a member of the Chico Taxpayers Association.

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