Archive | 100K pension club RSS feed for this section

Good read: Pensions for local public safety workers skyrocketing

12 May

Pensions for local public safety employees are skyrocketing

In Chico, over half the budget goes to police and fire, which also account for over half the Unfunded Actuarial Liability, a.k.a. Pension Deficit. And it’s what my dad called “Rabbit Math”. The more rabbits you have, the more rabbits you get. The bigger the debt base, the more interest it builds. That means, the public safety portion of the UAL is growing faster than the “Miscellaneous” portion, meaning, all the other city department payrolls. According to Chico Administrative Services Director Scott Dowell, the public safety pension deficit has grown from $42.9 million to $79.1 million in just the last 5 years. All the while, Dowell has been making bigger and bigger “extra” payments to CalPERS – $11.5 million last July – and they just disappear like spit on a griddle. Why?

According to the above article from Capitol Weekly, “In 2018, Transparent California found that the average pension for city or county public safety employees was $108,000 a year.

How is that sustainable, especially considering this little bombshell? “To add to the enormity of this problem, consider that there are more retired firefighters than active firefighters in this state.

These people can retire at age 50 with 90% of their highest year’s salary. In Chico, they get automatic step increases – in other words, just show up, and we keep raising your salary. While they are not allowed to use overtime to “spike”, or raise, their pensionable salary, they are allowed to accrue unused sick pay and vacation and “cash out” in their last year of employment, therefore “spiking” their pensionable salary.

Chico has become “Spike City,” promoting employees in the last year or so before retirement to raise their pensionable salary. They just spiked city clerk Debbie Presson’s salary at a recent council meeting, but this is especially true of the police and fire chief’s positions – look it up yourself, they don’t last five years, and then they’re off with 90% of that elevated salary. New Chief Madden got a $30,000 raise over the departing chief.

As you’d expect, public safety unions always put their money behind tax measures. Chico Area Recreation District Measure A was bankrolled by the Chico Police Officers Association and their president Jim Parrott ran the campaign.

But as you’ll remember, CARD and Parrott had their ass handed to them on a plate, that measure going down to a very decisive defeat. So did two measures in Tehama and Shasta County, both of them promoted as benefitting “public safety”. Whatever that means.

That won’t stop them. In Chico, and over at the Butte County Supervisors Chambers, they’ve signed onto Pension Obligation Bonds – a scheme by which they borrow money to roll on the stock market, hoping to make enough money to pay both the service on the borrowed money and make “extra” payments on the UAL. Sheesh, every time I say that, it sounds stupider and stupider. But I expect we’ll see all kinds of crazy schemes to make the rest of us pay for the UAL.

“In the face of this opposition, union leaders are finding other ways to drum up a steady cashflow, whether it’s through a first responder fee or taking over ambulance services from private industry veterans.

Hey, remember Emergency!, that great old Jack Webb propaganda piece about county emergency services, with real Emergency Medical Technicians? You really believe anything Jack Webb told you? It sounds great – “free” ambulance service! – but they don’t talk about the salaries or the pensions. Capitol Weekly reminds us, “ fire departments may reap a short-term windfall from collecting ambulance fees, they are only adding to their long-term pension obligation.

The unions have a lot of power in Sacramento. “A proposed state law – Assembly Bill 389 – would codify the Alliance model and make all of its anti-competitive antics legal.”

Every scheme the unions put before us leads to a bigger pension deficit. Instead of allowing them to turn our emergency services upside-down “to clean up their own mess“, we need to press for employees to pay more, drastically more, or surrender their ridiculous pensions and benefits. That is an uphill battle, given the money the unions pour into every election. To that end, we have to press our elected lawmakers to restrict PAC spending in elections.

You might feel overwhelmed by the opposition at the state level, but don’t forget – here, we beat the police union on a tax measure. It’s DOABLE.

Joe Azzarito: Let’s DO EQUITY, not just TALK IT!

11 May

Thanks to Joe Azzarito for this thoughtful take on city resource allocation.

The term equity has been bandied about by social progressives lately as cause for radical change in
society. By definition, equality means “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and
opportunities.” It has to do with giving everyone the exact same resources, whereas equity “involves
distributing resources based on the needs of the recipients”.

Let’s apply these terms to City of Chico expenses, specifically to its employees’ salary, pension and other
benefits. Much has been rebutted against the use of Pension Obligation Bonds as a panacea for its
enormous and growing unfunded actuarial liability due its staff.

If we consider the most appropriate use of available revenue in the service of citizenry, it behooves the
Chico City Council to find a solution to the many ignored uses for money. The recipients of the excessive
largesse, in the form of city paid pensions, would not in the slightest be equitable when balanced off
against needs of citizens. With their six figure incomes, they can well afford to fund their own
retirement, regardless of what has gone before.

Chico’s many problems, such as affordable housing for all, street repaving, safety both from crime and
fire, should be the focused uses for reported increased revenues. The double indebtedness that pension
bonds would create, between bondholders and CALPERS, is not establishing equity. It is exacerbating the
problem. The city‘s citizens have more unmet needs, in the form of services, than well heeled staffs do.
Let’s DO EQUITY not just TALK IT!

Joe Azzarito, Chico CA

I’ll say this – the fox is in charge of the henhouse, so the fox gets what he wants, and the hens, well, they just get it.

Watch the video – the consultant describes POB’s as “issuing debt to pay off a portion of that UAL…” Morgan and Coolidge need to have their mouths washed out with soap.

6 May

Andrew Coolidge told a room full of people that “my friend Juanita Sumner is a liar...”

A friend of mine told me, “when you call a liar who has called you a liar, a liar, it just sounds like the biggest pissing match in town…” How true. Well, get out your hip waders, cause the piss is running deep these days.

Have you watched the video of the September 23, 2020 Finance Committee meeting yet? Don’t take my word for it, watch the video. And do me a favor – if you hit this link and it doesn’t work, get right back to me at “Comments” here and I will repost it.

https://gofile.io/d/8JVqub

I wrote a letter to the Enterprise Record hoping more people would watch the video. If you watch the video, you’ll see why our clerk Spike Presson does not usually make these recordings available to the public.

Mayor Andrew Coolidge and Councilman Sean Morgan have denied that a Pension Obligation Bond is new debt.

I have a recording of the 9/23/20 Finance Committee meeting at which consultants Mike Meyer and Eric Scriven of NHA introduced the POB to committee members Sean Morgan, Ann Schwab and Randall Stone. Meyer described POB’s as “issuing debt to pay off a portion of that UAL (aka, ‘pension deficit’).”

According to Wikipedia, “a bond is an instrument of indebtedness, of the bond issuer to the holder.” Investopedia defines “issuing debt” as “a financial obligation that allows the issuer to raise funds by promising to repay the lender…”

Meyer described a scheme by which bond issue (borrowed money) would be invested in the stock market, in an attempt to make enough money to pay both the bond debt and the UAL.

The consultants pointedly ignored the obvious solution – employees need to pay more. Currently they only pay between 9 and 15% for pensions of 70 – 90% of salaries of over $100,000/yr.

City leaders also need to better manage employee costs. Even while UAL payments have increased by millions, at the cost of city infrastructure and services, the UAL has grown 43% over 5 years. Instead of observing attrition measures recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association, management has added three new management positions, raised the police chief’s salary by $30,000/yr, and raised the clerk’s salary by $10,000/yr.

POB’s are a crackpot scheme at best and Coolidge and Morgan should be ashamed for perpetuating misinformation.

The video is available at https://gofile.io/d/8JVqub

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Business as Usual at the City of Chico: Pass a new tax without voter approval, spike your pay like the retiring city clerk, hand the bag to the taxpayers! And only then do they “open” the meetings…

4 May

A couple of members of Chico Republican Women Federated recently told me that Mayor Andrew Coolidge, speaking to an unmasked assemblage of the club, called me a liar, in exactly those words. He says the Pension Obligation Bonds are “not new debt.”

Hey Jackass, trying to “cancel” me? Well here’s the video of the September 23, 2020 Finance Committee meeting at which the city’s consultant said exactly the opposite.

https://gofile.io/d/8JVqub

I’ll tell you something else – ever since Dave Howell posted that video at Gofile, it’s been repeatedly removed. I don’t know by whom, but the “remove” button is right there at the bottom of the screen. Obviously, somebody doesn’t want the citizens of Chico to see this meeting. In fact, I think it was a total mistake that I got a recording of it – I asked a lower level staffer and she gave it to me. But now the clerk – who will be getting a salary spike of roughly $10,000 at tonight’s meeting, in anticipation of her pending retirement – says they don’t record the meetings because they aren’t required by law. That’s not true, they record the meeting so they can produce the minutes – how do you think I got the recording? Then they show the minutes to full council, who are allowed to redact comments and who knows what, and when she’s done “amending” the minutes, she tosses that recording so nobody will be the wiser.

Tonight she’ll spike her salary up to $144,000+ a year, like they all do. She’ll receive 70% of that figure in retirement. I’ll admit, she’s pretty good at her job, but she’s better at looking out for her own interests than those of the public.

So, there it is. They got their Pension Obligation Bond and now the spiking begins. They will make no real attempt to control employee costs – why bother? They’re on The Gravy Train now!

But, what they won’t admit, is that there’s trouble on the horizon if they can’t get the sales tax increase that Andrew Coolidge is pushing. He wants a separate road bond too, because, as he already acknowledged, the sales tax revenue will be used to secure the POB. The consultant made it pretty clear – watch that video – they will need a revenue stream to secure the bonds, because the market is tricky, and they may not be able to earn enough in investments to cover either the POB. OR! the pension deficit. See, their investments have to pay off well enough to pay both the bond service AND the pension deficit, or this whole plan is BUST.

Dave Howell watched the meeting and then wrote a good analysis of what’s happening:

That finance meeting WAS PACKED with crazy and outrageous information. And the local media DIDN’T MENTION ANY OF IT!

Here are some key takeaways the local media should have covered:

Last year at this time we thought the unfunded pension liability we were on the hook for was $128 million. Well, this year the bureaucrats and consultants say $146 million. AND NOW THEY TELL US WE OWE ANOTHER $140 MILLION IN INTEREST! But these numbers are low because they don’t include the 4.7% under performance from last year and also the prior year’s under performance. IT IS OBSCENE! WHERE THE HELL IS THE LOCAL MEDIA ON THIS?

UAL for CalPERs is 146.3 million which is a 43% increase over the last 5 years. UAL payments are now 9.9 million in 2021 and will grow to 13.2 in 2026. And remember this is assuming an unrealistic 7% CalPERs return. In all likelihood this number will be even worse as over the last 20 years CalPERs hasn’t come close to 7%. CalPERs return has only been 5.5%.

The City’s pensions are only 67% funded.

In addition to leasing the streets Morgan talked about the possibility of leasing the airport! WHAT A SCAMMER!

What was just as revealing was after the snake oil consultants left the meeting. Dowell went into the June and August financial statements. (What happened to July?) The city’s cash flow is up OVER $30 MILLION from last year resulting in an $8.8 million surplus! (You would think with a 30 million increase in cash flow the surplus would be even more.) And it sounds like these numbers will probably increase over the next few months. It turns out that despite the doom we were told the COVID crisis would have on the City’s finance, the crisis has generated a huge windfall for the City, similar to the Camp Fire situation.

Naturally, they didn’t even think of giving any of the surplus back to the taxpayers or using it to fix the streets. They are pigs at the trough and will take everything they can get, so even with millions in surplus you can bet they will be talking tax and fee increases next year! It just shows that no matter how much money they take, all of it and more will be devoured by pensions, other post employment benefits and raises. These people are parasites and they will bleed the people of this community dry! DON’T LET THEM DO THIS TO YOU!

And thanks Dave, for bringing up that $30 million “surplus”. What happened to that? Slight of hand? Peas and walnut shells? That’s Business As Usual at the City of Chico!

Sean Morgan has received over $86,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans, other council members have received PPP loans, while their businesses have not been shut down – what incentive do they have to re-open our town?

28 Apr

This COVID shut down has hurt people. In Chico, businesses have gone under, people are struggling to make their bills, and the school district reports kids are suffering from depression and even suicidal thoughts. Personally, I’ve watched a few of my older neighbors and friends struggle with their own mental health, and even alcohol and drug addiction.

I witnessed a different kind of insanity on the video of last Tuesday’s (4/20/21) Chico City Council meeting – a cop, out of uniform, masked like a bandit, coming within inches of citizens, threatening to arrest them if they didn’t leave a public meeting.

We’ve allowed our city to turn into a Fascist state. We’ve gone along with the madness. Masks that studies show are not effective, a ruling class allowed to decide which businesses are “essential” and which aren’t, while they foist tax increases, increased builder fees, and rent control on us from behind closed doors.

And they profit, while we lose. Remember when we found out, former mayor Ann Schwab admitted business was up, way up, after the COVID shut down. That’s right, a bicycle business is “essential”. Well, how about a candy store? Council member Kasey Reynolds’ candy story, Shuberts, has not been closed one day since the shut down.

It’s true, certain council members who have been pushing this shut down have profited from it. Here’s a link to the government COVID relief site, the Paycheck Protection Program:

https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/covid-19-economic-injury-disaster-loan#section-header-12

And here’s the link to Andrew Coolidge’s loan:

https://projects.propublica.org/coronavirus/bailouts/loans/coolidge-public-relations-inc-2449058603

Coolidge owns “Coolidge Public Relations Inc”, which runs those home, garden and bridal shows at the fairgrounds. I assumed COVID would have shut that kind of thing down, but read that he just had a show in January. I also found that he received $10,400 in COVID relief funding for that business, for “payroll”.

I was able to search the others through that page. I was surprised that Kasey Reynolds would get anything, because her business has actually done quite well during the shut down. She still got $68,500, for “payroll”.

The big winner was Sean Morgan, who owns a business called “InvestorKeep”. He received $86,000 from this program, again, for “payroll”. Frankly, I don’t think he has a payroll aside from his own salary but maybe he’ll chime in on that?

Deepika Tandon owns Guzzetti Catering and Indian Food – she was less greedy – only $5,290 for her suffering. The others do not own businesses that I know of.

You have to ask yourself, what incentive do these people have to re-open our town? These are the people who have ordered the arrest of three people who dared to enter a public building during a “public” meeting. Chief Madden kept telling them they were interrupting a “public” meeting.

The only word I can think of for this is ABSURD.

As you know, Chico has a drug problem…

11 Apr

I made fun of Kami Denlay-Klingbeil yesterday, but I’ll say she’s right about one thing – Chico has a horrible drug problem. Part of the problem is lack of enforcement, part of the problem is the transients who move the stuff. And I’ll agree with Denlay-Klingbeil again that there are not enough treatment facilities in our area.

You might have heard about two different recent drug busts involving heroin, fentanyl, and crank. The bigger one made headlines all over the state:

https://krcrtv.com/news/local/traffic-stop-leads-to-large-fentanyl-bust-in-butte-county

https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2021/04/10/chico-man-found-with-25-pounds-of-meth-during-traffic-stop-south-of-palermo/

Twenty-five pounds of crank – that should send a shiver right up your spine. Because it’s not just being used in the transient camps, it’s finding it’s way into social circles all over town. This guy was also carrying heroine and fentanyl, the use of which among young people here in town is going way up.

What the news pieces did not cover is Shawn Nowlin’s long history of run-ins with local law enforcement, including past felony drug charges, and the usual failures to appear. In 2016 he was finally sentenced for those offenses – including a felony committed while he was out on bail from a previous charge. He received 5 years of drug court probation, with orders to attend a substance abuse class and a 12 step program. Wow, that should make the average criminal shivver in their boots! That probation was supposed to be up in November of this year. Nowlin didn’t make it. I have to wonder, is this his first offense since 2016, or just the first time he’s been caught?

The same week Nowlin was arrested, an 18 year old boy from Oroville was arrested not only for possession of fentanyl, but accused of selling it to kids at the junior high. Those kids had to be taken to the ER, luckily they all recovered.

https://www.actionnewsnow.com/content/news/Oroville-man-arrested-for-allegedly-selling-counterfeit-Xanax-to-teens-574172371.html

But who knows what will happen to the kid who did the dealing – will he get drug probation, so he can go out and do it again? Will he receive “treatment”?

Chico City Council recently discussed the Butte County Behavioral Health budget – over $73 million/year – but they didn’t discuss how BCBH gets that money. They get it for bringing mental patients, drug patients, and freshly released convicts into our community. But they provide little to nothing in services. The money goes into salaries and benefits. Look at the state salary database for Butte County here:

https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Counties/County.aspx?entityid=4&year=2019

This information is for 2019, showing that the county enjoyed a budget of about $134 million/year. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the salaries – our CEO clocks in at a salary of about $250,000/year, with a $59,000 benefits package – total comp over $300,000, for the CEO of Butte County. Scratching your head yet?

Then you see the problem with BCBH – their director is the second highest paid employee in Butte County at about $240,000/year salary with another $54,000 in benefits. Scroll down – a “contract physician” in the Behavioral Health Department makes $216,000/year, with a $59,000 package. Scroll a few pages – I counted 18 BCBH employees making more than $100,000/year, plus benefits packages of at least $25,000 each. These people are all pure administrators, they don’t go out on the streets with the “crisis teams”. Some of them don’t even work in Butte County, they are more like consultants.

So, you can see part of the reason for the revolving door at the jail. And why Chico PD has a policy to “counsel and move them along” even if they are sitting there with a needle hanging out of their arm. We have hardcore drug addicts and really, really seriously mentally ill people living in our parks, local motels, shelters, and they are not getting any help from the public sector. The only people interested in “helping” them are people like Shawn Nowlin.

Send a link of this post to Kami Denlay Klingbeil. If she really wants to do something about this mess, she needs to start needling the county for further audit of their BCBH budget.

Letter to the Editor: The pension deficit burden needs to be borne by the employees who created it through unrealistic contributions, not the taxpayers

8 Apr

We here in Chico have a big decision to make and we need to make it quick, before it’s made for us by a group of individuals who stand to gain substantially at our expense. If council approves the Pension Obligation Bond, it’s over Folks, we pay for the outrageous pensions at the expense of public infrastructure and services.

Four of our seven-member council are either public pensioners or married to public pensioners. All of their campaigns have been heavily influenced by public employee unions, who are the biggest contributors in every election. these PACs are allowed higher contributions limits than the average voter, and they can make contributions on their own and to other like-minded PACs.

I don’t believe people with such obvious conflict of interest should be allowed to make this kind of decision unfettered. At the very least, they should have to declare their personal interest in furthering the POB and continuing to prop up CalPERS, an agency they all know has put us in horrible debt through mismanagement. At the last finance committee meeting, both Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge acknowledged that CalPERS continues to make bad investments. So why won’t they ask employees to make more reasonable contributions? And why don’t they make any effort to get out of CalPERS and ask new employees to take a Defined Contribution Pension Plan?

The pension deficit is a burden that should be borne by employees who created it through unrealistic contributions, not the taxpayers.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Time for “Truth in Accounting”

8 Apr

I’ve noticed lately this blog is getting alot of traffic from a really interesting website called “Truth in Accounting”:

https://www.truthinaccounting.org/

This website is operated by a well-credentialed group of individuals, out of Chicago – a city with big pension problems. It is a really good source of information about pension systems nationwide, including the federal government systems, which have driven our national debt for years. Didn’t you ever wonder how this nation could end up with such astronomical debt?

They are featuring the post I made the other day about the city of Irvine, California, and Defined Contribution Pension Plans. So, I must be onto something, these people are all financial big-shots. I don’t think they’d run it if I were shooting blanks at the moon.

We here in Chico, and all over California, have a big decision to make and we need to make it quick, before it’s made for us by a group of individuals who stand to gain substantially at our expense. If council approves the Pension Obligation Bond, it’s over Folks, we pay for these outrageous pensions. Why would Staffers who make enormous salaries care about our hardships – they want the fucking money.

Do you know how many members of council are either public pensioners or are married to pensioners? Andrew Coolidge’s wife teaches at Chico State. Sean Morgan is also employed by Chico State, as is Alex Brown. Kami Denlay (married name, Klingbeil) is married to a public safety worker.

And then there are the contributions from public employee unions – Deepika Tandon in the latest election and Kasey Reynolds in 2018 both received their biggest contributions from the unions. I’m not sure about Huber, but he’s already expressed his desire to add more taxes to your bills with as little public participation as possible.

I don’t believe people with such obvious conflict of interest should be allowed to make these kind of decisions. At the very least, they should have to declare their personal interest in furthering the POB and continuing to prop up CalPERS, an agency they all know has put us in horrible debt through mismanagement. At the last finance committee meeting, both Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge acknowledged that CalPERS continues to make bad investments. So you have to ask yourself why they won’t ask employees to come to the table with more reasonable contributions. And why they don’t make any effort to get out of CalPERS and ask new employees to take a Defined Contribution Pension Plan.

The main reason is that the voters don’t make it a very important issue. That’s probably because most people have no idea what’s going on. You can blame COVID, but I’d say, the public is very poorly educated as it is, and Staff does everything they can to obfuscate the issue. I’d bet my last $5 that most council members barely understand what they are doing, they are following Mark Orme into the swamp. As long as they have their fingers in each other’s belt loops, they will make it out okay.

But Chico is sinking, look around yourself. And then look at the city budget, millions of dollars that should be spent on streets and other infrastructure going to the Unfunded Actuarial Liability – their obscure term for the pension deficit. And then look at your property tax bill – if you’re a renter, ask your landlord about it.

I think there’s a letter to the editor here, I’ll have to work on it. You too.

It’s time for The Discussion: Who will pay for the pensions?

6 Apr

Last time we discussed a Defined Contribution Pension Plan offered by the city of Irvine California. The city of Chico uses a Defined Benefits Pension Plan. What’s the difference? Plenty. Here’s a good read from Investopedia:

https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/032415/how-does-defined-benefit-pension-plan-differ-defined-contribution-plan.asp

The operative words here are “Benefits” and “Contribution”. Defined benefits means, whether or not business is good, the employee gets the pension they were promised. ” Defined-benefit plans provide eligible employees guaranteed income for life when they retire. Employers guarantee a specific retirement benefit amount for each participant that is based on factors such as the employee’s salary and years of service.

In California, the state retirement systems made “guarantees” they couldn’t keep – 70 – 90% of highest years’ pay with minimal to no contribution from the employee. ” Employees are not expected to contribute to the plan, and they do not have individual accounts. Their right is not to an account, but to a stream of payments.

In the beginning, CalPERS even told employers they didn’t have to contribute much of anything – CalPERS said they would make wise investments, and that would pay for these crazy pensions. That didn’t work out, so the employers – cities, counties, and public agencies all over the state – are on the hook for the pensions. And they are turning to the taxpayers like Mack the Knife. See, the contribution was never defined in this plan, so it’s whatever CalPERS demands. Like a junky on the street corner, they want it NOW!

On the other hand, the most common kind of Defined Contribution Pension Plan is a 401K. “Defined-contribution plans are funded primarily by the employee. But many employers make matching contributions to a certain amount .”

In Irvine, the city put up a little over 12% of salary. The employee is allowed to contribute whatever they want, and to control the investments. An interesting notation in that agreement is that the employee must wait 5 years before they are “100% vested” in the plan, meaning, they don’t get a full pension until they’ve proven to be a good and loyal employee.

And a DCPP is less risk for the employer. “As the employer has no obligation toward the account’s performance after the funds are deposited, these plans require little work, are low risk to the employer, and cost less to administer. The employee is responsible for making the contributions and choosing investments offered by the plan. Contributions are typically invested in select mutual funds, which contain a basket of stocks or securities, and money market funds, but the investment menu can also include annuities and individual stocks.

Both set-ups are risky for the employee. If CalPERS fails, and that’s looking more likely all the time, pensioners GET NOTHING. With a DCPP, the employee makes their own investments, if they aren’t market savvy, they stand to lose there too. But, given CalPERS’ track record, I can see where an employee would be wise to opt for a DCPP.

Why hasn’t the city of Chico (or the county of Butte, or any of the local gov agencies…) offered a DCPP? I think that’s a no brainer. The DBPP is more lucrative, as long as they can keep propping up the failing CalPERS. The most popular form of prop these days is the Pension Obligation Bond.

It’s time for The Discussion about who will pay for these outrageous pensions. Will the employees step up to the plate and do the right thing, or will council allow Staff to force the taxpayers to the wheel with new debt and higher taxes?

Next time, on This Old Lady and the POBs!

Joe Azzarito: Council needs to “serve notice to all city employees that as of a determinable date they will be paying the full cost of their ‘silver spoon’ pensions”

30 Mar

Joe Azzarito is a retired accountant who lives in Chico. Here’s a letter he recently sent to the city of Chico regarding the Tax-a-rama council has embarked upon since a “conservative” Super Majority took over in January. Thanks Joe, I hope this email inspires other people to express their outrage with this obvious ploy to leave the taxpayers holding the Pension Deficit Bag.

To all Chico city councilors and Senior City Staff:

The topics of municipal revenue enhancements, namely a sales tax increase and pension obligation bonds keep surfacing in the course of discourse and analysis by concerned citizens such as myself

Now why would that be? Could it be that you all are not listening to your constituents demands that these disastrously wrong ill conceived options, for funding the massive unfunded pension obligations that this city has forced upon its citizens, be abandoned? Whenever I read or hear about these plans of enduring us to untold costs to fund city staff’s, be they unionized or not, exorbitant salaries and pensions, it makes my blood boil. Your dark of the night surreptitious intents, without transparency, to enact either of these programs is a dereliction of duty, maybe not to your sponsors, the unions, or your fellow colleagues, but certainly to your constituents – the people that pay your salary through taxes. 

I have heard that programs such as these can be implemented, without the consent of the voters. How dare you! It is not enough to seek input from us but for us to approve of these wild schemes fraught with danger. Given that the ruling class of Chico earns far and away much more than the median income of the people of Chico, you have the gall to push these down our throats.

 For those on the council, recently elected and those previously, you are not conservatives, in the slightest sense fiscally. You all seem to some how, symbiotically, look after each other’s tail. Unions give you campaign funds so that you can win elected office. In turn, you fulfill their needs by ensuring their members are well paid. Wherein do the citizens fit into your scenario? Oh, yes, we are to fill the city coffers with the funds you promised your benefactors. Our needs lay at the bottom of a very deep hole, somehow they are only minimally attended to. It shouldn’t be that way! We should come first as it is our sweat and toil that makes it all possible. 

I have spoken many times of the badly written about California Rule that keeps you from “doing the right thing” – that being to serve notice to all city employees that as of a determinable date they will be paying the full cost of their “silver spoon” pensions and that salary structures must be revised, downward, to allow the city to adequately meets its obligations to its citizens, first. Promises, previously made in prior eras when economic conditions were much more rosier than now, need to be upended. It would necessitate that pay scales, merit raises, benefits, including pensions, be approved by a body, inclusive of a citizenry board, and not by the likes of City Manager, his staff and/or City Council. To keep the decision making in their hands alone is why these financial problems came about in the first place. Those that pay the salaries should be the ones deciding, not so now. To have city staff analyzing, recommending and being on the receiving end of the decisions made is tantamount to “conflict of interest. 

At the very least a referendum should be devised and agreed to by vote of the electorate on all of the above. The unfunded elephant in the room must be sequestered and controlled. CALPERS should be informed of any changes and any separations be established. The pensions of all covered city employees would need to be renegotiated, with the stipulation that staff would be paying the full load of costs.  Any conflict with current law needs to be assessed and corrected. It is high time that city pay the piper his due!

 Respectfully, Joe Azzarito