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SEIU local 1021 has over $50 million in assets – see their Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax here

18 Jan

Against my better judgement I just watched “The Irishman”. It was weird watching actors play people I remembered from real life.

Jimmy Hoffa was a fixture of my childhood. I remember thinking he was a funny little guy, always punctuating his speeches with that pointed finger. Of course I remember seeing “Have you seen Jimmy Hoffa?” with a phone number, on bumpers everywhere. Probably one out of four cars had that bumper sticker, along with “Welcome to California, now lower your expectations…”

I had already read Frank Sheeran’s story about what happened, I knew it down to the details. That stuff doesn’t really shock me anymore. I read an abridged version of “Serpico” in the Reader’s Digest when I was 13 or 14 years old. I read “The Godfather” when I was about 15. I read the newspapers since I was a tiny child. It was all right there – the world can be ugly, corrupt, and there is no Lone Ranger. 

I was not shocked at Sheeran’s allegations that management union figures got huge salaries and pensions and lived like kings. If you think that’s fiction or ancient history, you might look at the IRS forms filed by California unions.

This link takes you to the Opt-out Now website, to a page about one specific SEIU group in the Bay Area. Go to the bottom “frequently asked questions”, click on “how does the union spend my money”

SEIU 1021

You will find this page:

https://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/205/205893698/205893698_201712_990O.pdf

this is the 2017 Form 990 – Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax – oh yeah, unions are exempt from income tax. 

Scroll down to page 10 – you see the salaries paid out by this organization. You see how little they actually spend on member services – the members who receive the services are the union employees. These people are not elected by their co-workers, they are hired by the union, and paid out of the dues collected from people who actually work for a living. 

Well, some of them, anyway. 

This is why Jim Parrott of Chico Police Officers Association has signed the Argument in Favor of Measure A, the parcel tax that Chico Area Recreation District has placed on the March 2020 ballot. He’d probably tell you it’s because he’s been involved in the Chico Area Swim Association, an affiliate of CARD, but we know the real reason.  These union members network to make sure the pensions are paid. Of course he will also endorse the city of Chico’s upcoming sales tax increase for the same reason.

Don’t drink the Kool Aid. No matter what they tell you about services, the biggest service agencies like CARD provide is to their union member employees. 

Dan Walters documents a history of promises broken by state legislators – the same applies to our local legislators

14 Jan

As we watch “the homeless” overwhelm our parks and public areas, and Chico PD arrests more and more transients for burglary and assault,  the Chico city council is actually thinking about rescinding the “sit-and-lie” ordinance soon. I watched a video of county supervisor candidate Sue Hilderbrand claiming that transients should be allowed to do anything in public places that the rest of us do in our homes. The state is considering forcing the mentally ill into treatment. Gavin Newsom wants to penalize cities that are not, in his opinion, doing enough to house the homeless.

Meanwhile, according to Dan Walters,

https://www.marinij.com/2020/01/05/dan-walters-promises-made-but-not-kept-in-push-to-fund-criminal-rehab-programs/

billions of dollars meant to reduce repeat criminal activity by improving local jails and probation services were siphoned off for other purposes.”

You know what other purposes – “the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) was pressuring local governments to contribute more money to offset the system’s investment losses during the Great Recession, and to pay for pension benefit increases.”

Walters reports that CalMatters published a similar article about the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which was meant “to depopulate the state’s mental hospitals, curb involuntary commitments and divert the mentally ill into local treatment programs. 

“However, the promises of the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short act to create a network of easily accessible local mental health services were never kept. The money that had been saved from closing mental hospitals was swallowed up in state budgets approved by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and his successors from both parties.”

And those promises continue to be ignored, you can look at the Butte County Behavioral Department website for yourself:

https://www.buttecounty.net/behavioralhealth/

For one department – one department in a county of less than 300,000 people – with nearly a $100 million budget, I’m not impressed. I don’t see any directory of mental health professionals. I do see a number you can call if you’re experiencing a crisis, but I don’t see any programs – like AA – that can help a person avoid crisis. And while they’ve promised a “street crisis team,” I have yet to see county workers walking the parks or other public areas in Chico to counsel anybody toward getting off the street.

Look here – you can see where the Behavioral Health Budget goes.

https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Counties/County.aspx?entityid=4&year=2014

You see the highest paid employee in Butte County, with a salary of almost $290,000/year and a benefits package of almost $50,000, is the Behavioral Health Director. Two BCBH employees make over $200,000/year, just in salary. If you search “Behavioral Health”, you find 66 pages of salaries – including the lower paid interns and “extra help” who actually work with the patients.

The funding they “saved” by not providing hospitalization for people in mental crisis has gone to management salaries, benefits, and, the county pension deficit.

Like Walters says, “We should keep the 1967 mental health law, the Local Control Funding Formula and realignment in mind the next time the state’s politicians tell us they are enacting a transformative solution to a pressing problem.” And, the next time our city or county leaders tell us they need more revenue to solve a problem, we should say NO! and vote them all out of office.

Letter: Your tax hike went to raises, pensions

1 Jan

I saw in my stats that somebody read this old post – and I realized, it was worth a re-run. 

In 2012, Chico voters rejected Measure J, the cell phone tax proposed by council member and former mayor Ann Schwab. I didn’t take a poll, but something I heard from people when I spoke to them about it was outrage – “what does the city of Chico have to do with my cell phone service?”

Good question. Answer: NOTHING, it was just an outright grab into your wallets.  I hope people are still asking good questions, because what Joseph Neff is saying here, in a 6 year old letter, is still true. The majority of our budget goes toward salaries, benefits, and now, the employees’ pension liability.

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2019-20CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

Below Joseph Neff reminds us, even well paid private sector positions do not usually include pension, but we are all forced to pay outrageous benefits to public employees.  And he offers a solution – I bold-faced the last paragraph, cut it out and send it to Chico City Council, and then you might want to send a copy to your county supervisor. 

This letter still stands, so I’m running it again. Thank you Joseph Neff, wherever you are.

Letter: Your tax hike went to raises, pensions

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   12/06/2013 10:41:12 PM PST

Conservative voters realized that Gov. Jerry Brown’s sales tax increases would not be used to benefit taxpayers but to provide lawmakers a raise and to protect the golden pensions of public employees.

As a 45-year career employee with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering and an MBA, my two private-sector pensions are $15,000 yearly. Only two of six career employers had pensions during the past 50 years of plant closures from union strikes, global competition and company moves to right to work, more business friendly states.

None of my wife’s 30-year employers, including 11 as a teacher and 20 as either a degreed hospital medical records administrator, or as an advanced degreed nuclear medicine technologist supervisor, had pensions. Only one had a 401(k) plan. That is typical of the private sector for degreed private sector employees since the 1950s.

Public employee pensions should be halved to civilian levels, delayed to age 65, never adjusted for inflation, and based only on the first $50,000 of pre-retirement income. A $25,000 maximum annual public employee pension would be fair since savings and Social Security will provide the needed additional two-thirds of retirement spending.

— Joseph J. Neff, Corning

Camp Fire a year later – quite a turnaround from gloom and doom to prosperity for City of Chico

26 Dec

Remember claims made by City of Chico staff that Camp Fire evacuees were causing financial problems? Here’s a story from as late as May –  6 months after the fire – claiming that the evacuees were still overwhelming city services. 

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2019/05/10/state-population-estimates-based-on-new-housing-contruction-not-occupation-but-mark-orme-still-claims-he-has-hard-numbers-on-camp-fire-evacuation/

“Last week, the state Department of Finance released the figures, with Chico having grown by 20.7 percent as of Jan. 1, 2019. The population as of the new year was 112,111, according to the state, up by an estimated 19,250 people from a year earlier.”

As you should know by now, city of Chico is planning to put a sales tax increase on the November 2020 ballot. Like CARD, which has put a parcel tax titled “Measure A” on the March ballot, the city of Chico cannot openly campaign for their sales tax after it has been assigned a ballot title. So, like CARD, the city of Chico must do their campaigning now, with the help of the local fishwrap known as the Enterprise Record.

The ER went willingly along with city management, printing article after article about this imagined population boom. I said it then and I’ll say it now – where the hell are they? We just went through Christmas – why weren’t the roads around the mall shut down with all these displaced people? I drive in rush hour traffic almost every day – where are the commuters? Where the heck are all these new people? 

Of course, the evacuees left their mark alright – “The city saw $2.5 million more in sales tax revenue than they had budgeted for, Dowell said, and approximately $700,000 more in transient occupancy tax fees.”

Not to mention, “ approximately $500,000 in fire and police department costs have been reimbursed — as well as $3 million from the state government in recovery funds”

 But if seeing isn’t believing, here’s the data that tells us the lion’s share of the evacuees have gone.   “‘Those two [ sales and occupancy tax]  relate to what we can tell is a boost,’ [city finance director Scott]  Dowell said, ‘but we’ve actually seen those — particularly the occupancy tax — dip.’”

Furthermore, read Steve Schoonover’s article posted below –  Butte County Population Dips More Than 10,000 – quoting the same agency (Dept. of Finance) that “estimated” the population BOOM after the fire, Schoonover reports, “The latest report, from 2018 to 2019, Showed Butte’s population dipping from 227,353 to 216,965. That’s a loss of 10,388 people, or 4.57 percent of the population.”

Now think folks – you’ve heard about the upcoming US Census 2020. Remember US Census 2010?  The federal government does it’s best to actually COUNT people. What a concept. I remember the census worker who hounded us about our neighbors. I read stories in various news sources about census workers hounding people literally to death. Now THINK – have you seen or heard from any Census Workers since 2010?  No, they’re still looking for workers, the census doesn’t begin until 2020.   So where does the Dept. of Finance get these numbers? Read this, from the actual Dept. of Finance news release:

“Changes to the housing stock are used in the preparation of the annual city population estimates. Estimated occupancy of housing units and the number of persons per household further determine population levels. Changes in city housing stock result from new construction, demolitions, housing unit conversions, and annexations. The sub-county population estimates are then adjusted to be consistent with independently produced county estimates.”

I didn’t have to count. I saw what happened to Chico in the weeks directly after the fire and I watched as people fled the area over the following months. I personally know people who never even went  back to look at their burnt out lot, and I can’t say I blame them. They spent a month or two in Chico gathering their wits, and then they were scattered to the wind. As is reported in Schoonover’s article below.

Now the city of Chico admits they actually made profit off the fire. But you know they are still planning to put a sales tax increase on the November ballot. In fact, Scott Dowell mentions another one of his dog-and-pony budget presentations coming up in March.  “Dowell said his staff will start to work on budget items for the 2020-2021 budget when they get back from the holidays in January. Additionally, the city will host a public meeting to learn the ins and outs of the new budget on March 12.”

Uh-huh. That ought to be interesting. 

I cut and paste the articles into the blog because I know a lot of you don’t have a subscription to the Enterprise Record and may not be able to see this stuff. Which ought to be illegal, because the ER is very obviously running a propaganda blitz for the city, not to mention CARD. 

PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

CHICO — Financially, the Camp Fire hit the city of Chico hard in 2019, despite never physically crossing into the city’s territory. Despite that, the budget is actually doing OK, said Scott Dowell, Chico’s administrative services director.

The city of Chico did not make any substantial changes to the budget following the Camp Fire, and approximately $500,000 in fire and police department costs have been reimbursed — as well as $3 million from the state government in recovery funds, Dowell said.

Of course, “we’re still processing, we’re still living it,” Dowell said, of the aftereffects of the Camp Fire.

Because the city’s fiscal year runs from July to June, the most recent numbers available are from June 30, Dowell said. But those numbers show Chico with a significant surplus: More than $20 million.

That’s a big turnaround from 2013’s budget, when the city was facing bankruptcy.

Two of the biggest factors for that surplus are directly related to the Camp Fire: Sales tax and hotel tax, also known as the transient occupancy tax.

The city saw $2.5 million more in sales tax revenue than they had budgeted for, Dowell said, and approximately $700,000 more in transient occupancy tax fees.

“Those two relate to what we can tell is a boost,” Dowell said, “but we’ve actually seen those — particularly the occupancy tax — dip.”

A lot of that surplus hasn’t been designated to a use by council yet, but of the $3 million given by the state, half went toward new communications technology that will help the Chico police and fire departments better deal with emergencies in the long-term. The city has also considered putting in a new intelligent traffic system, which would replace the current technology that has been in use, in some cases, since the 1960s.

Dowell said his staff will start to work on budget items for the 2020-2021 budget when they get back from the holidays in January. Additionally, the city will host a public meeting to learn the ins and outs of the new budget on March 12.

“We’re doing far better than we were 6 years ago, but we have a ways to go,” he said.

 
 Butte County Population Dips More Than 10,000

Butte County lost more than 10,000 residents due to the Camp Fire, according to estimates released last week by the state.

That was according to an annual report by the Department of Finance that calculates county populations from July 1 of one year to July 1 of the next.

The latest report, from 2018 to 2019, Showed Butte’s population dipping from 227,353 to 216,965. That’s a loss of 10,388 people, or 4.57 percent of the population.

Part of the loss — 142 — came because that many more people died than were born in the county.

But the state estimates 10,411 residents left Butte County for elsewhere in the United States. It attributes the change to the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018, that killed 85 people, and also destroyed 6.5 percent of the housing supply in the county.

The outward flow was partially offset by 165 people immigrating here from other countries.

The population loss by numbers and percentage was the highest of the 58 counties in the state.

Conversely, the counties surrounding Butte had inflated growth rates, all far above the state average of 0.35 percent.

Sutter was the fastest growing county in the state by percentage, adding 2,243 people, or 2.21 percent. Most of that — 1,364 people — consisted of people moving in from elsewhere in the United States, most of them likely from Butte County.

Glenn County was No. 3 by percentage, adding 442 people, or 1.54 percent. The state estimated 365 of those people were “domestic migrants,” a category that would include those displaced by the fire.

By comparison, between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, Glenn grew 0.48 percent.

Tehama County grew by 1.12 percent, adding 725 people. Yuba County also grew 1.12 percent, adding 866 people. Colusa grew 1.00 percent, with 223 new residents.

Even Plumas County, which has been losing population since 2016, was in the plus column this past year. It added 156 people, a 0.83 percent growth rate.

As a state, California added 141,300 between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2019, for a total of 39,959,095, one of the lowest growth rates since 1900, according to a Department of Finance press release.

More people left the state for elsewhere in the United States than migrated here, with 197,594 moving out. However births outpaced deaths by 180,786, and 158,118 people immigrated to the state from other nations.

Butte County population dips by more than 10,000

Parks not pensions

18 Dec

Busy little bees. 

Chico Area Recreation District has submitted Measure A, a parcel tax. Measure A will add an initial CORRECTION: $110 a year to your property taxes, increasing each year with inflation. I had to look up the rate of inflation – right now it’s 1.8%, up from 1.7% last year, and expected to go to 1.9% in 2020. 

This is what my dad called “rabbit math.” Not only does the “base” ($85) go up every year, but the percentage by which the base goes up goes up every year. Next thing you know you got a basket of rabbits on your prop tax bill,  eating your money like lettuce.

I was in 4-H as a kid, I had rabbits, so I get it. This is actually worse than rabbit math – momma rabbit can only have so many babies at a time. It’s the number of momma rabbits that makes for the increase – that would be the initial value, going up incrementally. But this tax will not only add momma rabbits every year, it will increase the number of babies momma rabbit is able to have – the percentage of increase goes up every year.

I hear a voice in the back of my head – “evil never sleeps...”

I don’t hate taxes – taxes are how we all share the cost of stuff we need as a community. We need roads. God in Heaven we need sewer. We need cops and fire. And, given the amount of money we pay into the pot, we sure as hell deserve  better parks. 

We don’t need over-priced bureaucrats who give themselves raises and raid road, sewer and park funds to feather their retirement nest. 

Repeat after me – No Shirt, No Shoes, No Dice... meaning, “pay your own pensions or forfeit.” There it is. Learn it. Know it. Live it. 

 

“Fungibility” – moving peas under walnut shells

14 Dec

My husband constantly reminds me that the new revenues brought in by tax increases just free up existing funds to be spent on pensions and benefits. Dan Walters has a word for this deception – “fungibility” – “If a city’s voters can be persuaded to raise their taxes for parks and recreation, for example, it effectively frees up more money to pay its pension bills without acknowledging that motive.”

Walters calls this a bait-and-switch approach to getting voters to raise taxes on themselves – they offer you a carrot – oh yeah, ice rink – to take your eyes off their pension deficit. The city of Chico, for example, has been taking money out of various funds and placing it in the General Fund, from which they can transfer it anywhere they want. And they’ve established TWO pension “trust” funds – “CalPERS Unfunded Liability Reserve Fund (903) and the Pension Stabilization Trust (904).

From budget policies 2019-20

“CalPERS Unfunded Liability Reserve Fund (903)
Fund 903 has been established to accumulate funds for the annual payment of the CalPERS unfunded liability payment for the City. The targeted reserve amount is equal to the estimated unfunded liability payment for the subsequent year due to CalPERS. In accordance with GASB 54, this fund balance is committed.”

“Beginning in FY2017-18, each department will set aside a set percentage of payroll costs to fund the annual payment of the CalPERS unfunded liability. A target reserve of 10% of the annual unfunded liability expenditure will be retained in the fund.”

From 2019-20 draft budget – page FS 75, Attachment A, Fund Summaries CALPERS UNFUNDED LIABILITY RSV FUND

In fiscal year 2017-18 they moved $7,323,978 into the Unfunded Liability Reserve Fund – $3.9 million from the miscellaneous employees payroll, and $3.2 million from public safety funds.  In 2018-19 they took $8,358,417.  The city manager’s recommendation for 2019-20 is $9,615,778. 

The Pension Stabilization Trust is a separate fund – The City Council established a Pension Stabilization Trust under Internal Revenue Code
Section 115 on June 19, 2018. The irrevocable trust is restricted for use to pay future CalPERS retirement contributions. The investment model strategy for the Trust is conservative. A conservative investment model is defined as a strategy that does not exceed an investment allocation over 20% in equity securities with the remainder investment allocation in fixed income securities. The model strategy may only be modified by the City Manager with City Council approval.

Fund 904 – Pension Stabilization Trust shall account for the financial activity of the Trust. Trust accounting will be provided at least quarterly as part of the monthly monitoring reports provided to City Council.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I see is not only a fund through which they take from other funds to pay down their deficit, but another, separate fund that also takes money from other funds – to be invested on behalf of the pensioneers. 

Here’s something scary I ran across in the budget policy documents – the city manager can approve up to $100,000 transfers without council approval.

Transfers Between Council Approved Capital Projects (Different Years – Rescheduling Projects) – Projects are approved over a ten-year period by Council. Each budgeted project has been appropriated an amount that may include funding from multiple City Funds. Appropriation transfers between capital projects scheduled in different years requires approval of the City Manager and City Council based the following authorization amounts:

• Up to $100,000 – City Manager;
• Over $100,000 – City Manager and City Council

Now, ask yourself Pollyanna – why are the road, sewer and park funds bottomed out? 

Because, as Walters reports, pension costs, especially for public safety employees, “are rising especially fast. They now average about 50% of payroll and are projected in the new report to top 55% by the mid-2020s. A few cities are already nearing or reaching 100%.”  And, city management, as you see above, is allowed to dip into funds as they wish, transferring the garbage tax money from the Road Fund to the General Fund last year, as noted in the budget. From the General Fund they can transfer as much as they want into the Unfunded Liability Reserve or the Pension Stabilization Trust, as long as it’s in increments less than $100,000.

When Brian Nakamura came on as City Manager in 2012, he reported two deficit figures – one about $168,000,000, the other around $194,000,000. I think the  first figure was the pension deficit figure, and the second was the total deficit for pensions AND benefits. Today the city finance manglers report a total deficit of around $130,000,000. How do you think they paid that down so fast? 

Here’s Walters on the subject:

Dan Walters: It’s a bait and switch on the state’s public pensions

Local officials, particularly those in California’s 400-plus cities, have been complaining loudly in recent years about pension costs, raising the specter of insolvency if they continue their rapid increase.

Last year, the League of California Cities issued a report declaring that “pension costs will dramatically increase to unsustainable levels.”

The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) confirms that projection in a new report.

The report reveals that mandatory “employer contributions,” including those from the state and school districts, as well as local governments, rose from $12 billion in 2016-17 to $20 billion a year later.

It also warns that the payments will continue to rise well into the next decade as the giant trust fund tries to recover from dramatic investment losses in the Great Recession, adjusts to lower earnings projections and handles a surge of baby boomer generation retirees claiming benefits.

“The greatest risk to the system continues to be the ability of employers to make their required contributions,” the new report declares, adding, “It is difficult to assess just how much strain current contribution levels are putting on employers. However, evidence such as collections activities, requests for extensions to amortization schedules and information regarding termination procedures indicate that some public agencies are under significant strain.”

Pension costs for “safety employees,” police officers and firefighters mostly, are rising especially fast. They now average about 50% of payroll and are projected in the new report to top 55% by the mid-2020s. A few cities are already nearing or reaching 100%.

However, as much as they complain about CalPERS forever dunning them, California’s local officials are largely unwilling to directly ask their voters for more taxes to pay pension bills.

Hundreds of local tax increase measures were placed on the ballot last year and hundreds more are likely to be proposed next year, but almost universally they are billed as improving popular local services, such as “public safety” or parks.

It’s where the concept of “fungibility” kicks in. If a city’s voters can be persuaded to raise their taxes for parks and recreation, for example, it effectively frees up more money to pay its pension bills without acknowledging that motive.

We saw a wonderful example of fungibility last year in Sacramento, where voters were persuaded to raise local sales taxes on the promise of civic improvements by an amount that closely matched increases in the city’s obligations to CalPERS.

We may be seeing another in Oakland next year.

The Oakland City Council is placing a “parcel tax” — a form of property tax — on the March ballot to improve parks, recreational and homeless services and stormwater drainage. The tax, $148 annually per real estate parcel, would generate an estimated $20 million a year.

As it happens, however, the most recent CalPERS report on Oakland’s pension obligations reveals that they will increase from $194 million in 2020-21 to $226 million by 2025-26, which would more than consume the revenue from the parcel tax.

So why don’t city officials just own up and publicly acknowledge that pension costs are driving their budgets into red ink and ask voters for more tax money to cover them?

They — and the unions that finance tax increase campaigns — clearly fear that being candid would backfire. If voters knew they would be paying more taxes to support pension benefits for city workers that are probably much better than they have themselves, they might refuse to go along.

Bait and switch is more politically expedient.

Linda McCann: Wake up people, you should be concerned as another hand wants to slip in your pocket to remove your cash!

11 Dec

It’s official – I got my “free” subscription from Mike Wolcott and now I know – the only good part of the tired, old and fuddled Enterprise Record cat box liner is the letters section. Thank you Linda McCann for tipping us to the latest assault on Prop 13.

 

I read with interest and concern the article in the December 6 Chico E-R regarding AB 48, or as it’s been dubbed Proposition 13.   OK I get that,  a proposition to put to a vote a bond issue to raise money for our schools. However there’s one sentence that is of great concern to me as it should be to all home owners protected under the 1978 Proposition 13.

The article states and I quote, “AB 48, Proposition 13 is not to be confused with the 1978 Proposition 13 which some education groups hope to overhaul in November to raise revenue for cities and schools.”

Wake up people, you should be concerned as another hand wants to slip in your pocket to remove your cash!

— Linda McCann, Paradise

Here’s the legislative digest entry:

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB48

This is a proposal to lower the voter approval for bonds from 2/3’s to 55 percent. This is not democracy, it’s overpaid school administrators sticking their hands in our pockets to pay for their outrageous pensions. In Sacramento, one school district is tanking because of a 15% raise they gave their already generously compensated teachers. 

Do they really think we’re stupid enough to fall for this trick? Calling a bad proposition “13”? Are we that dumb? Don’t wait until after the election to find  out – tell your family, friends and neighbors not to fall for this trick. Write a letter like Linda McCann. 

Just think, what if Paul Revere had thought his actions didn’t matter?