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More agencies scrambling out of CalPERS

18 Sep

Here’s another interesting article I found regarding cities/agencies leaving CalPERS, from the Sacramento Bee:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article172960601.html

“Trinity County Waterworks District No. 1 west of Redding and Niland Sanitary District from Imperial County are in line to become the third and fourth government agencies to break with CalPERS over the past 12 months in a manner that shortchanges their retirees.”

“shortchanges their retirees”?  No, I think, maybe the employees expected to get something for nothing, and that’s always a risky proposition.  These deals were cut behind the taxpayers’ backs – pensioneers can take it up with their labor negotiators, their city managers, their CalPERS board, but shouldn’t look at me.

“Trinity Waterworks is not in financial trouble, its district manager said. It voted to leave CalPERS in 2015 as it shifted its business model to one that relied on a contractor, meaning it did not have new public employees.

It has set aside money for CalPERS, but it does not have the full amount the pension fund wants.”

Trinity was wise to get out – CalPERS gambles funds on the market, in high risk investments. When an agency opts out, if they pay their liability, they are put in a “low-risk fund.”

“To fully fund their workers’ pensions, the two districts would have to muster up hefty termination fees. CalPERS asks for that money up front, and then moves the separating agency to a low-risk fund called the terminated agency pool.”

That’s the whole problem, CalPERS has continued to take gambles that have led their agency into near bankruptcy, they’ve had to be bailed out twice by the California legislature, that I know of. 

I don’t blame agencies for not paying their liabilities either – those employee contracts weren’t made on the level.  Let’s the employees come out and ask the rest of us for that kind of deal – they won’t, because they know it’s a rip. They do it behind closed doors, with “collective bargaining” and “binding arbitration.”  They pay their unions to pay off our legislature to uphold the laws keeping the public away from the bargaining table. 

Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of the end – 

“Three other small departments, including the Herald Fire District near Galt, have filed notices to separate from CalPERS.

The Herald Fire District voted unanimously in January to withdraw from the pension fund, citing a preference to expand its volunteer firefighter program. It’s not clear yet how much money it would have to pay CalPERS to find pensions for five former workers.”

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Trinity County Waterworks District, near Redding, cuts ties with CalPERS, pensions are “slashed”

17 Sep

Thank you, anonymous tipster, for sending me this article from Zero Hedge. 

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-09-13/calpers-slashes-pension-payments-retirees-two-more-california-towns-90

People have criticized Zero Hedge, so here’s an article from Sacramento:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article172960601.html

It looks like other towns/agencies are walking away from CalPERS, willing to make the final pay-off, or not. It looks like they’ve just let their old employees take a cut.

Promises, promises – who promised these insane pensions, anyway? And who would take such a promise – a person who is either an idiot or a leech.

The Zero Hedge author calls the CalPERS system what it is – a Ponzi Scheme. Now they are trying to leave the taxpayers holding the bag. 

I’m going to start sending these links to the city council and county board of supervisors – you do same. Write a little note, include your favorite sections of these articles and your thoughts, because my guess is, most of them won’t open the link. Whether they read it or not, it becomes part of the “official record.” 

What was it Arlo Guthrie said? “One guy is crazy, two guys are [politically incorrect],  but three guys, that’s a movement!”

 

Loyalton Calif cuts pensions – why can’t Chico do same?

27 Aug

Thanks to Jim for picking up this article, from the Los Angeles Times, about a little town not far from Chico.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-loyalton-calpers-pension-problems-20170806-htmlstory.html

I think we have a similar situation here. Early in the 2000’s, a city council including current county supervisors Maureen Kirk and Larry Wahl, at the behest of then city manager Tom Lando, signed an MOU with city employees, attaching salaries “to revenue increases, but not decreases…”  

Staff then went on a permits binge, permitting development all over town, houses piled into Grandma’s back yard, raising city revenues and salaries along with them. Staff got 14, 19, 22 percent raises over a very short period.  Lando’s own salary went from around $65,000 a year to over $120,000 a year within a very short time. 

When this scam was figured out by the public, they stopped it, but started paying the “employer paid member contribution” –  the city started paying most, even all of the employee’s pension share.

We’ve been screeching about that, so lately they just  raise the employee’s salary to cover their new pension share – they are determined that the taxpayer will foot the bill for these pensions (the following list is from 2012, remember, these people get cost of living increases) :

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2012/01/30/heres-why-lando-wants-to-raise-your-sales-tax/

Tom Lando hasn’t been pumping the sales tax increase lately, but I’m sure he’s behind it. Lately, in his position as Chico Area Recreation District Board member, he’s been pushing for a bond on our homes. It doesn’t matter which agency gets the money, as long as they pay their CalPERS deficit with it. 

Loyalton only had four employees – can we do the same thing? I think we can sue the city for the outrageous raises given these pensioneers – spiking – right before they retired, like Lando. But I’m not a lawyer. 

What do you think? 

City facing $178,075,000 in unfunded street projects, less than $2 million in the street improvements fund

18 Aug

Speaking of the proposed sales tax increase – “to fix the roads” – here’s another knee slapper – the city needs over $178 million to bring our streets up to standard, just to mitigate the effects of new construction. Here’s the link to that report in next weeks Finance Committee agenda.

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/8-23-17FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

Right now city staff is wrestling with developers like Bill Webb, who feel the city is expecting too much of the money to come out of new construction fees.

The report is difficult to understand, but what I’m guessing is, they don’t want to pay the “Urbanization” fee at all, they think the taxpayers should have to pay to fix the streets. But, I’ll give it to staff – they make a very good argument, pointing out the obvious – new development, especially these high density subdivisions that are going into Grandma’s backyard all over town again, generate more traffic and the developers/homebuyers who build them should have to pay for the added impacts.

What about the proposed sales tax increase?  Taber admitted, “The city would only raise 4 to 4.5 million per year if they increased the sales tax by a quarter cent. ” 

Well, like I said – $4.5 million compared to $178 million – that’s a little tiny bubble of spit on a great big griddle.  According to the Finance Committee report linked above, just one of five currently approved projects – a stretch of Humboldt Road that has been heavily impacted by new development – will cost over $6 million. Other’s ranged between $800,000 and just over $2 million.  

But, $4.5 million would cover the increasing amount CalPERS is demanding to cover our pension deficit – $800,000 now, expected to increase to $1.5 million within the next three years, and on up from there.  Meanwhile, Chico City Council is handing out raises that increase the deficit while refusing to ask employees to pay more out of their own paycheck.

Tsk, tsk, get good tires on your car.

 

 

 

 

The city budget is just a suggestion! See how they appropriate our money into their own pockets

13 Aug

The city of Chico posts the budget online:

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2016-17CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

But the budget isn’t set in stone, rather merely a suggestion.  Every month you will find appropriations – departments go over budget, and council just routinely approves mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money.  The memo below is on this coming week’s council agenda, available here,

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=270

Here we have an appropriation for the fire department – oftentimes it’s either cops or fire. The chief has given us a “partial” list of “unanticipated” costs, without any explanation. What, for example, did Chico Fire have to do with the “Oroville Spillway Incident”? What were they doing at the Santos Fire?

And how could we miss – $73,000 for “Unanticipated Retirements and Lay-offs”?

This is how they fritter our money, right under our noses.  This is why the state has their nose up our ass for fraud.

Meeting Date: 8/15/17
TO: City Council
FROM: Bill Hack, Fire Chief
RE:  FY2016-17 Supplemental Appropriation/Budget Modification No. 2017-FD-004

REPORT IN BRIEF:

Throughout a fiscal year there are unanticipated costs incurred by the Fire Department. These costs are generally
associated with emergency response to large incidents or multiple medium sized incidents within the City of Chico,
unanticipated retirements or long-term absences, and other anomalies. The Department attempts to absorb all
unanticipated costs in the current adopted budget. However, depending upon the timing and/or amount of the
unanticipated costs it is often impossible to do so.

For Fiscal Year 2016-17, the Fire Department incurred at least $192,000 in unplanned expenses. The Department
was able to absorb approximately half of the unanticipated costs, but due to the magnitude and timing of the events
the department was unable to absorb $101,602 in expenses

A partial list of the unanticipated Fire Department costs for Fiscal Year 2016-17 is included below:

Oroville Spillway Incident (Partial Reimbursement Pending) – $25,000
Santos Fire – $20,000
Pay-outs for Unanticipated Retirements and Lay-offs – $73,000
Fire Investigations (Complex) – $10,000
Retroactive Salary Payments due to a processing error (2015-Present) – $27,000
Emergency Call-Back Coverage – $12,000
Other (Long-term Leave) – $25,000

 

 

Sales Tax Increase Anyone?

30 Jul
 

The headline read, “Chico government can’t be trusted with tax increase.” The letter implied current city management is deceitful in its handling of city finances. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the letter writer attended monthly Finance Committee meetings, any accusation of supposed mishandling of taxpayer monies could be explained. I know, I attend those meetings.

Since our new management staff (Mark Orme, city manager, Chris Constantin, assistant city manager, Scott Dowell, administrative services director, and Barbara Martin, deputy director-finance) took office many positive changes in financial reporting have taken place. Detailed financial reports are presented at both the committee meeting and at City Council meetings. Those reports are published online for all to see and pick apart if the public chooses. I cannot recall the letter writer coming forward with a question, comment, or criticism this entire year.

Most of the letter seemed focused on past majority driven ultra-liberal councils (2004-2012) and the old management team that was either unwilling or incapable of controlling their spending. Things have changed dramatically. All it took was one conservative council member and the Grand Jury report of May 2013 to shed light on the mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.

I have no misgivings in suggesting that the city raise sale tax by one-quarter of 1 percent (7.25 percent to 7.50 percent) equaling $4-$4.5 million annually. I will gladly pay that extra 12 cents on a $50 purchase if that meant we could repair/replace our hazardous city streets in this century.

— Stephanie L. Taber, Chico

 

My response to Taber, e-mailed 7/29/17 (we’ll see if this is printed, ER staff removed similar comments I made on Taber’s letter )
We have been assured that all Chico’s financial problems have been put to bed under our “new” staff.  
Former finance director and current assistant city manager Chris Constantin instituted the policy by which whenever a fund is in deficit money is “administratively” transferred from other funds. For example, the gas tax, which most people believe is dedicated to road repairs and improvements is routinely “allocated” for  salaries, pensions and benefits, just like when Jennifer Hennessy was our finance director.
Current administrative services (finance) director Scott Dowell was with Chico Area Recreation District when they failed to make recommended repairs to Shapiro Pool, instead spending $400,000 on a “side fund payoff” to CalPERS.   When he left that agency CARD had over $1.7 million in pension deficit for less than 35 employees, despite spending over $300,000/year in regular payments.

The city’s pension and benefits liability is now over $180 million, and the state is demanding an escalating payment scale. Meanwhile, we continue to pay the majority of our employee benefits, giving them raises to cover their increased shares.  We will never get out of our financial morass until our management staff agrees to pay 50 percent of their own pensions and benefits without corresponding salary increases to cover it.

A quarter cent sales tax increase would be spit on a griddle.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

Humboldt Fire caused by transients?

21 Jul

You have probably heard about the 100 acre Humboldt (Road) fire that occurred along Hwy 32, just above California Park and the new Forgarty houses on the other side of the road. It came within yards of Cal Water’s new tank.

When my husband and I drove out on Hwy 32 yesterday, we saw that it came from the area where we had reported illegal camping a few months ago.  There was a tent with a tarp, clearly visible from Hwy 32. When we investigated we found a fire pit surrounded with garbage and scattered household goods. The fire pit was well established, lined with rocks gathered from the surrounding hillside.  The site looked as though it was regularly used for years, and very recently.

We reported it and were referred to Office Scott Zuchin, who told us he hadn’t seen any camp there. He offered to set up a neighborhood meeting, but when I persisted in my complaint he got testy. 

Please be more specific then. We may not be speaking about the same location. You may attach photographs to your email if that helps.

I had given him the exact location, and told him it was visible from Hwy 32.  I don’t think these people read an e-mail completely before they respond. Shortly thereafter, the tent and tarp disappeared, but the campsite was never cleaned up.  We saw signs of illegal camping all along Humboldt road, in the exact vicinity of that 100 acre fire, and aside from a poorly organized last minute clean-up of the road by a private group for the Wildflower Century, there have been no attempts made by any city or county agency to clean the garbage out of that area.

I had cc’d  Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk into that discussion because she lives in Cal Park. She is fully aware of the transient camps along Humboldt Road and complained about crime being on the increase in Cal Park. This woman needs to wake up and get off the pot – she’s up for re-election in 2018 and doesn’t have a clue as to the problems she is causing every time she votes to fund some “homeless” program. The county brings these people in here for the stipend attached – $550 a day to pay down a pension debt that has them cutting  staff and closing fire stations. But to these agencies money is like an ice cube in hell – it’s already gone to management salaries and pensions before it even hits  the floor.

Write to Kirk and tell her she has to do something to stop the flood of insanity she’s turned loose on our town – that’s mkirk@buttecounty.net