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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.

City of Chico double ends us on our utilities, collecting Utility Tax on our total bill while adding franchise fees to our rates

31 Dec

If you watch the government steadily over time like I have the last 50 or so years, you see the contradictions and the outright lies. My favorite of late was Obama’s promise that we would not lose our health care providers under Obamacare.

So when Chico City management started repeating their Big Lie about the Camp Fire evacuees all landing on Chico  like a plague of locusts, I knew it was really all about pushing for the sales tax increase. In fact, at a Finance Committee presentation of the proposed measure, Ass City Mangler Chris Constantin actually said we should put it on the March ballot so we could “take advantage of the population influx.” He not only acknowledged then that the evacuees would be temporary, he also predicted that the economy would tank soon. That’s another blog.

But CARD got their parcel tax (Measure A) on the March ballot before the city could decide what to do with theirs, and knowing they would be stupid to have two tax measures on one ballot, the city decided to wait until November. That gives them more time to campaign anyway, since they can’t campaign for the measure once it has  been submitted and accepted for the ballot by the county clerk.

Brian Nakamura made the mistake of using taxpayer money to produce and distribute flyers promoting the city of Rancho Cordova’s tax measure, and that got him the can, so his former cronies will not make the same mistake.

http://www.kcra.com/news/rancho-cordova-faces-formal-campaign-mailer-complaint/28980752

So staff has to be creative, they need to create financial problems and then convince the taxpayers that they need to pay more money to solve them. They don’t want us to find out the real truth about city finances – whole funds are in arrears because they’ve been siphoning off money to pay down the pension liability. Look at the budget here,

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

and push “Control F” on your keyboard. Then type in the words, “pension” or “pension liability”, look at it for yourself if you don’t want to take my word for it. Then type in “gas tax” and be further outraged. 

I think you will see stuff that inspires you to write your own letter to the editor, here’s mine.

NOTE: Here’s a further irony I was not able to address in 250 words – they add a franchise fee that increases your rates, and then they use that total to figure the 5% Utility Tax. Sock it to me BABEE!

After a year of Chico staffers complaining that the Camp Fire evacuees were “straining” our services, we find a $20,000,000 “boost” in city coffers. Where did that come from?

Staff reports sales and bed tax were up, way up, during those months after the fire. Staff didn’t mention Utility Tax or the franchise fees that are tacked onto our utility bills. The city adds a 5% Utility Tax to your PG&E, Cal Water/sewer, and landline bills, taking $7,051,581 last year. With rate increases and new development, that goes up about $50,000/year. Think what a temporary population influx meant.

 A letter writer mentioned the trash tax or “franchise fee”.  The city also collects franchise fees from PG&E and Comcast. Last year the city added $1,102,674 to our trash bills and expects to collect about $1,600,000 in 2019-20. They tacked another $757,192 onto our PG&E bills and $899,942 to our cable tv bills. 

Shouldn’t these funds be used for street maintenance?  Last year staff used almost $400,000 in Comcast fees to remodel council chambers. These hidden taxes go into the General Fund, where they are available for any whim of council.

Council created the ordinances by which these taxes are added to our utility rates, and council can lower or eliminate them.  Ironically, they also created a “no price gouging” ordinance, but proceeded to make profit from the tragedy.  Let them know how you feel about that by claiming your annual Utility Tax Rebate, available from May 1 to June 30. Email the clerk at debbie.presson@chicoca.gov for details.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

In light of budget surplus, city needs to lower or eliminate Utility Tax

27 Dec

Time for New Year’s Resolutions! I recommend this because last year I realized all my pants were too tight, including a pair I’d only bought a couple of months earlier. I resolved to lose 10 lbs instead of buying new pants. I quit eating a big breakfast, opting instead for a fruit/yogurt smoothie, and I started an exercise routine. It’s been pretty up and down since then, but I’ve lost 8 of the 10, and I haven’t gained it back. I’ll say WOW! I’ve gone back to the factory made holes on my belt!

So this year I’m telling all my friends to resolve to stop being ripped off by the city of Chico and turn in a Utility Tax Rebate form.

Never heard of Utility Tax? Take a look at your PG&E, Cal Water and “telecom” (landline) bills. HINT: you won’t find “utility tax”, it will say something like “local user’s tax”. Your PG&E bill splits it up – look at all the pages, it will be listed at least twice on your electric bill and again on your gas bill. 

Fortunately, the city is required by law to rebate the tax to those households that fall under a certain income level – I think it’s about $43,000/year. But, neither the city nor the utility companies are required to tell anybody about this rebate, so I try to tell people. The rebate is available from May 1 through June 30. By May 1, there will be a rebate form available on the city website, or you can ask the clerk for it – that’s debbie.presson@chicoca.gov  I like to jangle her chain about the last week of May, cause you know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. 

You will have to fill in each month’s total take for each utility bill and then add them twice. Then attach all your bills – I recommend making copies – and send or deliver them to the city. If you send them, it’s going to cost you more than a stamp, and you can only deliver them during business hours, M – F. But it’s probably worth it.  Since I’ve been doing this my return has gone from around $35 to almost $100 a year. About a year ago they started adding it to my water bill, and of course all the rates have gone up drastically over the last few years. So, judging from your usage, it might be well worth the trouble. 

Listen, even if it’s less than $50, let me tell you why I do it anyway – I resent that they take it, at all.  Here’s a couple of reasons why you should resent it too.

  1. they also tax the utility companies by way of a “franchise fee”, which, added to your bill, means they double tax you
  2. the city just announced a budget surplus

I try to read the city budget at least a couple of times a year.

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

It’s funny – when I’m looking for one thing I see other, interesting things. Here’s a note from the most recently adopted 2019-20 budget that should really piss all of us off: “(5) Assumes 100% of waste hauler franchise fees will be retained by the General Fund beginning in 2022-23.”  I know, dammit, they said they were going to use that franchise fee – excuse me, TRASH TAX – to fix the streets. Ha ha – joke’s on us! They transfer it to the General Fund – they can transfer monies as they please – and then they can use it for whatever they want. 

Oh yeah, franchise fees – 

  1. they also tax the utility companies by way of a “franchise fee”, which, added to your bill, means they double tax you

The city collects franchise fees from Waste Management, Recology, PG&E, and Comcast. Here’s the spread from the 2019-20 budget. The first 5 digit number is the Fund Number, the other figures are dollar amounts. The first two dollar amounts are actual,  from 2016 – 2018. The other numbers are projected, based on trends, because they don’t have the actual figures yet. For those years they have two figures – the first is the figure the council has approved and the second slot will show “modifications” made as the year progresses. This budget is from last June so they hadn’t done the modifications – you have to attend the monthly Finance Committee meetings to get that “dynamic” information. So, I added the years and some dollar signs, and I’ve bold-faced the “actuals”. 

40403 Franchise Fees-Cable TV (2016-17) $877,594 (2017-18) $899,942 (2018-29) $916,000 916,000  (2019-20) $875,000 875,000
40404 Franchise Fees-Gas/Electric (2016-17) $690,768 (2017-18) $757,192 (2018-29) 700,000 700,000 (2019-20) 750,000 750,000
40405 Franchise Fees-Waste Hauler (2016-17) $236,112 (2017-18) $1,102,674 (2018-19) 1,000,000 1,400,000 (2019-20) 1,650,000 1,650,000

Ha ha – I always read this stuff a million times, but just now while I was bold-facing those first two years, I saw the Waste Hauler Franchise Fee went from $236,112 in 2016-17 to $1,102,674 in 2018-19. WHAAAAATTTT! That’s our money folks! Feeling a little hollow in your right butt cheek? I mean, that’s where the average American keeps their wallet, so I’m just wondering. I keep my wallet on a strap over my shoulder, cause I might want to use that thing to smack somebody upside the head! I mean, don’t even be sticking your fingers in my purse honey, you gonna come up with a stump. 

Yeah, I get mad. What the hell is wrong with you people? We paid those franchise fees, on top of the Utility Tax the city of Chico has added to our monthly bills. Don’t be a Meathead.

 

 

Moving right along to No. 2: the city just announced a budget surplus  —  see https://chicotaxpayers.com/2019/12/26/camp-fire-a-year-later-quite-a-turnaround-from-gloom-and-doom-to-prosperity-for-city-of-chico/  

Yes, the city of Chico made profit off the Camp Fire – I can just see Mark Orme, Chris Constantin and Scott Dowell standing together, twisting their mustaches over the small army of evacuees that landed on our town. While they complained about the “strain” these people were putting on our infrastructure, they probably laughed out loud behind closed doors (remember the Enron scandal) over the money that would be pouring into Chico. Including millions in “reimbursements” from the state. 

They announced this budget surplus as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Oh gee, says Scott Dowell, I found this money in the cushions of my office sofa...  No, they got it from increased sales tax receipts, bed tax receipts, and utility tax receipts, those dirty, rotten scoundrels. They took advantage of a tragedy. Instead of saying, shouldn’t we drop or at least lower these taxes – I mean, we just passed a ‘no gouging’ ordinance,  Chris Constantin told a gathering at a Finance Committee meeting in late 2018  that we needed to raise sales tax immediately to take advantage of the influx in population.

He didn’t twist his mustache, but he said that.

On page FS-1 of the 2019-20 budget, you’ll see both the franchise fee figures I listed above and the Utility Tax takings. I don’t have time to edit the UT figures to make it easier to read, but you can figure it out. Like the franchise fee table, it starts with 2016-17, and those first two figures are actual numbers, so I boldfaced them. 

 For fiscal years 2016 – 2020

40460 UUT Refunds 16-17(5,035) 17-18(6,160) 0 0 0 0
40490 Utility User Tax – Gas 2016-17 $1,155,438; 2017-18 $1,108,081     1,200,000 1,200,000 1,200,000 1,200,000
40491 Utility User Tax – Electric 2016-17 $4,490,948;  2017-18 $4,569,241    4,600,000 4,600,000 4,600,000 4,600,000
40492 Utility User Tax – Telecom 2016-17 $355,319;  2017-18 $367,465    300,000 300,000 290,000 290,000
40493 Utility User Tax – Water 2016-17 $898,519;   2017-18 $1,012,954    1,000,000 1,000,000 1,050,000 1,050,000
Total Utility Users Tax    2016-17 $6,895,189;    2017-18 $7,051,581    7,100,000 7,100,000 7,140,000 7,140,000

I know why the water figure went up ALOT – they only added the UT to my water bill a little over a year ago. They realized that Cal Water had drastically raised rates during the dry spell of 2016 and instead of filing a formal protest to the CPUC, they rubbed their sweaty little mitts together in glee and stuck it to us good! But you see they are projecting lower amounts as people simply turn off their sprinklers and kill every living thing in their yards to save money. You can see gas and electric takings were down, but of course they predict higher totals for 2019-20 because of the evacuees. We’ll see what the actual numbers look like in a year or so. 

But, looking at the totals you see – they go up by about $50,000 a year, year after year. 

I sent a note to Scott Dowell asking if UT figures went up along with sales tax and bed tax totals, but he informed me that he is on vacation until January 2. Well, la-tee-dah Scott, how nice for you! 

Meanwhile, we should all be wondering, why are we paying a tax on our utilities? The city council instituted the tax with an ordinance, years ago. They put a 5% maximum on that, but when rolled it out at 3%. A drug and alcohol addict named Scott Gruendl proposed an increase to the full five percent when he was on council here. But when he skipped town, in a hail of turds, nobody proposed lowering the tax. Well, I’d like to propose we revisit the Utility Tax. And maybe we should just get rid of it. 

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

“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?

The Homeless Industrial Complex is a failure – how many people will die on Chico streets this winter despite all the money shoveled into the system?

30 Nov

The headlines were conflicting this week in Chico – Black Friday shopping, Thanksgiving fun run, community meals, city setting up a “warming tent”, and a woman found dead along Lindo Channel.

Knowing how extensive our “homeless” services are here, I have to wonder – how does this happen?

The city and county continue to bumble the whole operation. We have services, plenty of them, but they are not coordinated, often compete for funding, and work toward their own instead of the public’s best interests. For example, Tom Tenorio gets a very generous salary out of the Esplanade House, even taking one of the apartments intended for housing a family to supplement his office. I’m reminded of a scene from Doctor Zhivago: “All this office, for just one fat-cat bureaucrat!

There’s alot of competing for funds and in-fighting in the Homeless Industrial Complex. They fight over money like crows fighting over road kill. When Stairways manager Mike Madeiros made a decision not to accept a grant because it would mean allowing transgender individuals into his shelter, Tenorio went on the warpath, complaining that they would lose that grant because Madeiros had refused it. Wow, that was an eye opener about the way these “non profits” are operated – too bad so few taxpayers were paying attention.

We also have disagreements over who will be served.  Madeiros was uncomfortable with allowing transgender or women in his all male shelter, worried about conflicts. Some shelters will not accept inebriated people, so CHAT (Chico Housing Action Team) has had set up “low barrier” shelters in houses around town. The city offers a warming tent, set up this weekend, that is supposed to be open to anyone who is cold. So far these tents have served less than 20 people a night, including city officials  and staffers.

And now Chico Housing Action Team wants to install “elderly” transients in Tough Sheds in a field along the freeway. 

All these programs are competing for money. And, as of this weekend, they are failing in their mission to get people off the street. 

In Chico we have many “low-income” subsidized housing projects. I just found out a huge old apartment building around the corner from one of my rentals is owned by HUD.  We have newer stuff, like Jarvis Gardens in south Chico, and 1200 Park Avenue, both built to house low-income seniors. These are public projects, paid for with tax dollars. 

But again, there is a lack of coordination. The Camp Fire is a good example of how these agencies have failed – here we had truly needy people, a natural disaster, and we couldn’t house them? But we spend millions a year on programs set up for drug addicts and criminals? 

CHAT proposes little sheds built on an empty lot along the freeway. These people are duplicitous. They already run low-barrier shelters in homes spread out across Chico, no noticing of the neighbors – CHAT knows they need to keep this project a secret. They have nothing to crow about – no list of names of people permanently taken off the street into stable housing. No success stories. And every year, several people die out on the street, regardless of all their feel-good fascism.

Now they want to build a project with city support –  they’ve already racked up a pile of $taff Time with their demands.  They want to be let out of the regular building process, sub code, no environmental review, NO FEES. And they are not being honest about how much it will cost to provide sanitary infrastructure. They first said there would be a common bathroom – now they show us plumbed sheds with toilets? Those will all have to be hooked up to sewer, which is not available on the property. There isn’t even water or electricity on the lot. 

But when my family bought a crapped out old house, the city and county, the school district, CARD – they all wanted to get their thumb in our pie, with all kinds of fees and constant inspections. The code enforcement officer, without so much as a smile, told us we had to put more Dap on the toilet because we had male children. She demanded a ladder to climb up on our roof.  She told us we had to  tear down an old building on the property before we could get clearance on the house.  And then she told us the tear  down required yet another permit. 

This is how taxpayers get treated. 

The city of Chico is a mess. Our finances are in the red, we have constant threats of bankruptcy, although, you will only hear about these problems in Chris Constantin’s pitch for a sales tax increase. Constantin and Orme are walking a fine line – trying to tell us what a mess our city is in without taking any blame for that mess.  For years they’ve mismanaged our money, putting most of it into their salaries, pensions and benefits, admittedly deferring maintenance on city infrastructure all the while. Management salaries are at an all time high, and Constantin admitted recently we spend more on cops than other California cities our size. 

The transient problem is just another part of the mismanagement. They allow these bums to trash our parks and creeks, predate on our neighborhoods, and spread drugs to our kids because they are a revenue source. When the city council signed the Shelter Crisis Designation, they got an annual grant worth over $4 million. They got another $4 million for handing part of the county fairgrounds over to the Jesus Center. That’s an annual grant, and it will go up. And they don’t have to spend it on the “homeless”, it just goes right into the General Fund. 

Just like the proposed  sales tax increase. 

So, we need to ask ourselves – why would we hand a tax increase to Mark Orme and Chris Constantin?  They stand over this whole mess, it’s their recommendations that council follows, dumb and blind. The best argument against this sales tax increase is our current management, and how they have mismanaged millions already.