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No, Measure K was not “about the kids”

1 Feb

I forwarded the article from the Sacramento Bee that I posted here yesterday

http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article128942009.html

to Chico Unified School District Finance Director Kevin Bultema, asking how the failure of California Teachers Retirement System would affect our school district. He responded,

Good afternoon Ms. Sumner,

This has been one of the key budget issues facing CUSD.  The recent downward adjustments in CalSTRS estimated investment earnings is adding additional pressure to employer contribution rates in future years.  Employees did have a small increase in their contribution rate in 2015-16 from 10% to 10.25%.  The employer contribution rate has increased since 2015-16 and is projected to increase each year through 2020-21.  We discuss the financial impact of the projected PERS and STRS rates at every budget presentation.  Below is a slide we include in all of our budget presentations to keep our board and the community informed of this issue.  I hope this helps answer your question.  Have a great evening. 

Bultema ran the Measure K campaign, but gee Beav, none of this stuff came up in his Argument For, nor in the rebuttal to my argument, where he and Mark Sorensen chastised me for not getting it. 

Maureen Kirk told me she was supporting Measure K because “The more I looked into it, I came to the conclusion that the schools really need our help and support. This does not support retirement and benefits and directly helps the students.”

I wrote to Kirk and Sorensen and chastised them for their support of Measure K, forwarding Bultema’s e-mail with the link to the Sac Bee. I hope you will do same:

mkirk@buttecounty.net

mark.sorensen@chicoca.gov

The rebuttal to my argument against Measure K claimed I didn’t “get it.” Well, do you get it now Mark?  Here Kevin Bultema admits, CalSTRS has been failing, but nobody mentioned that during the Measure K campaign.  It’s all about the kids, huh Maureen?  Just in case you don’t read The Bee, I included a link to the article I had referenced to Bultema, although I know Mark already knows exactly what’s going on.  Sincerely disgusted, Juanita

Kirk and Sorensen are both up in 2018.  Where can we find suitable replacements? 

Meanwhile, another thing to remember, Chico Area Recreation District has hired the same consultant to run their bond/assessment campaign, so be ready for LIES LIES LIES.

Thank a Teacher! California taxpayers will pay $153 million more a year for school district pensions

30 Jan

Thanks Bob for this article from the Sacramento Bee.

“CalSTRS will consider lowering its official investment forecast in a move expected to require higher contributions from state taxpayers once again for the teachers’ pension fund. The cost to the state could be an additional $153 million starting with the next fiscal year.”

 

I didn’t know this was legal:

Three years ago, the Legislature agreed to raise contributions to CalSTRS by billions of dollars a year. Assembly Bill 1469 affected the state, local school districts and teachers themselves. For example, the annual contributions from school districts is growing from $2 billion to $6 billion, although the increases are being phased in over several years.

The 2014 law does give CalSTRS some latitude to impose higher rates on state taxpayers without going back to the Legislature for permission. According to the staff report, Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for the new fiscal year includes an additional $153 million for CalSTRS, bringing the annual contribution to $2.8 billion.

No matter what Chico Unified said about crumbling classrooms, rot, mold, asbestos, old computers – it’s the pensions folks, it always has been.

Why should the public be saddled with the “burden” of public worker pension debt?

28 Dec

Here’s a letter I sent to the Enterprise Record in response to the editorial run Monday – “CalPERS keeps loading public with huge debt”.  

In answer to the editor, I’ll ask why the taxpayers should be stuck with the “burden” of public employee pensions? 

At Chico Area Recreation District, for example, management has only recently started paying into their own pensions – at a rate of 6.25 percent.  “Classic” management members pay 2 percent. For 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55. The current CARD director makes over $110,000/year in salary.  

The median household income in Chico is about $43,000/year, while the average city of Chico worker makes over $80,000.  Many public safety workers and  most of city management make over $100,000, plus perks. Why can’t they contribute more than 12 and 9 percent, respectively?

The state mandated that “new hires” – that’s an employee who has never been in any public retirement system – pay 50 percent. Why aren’t existing employees asked to pay 50 percent?

Our current mayor, and vice mayor, and two council members are or have been enrolled in the public retirement system. The spouses of two others are enrolled in the system.  Does this make it difficult for council to demand more from our city employees? 

Join me at chicotaxpayers.com to demand that  public “servants” pick up more of the tab for their retirement.

For some reason, Little failed to post that editorial in the online edition. That is a physical job, requiring intent. Little once admitted to me that he doesn’t print every letter he gets in the paper edition, but chooses instead to post them online. So, it’s definitely a choice he makes, whether or not to post in the online edition.  

What? Didn’t want to open the editorial to discussion on Disqus? 

So, something tells me, he’s not going to print my letter. Well, there it is. I hope the rest of you will give him your two cents.

NOTE: I contacted the San Jose Mercury register, a managing editor told me the editorial had been written by one of his co-workers. He explained to me that the ER is owned by the same company at the MR, and has permission to reprint.

So, this is “local” journalism?

Enterprise Record a “conservative” paper? Really?

26 Dec

Here’ s the latest editorial from the man who endorsed Measure K and then refused to interview me when I mounted official opposition to the bond measure.  I had to post the whole thing because it’s not available online, there’s no link.

NOTE:  This editorial ran in the Monday December 26 edition of the Enterprise Record, but for some reason,  as of Wednesday the 28, it has still not appeared in the online edition.

NOTE-NOTE:  Looks like Little picked up this editorial from the Mercury News, but failed to identify it as a pick-up in the the e-edition that I get.

So, I took the opportunity to add my own commentary.

CalPERS keeps loading public with huge debt

Chico Enterprise Record, Monday December 26,  2016

The nation’s largest pension system last week demonstrated once again that it’s willing to drive taxpayers deeper into debt to placate government worker labor unions.

Why drive the taxpayers deeper into debt? Why not demand that the workers either pay their own pensions or lower their expectations for retirement bling?

Directors of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System voted to lower their investment forecast, a move in the right direction that means employers and in many cases employees will contribute more to shore up the ailing pension plan.

Again he’s saying employers – and that’s the taxpayers – should have to pay this debt – why? 

But the changes will be phased in at a glacial rate over the next eight years and CalPERS’ own numbers show they’re not nearly enough.

CalPERS has known about this pension debt problem for at least ten years, I’ve been blogging it myself for at least four years. 

By its actions Wednesday, CalPERS acknowledged it has only 63.5 percent of the assets it should. That places the system’s shortfall at about $170 billion and on the backs of taxpayers. It averages more than $13,000 of debt for each California household.

The backs of the taxpayers? Why? We were never consulted when Gray  Davis made this scheme, we recalled him, but we still got stuck with the deal he struck with the employees’ unions.

It’s actually worse than that. And the longer the union- dominated CalPERS board fails to comprehensively address its funding problems, the larger that debt will likely grow. Unlike upfront contributions that are shared between government employers and workers, the shortfall lands solely on taxpayers.

Why?!

Nevertheless, Gov. Jerry Brown touted the deal, which his office struck behind the scenes with labor. He said the change is “ more reflective of the financial returns (CalPERS) can expect in the future. This will make for a more sustainable system.”

More than what? Yes, it’s closer to a reasonable target than the past policy, which was completely divorced from reality, but it doesn’t come close to actually putting CalPERS on a sustainable path.

Like the governor’s muchtouted pension law changes of 2012, this CalPERS adjustment only marginally slows the bleeding. It doesn’t come close to solving the problem.

Specifically, the CalPERS board voted to lower its assumed rate of investment return from 7.5 percent to 7.375 percent in fiscal year 2017, 7.25 percent in 2018 and 7.0 percent in 2019.

That means the pension system will lower its expectation for how much interest it can earn from its assets and instead turn to government employers to kick in more.

But that increase in contribution rates for state and local governments, many of whom are likely to pass on some of the burden to workers, won’t be fully phased in until 2024.

Oh my God – he’s calling pensions of 70 – 90 percent of a worker’s highest year’s earnings a burden on the workers!

To understand how far short this move falls, consider that CalPERS announced Wednesday that it hadn’t hit a 7 percent average over the last 20 years and, going forward, it estimates that there’s only roughly a 1-in- 4 chance that it will meet that target.

And CalPERS’ consultant warns that the pension system should anticipate only an average 6.2 percent in each of the next 10 years.

CalPERS officials rationalize that state and local governments couldn’t afford higher payments that would result from lower investment forecasts.

If that’s true, the solution is to change the system, not keep denying reality.

I believe Little is talking about further raising taxes to float these pensions. That’s why he endorsed Measure K, and that’s why I believe he will back up CARD and eventually the city of Chico when they put their own tax increase measures on the ballot. He refuses to admit that these pensions are unsustainable, period, he just keeps expecting the rest of us to set up these public workers like Phay-rohs!

When are we going to get a real newspaper in this town?

NOTE: I contacted a managing editor at the San Jose Mercury Register – this piece was actually written by one of his co-workers and reprinted by permission in the ER (same owner owns both papers…)

This year, state employee pensions will cost taxpayers $5.4 billion, according to the California Department of Finance

23 Dec

Bob sent this link, a must read for those of you who  don’t understand “The Pension Bomb”.

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-pension-crisis-davis-deal/

As Jack Dolan reports, “It was a deal that wasn’t supposed to cost taxpayers an extra dime. Now the state’s annual tab is in the billions, and the cost keeps climbing.”

“This year, state employee pensions will cost taxpayers $5.4 billion, according to the Department of Finance. That’s more than the state will spend on environmental protection, fighting wildfires and the emergency response to the drought combined.”

Agencies like CARD and Chico Unified School District make promises to build new facilities and replace mold, rot and asbestos, upgrade to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, but this is what they really want the money for.

 

Daugherty still refuses to either print my letter or do her own investigating

6 Dec

I offered to change my letter for Melissa Daugherty  – I offered to pose my charges to the school district as questions. That’s called “opinion,” but Daugherty charges I am spreading “fake news,” and would not print my letter without editing it by about half.

She wouldn’t even look at the stuff I’d found online, nor would she do her own investigating.  JB called it right on the nose in his comment to my last post, so I stole  his words and wrote a new letter.

Chico Unified issued $126 million in school bonds between 1998 and 2012, built new facilities at both high schools, but the questionable portables are still standing.  Why is the editor surprised? As claimed in this latest bond campaign, Chico schools still contain asbestos and are non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990.  The district promised to upgrade computer labs  back in 2012, claims made again in the 2016 campaign.  

Last year  CUSD spent roughly a million dollars suing Chico State to keep the college from making public  e-mails sent through the college server by Chico Unified staff and board members. What were they hiding? I suspect the district is hiding information from the public, but the editor would neither investigate the evidence for herself nor let me include it in my letter. 

The News and Review has launched a “foundation” to ask funding from the community  ” to inform, engage and empower citizens”.   Apparently the editor believes that is a special category of journalism that her publication doesn’t have the time or wherewithal to pursue, so she throws up her hands and endorses the bond.

I got the boldface remark from JB – thanks JB, you nailed it. We have no real journalists in this town, we have propagandists. 

 

And then there’s our local media…

30 Nov

I hate to cry sour grapes, but I am confounded at the passage of Measure K (Chico Unified school bond) because of the lies, lack of information, and general disinterest of the public in  finding out the truth.  I found out a lot of distressing stuff about the school district – not the least of it, “about a million dollars” spent on a lawsuit against Chico State last year to keep the college from handing over secret e-mails sent between Chico Unified board members, staff, and the district’s attorney.

I got that information almost by accident – I was perusing the county superior court website to see how many times Chico Unified had been sued, I was just curious. There it was – Chico Unified sued Chico State.  When I began digging into the lawsuit, I found invoices for the attorneys – thousands of dollars just in one bill – for advising Chico Unified board members and employees about dumping e-mails requested by the Grand Jury and other individuals. I saw an e-mail from the district’s attorney telling Bob Feaster’s secretary that she didn’t have to give up e-mails from her computer trash bin – wink wink!

I re-read the stories about the district’s near failure in 2008, when the state threatened a takeover because of poor record keeping, major deficit spending, closures of schools due to an $8 million deficit. I couldn’t believe neither local newspaper reminded the voters of any of this mismanagement over the course of this latest election, instead they actually ran favorable pieces about how the district had supposedly been spending the bond money. Alot of the new sports field and new building they built at the high schools was done with separate grant funding, that had to be matched  dollar for dollar out of the budget that was supposed to be going toward removing asbestos and bringing the schools up to par.  

A week or so ago, the News and Review, which endorsed  Measure K, ran a snide editorial saying since this latest bond had passed, it was time the district made good on replacing the portables.

I read about the portables too. The district promised to get rid of them in bond campaign ’98, again in bond  campaign 2012. In the Measure K campaign, they admitted they still had asbestos in the schools and they aren’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Yeah,  they’ve had almost 30 years to get the schools compliant with federal and state law, passed $126 million in  bonds, but still aren’t compliant.

So, I had to respond to the News and Review. Why hadn’t they made that criticism before the election? 

Chico Unified issued $126 million in school bonds between 1998 and 2012, built new facilities at both high schools, but the poorly ventilated portables long ago acknowledged to contain carcinogens are still standing.  Why is the editor surprised? As claimed in this latest bond campaign, Chico schools still contain asbestos and are non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990.  The district promised to upgrade computer labs for the kids  back in 2012, claims made again in the 2016 campaign.  

Last year  CUSD spent roughly a million dollars suing Chico State to keep the college from making public  e-mails sent through the college server by Chico Unified staff and board members. What were they hiding? E-mails sent between Chico Unified superintendents advising their staff to destroy records requested by the Grand Jury and other individuals. Enrollment projections showing the district lied about overcrowding in 1998 and again in 2012.  Documents proving the district knew they would not be able to build on the Schmidbauer property when they promised that site to the voters in 1998. 

This newspaper endorsed Measure K so I expect to see a reporter at every board meeting. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I was surprised how quickly editor Melissa Daugherty got back to me:

Hi, Juanita,

I am having trouble fact-checking everything in your letter. If you can
provide links to documentation, that would be helpful. I will have to
hold off on printing this until I can verify your claims.

-Melissa

She had less than three hours to do any fact-checking, I don’t believe she did squat. For one thing, I got a lot of my information from past issues of her newspaper. Everything I told her could be checked out online. She could have asked district finance superintendent Kevin  Bultema for the pricetag on that lawsuit – I have, and I still don’t have anything from him besides promises he’ll get back to me.  She could also get enrollment figures from the district. 

I suggested she do her own digging – since when does an opinion come with footnotes? She responded again within minutes:

I’m happy to print a response on the portables editorial, but I cannot publish what you’ve written without fact-checking your claims. And, after digging around, I cannot find many of the specifics you mention, especially in the latter part of the letter.

-MD

Wow, to think this woman calls herself a journalist, but she can’t do a little research? Lazy, lazy girl.

So I sent her some clues.  A lot of the stuff I found didn’t have a direct link – like the court case. You just have to go to the index and search  for it, and you will find different stuff every time.  I also had found e-mails that I couldn’t forward, and most of them won’t cut-and-paste – hey, I don’t get paid to do this, I don’t get paid to take courses in Tech-BS, I do the best I can. Read it from the bottom.

 Done. Mkki Gillett, Director of lnformation Technology Willett@mail.chie CHICO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT 1163 E. 7th St, Chico, CA 90928-5999 5301891-3000, ext 150 From: Ray Quinto Sent: Tuesday, September 19, 2006 B:2G AM To: VikkiGillett Subject FW: Block – Jeff Sloan FYI Fro m : Robert Wilcox [mailto : rwilcox@ bcoe.org] Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 3:28 pM To: Ray Quinto Subject: RE: Block – Jeff Sloan Hi Ray, I have added this email address to a black hole. Let me know if you need anything else. Robert Wilcox Network and Operations Manager Butte Coung Office of Education 530-s32-5770 From : Ray Quinto [mailto : rquinto@mail,chicousd.org] Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 3:25 pM To: Robert Wilcox Subject FW: Block – Jeff Stoan Can you black hole this one for us? Ray

They’re talking about cleaning their computers of anything requested by former Marsh Junior High principal Jeff Sloan and his attorney. “Block – Jeff Sloan“? How obvious does this stuff have to be to get the attention of Snoop Daugherty? 

But, I realize, she had a point. I was “stating facts not in evidence,” which is allowed in court, but see, I’m not a lawyer. So I asked her, could I make my “claims” in the form of questions? Would that suit her?

We’ll see if she even bothers to respond.