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

6 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next time, on This Old Lady and the POBs!

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

30 Mar

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

To all Chico city councilors and Senior City Staff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Respectfully, Joe Azzarito  

Dave Howell calls out the imposters on city council – Morgan, Reynolds, Coolidge, Denlay and Tandon all ran on “conservative” platforms but now we find they are just a bunch of union toadies

23 Mar

Thanks Dave, for writing a letter to the editor about the Pension Obligation Bonds the city is considering.

No, there are no “conservatives” on council – maybe they’re “conservative” with their own money, but they treat the collective pot like a big cookie jar. They rode into office on money from public employee unions, and now they are trying to pay back their benefactors by roping the taxpayers into paying for the overgenerous pensions and “post employment benefits“.

Here’s Dave’s letter – take his example, and start writing your own letters and emails folks. 

Conservatives are supposed to stand for low taxes and fiscal
responsibility.  We are told we now have a conservative majority on the
city council.  But what we actually have is a council of impostors. They
plan to use the revenue from their proposed sales tax increase to take
on hundreds of millions in new debt. They also plan to take on an
additional hundreds of millions in new debt in the form of a pension
obligation bond.  It’s a dangerous gamble.  And on the off chance it
pays off, it WON’T make the pensions sustainable.  And if it doesn’t pay
off it could bankrupt the city.

Combined pension and other post employment benefit liabilities plus
interest are over a quarter billion dollars and growing.  It can never
be paid.  But our local politicians will raise our taxes and bury us in 
debt to keep the gravy train rolling a few more election cycles.  After
all, bureaucrats and other city employees must continue to receive
unaffordable compensation packages, including multi-million dollar
pensions.  And this in a county with a 21% poverty rate BEFORE COVID.
It’s unconscionable, especially at a time when so many businesses and
working people struggle to make ends meet.  But it is to be expected
when our local politicians are tools of special interests.

These politicians don’t represent hard working taxpayers and never will.
  Voters should remember this in the next election and defeat the sales
tax increase and those council members responsible for it.

Dave Howell, Chico

No, these people DON’T represent the average Chico resident, they represent the public employee unions. It’s time to start thinking about replacements. Kasey Reynolds, Scott Huber and Alex Brown are out in 2022, let’s find some decent hardworking taxpayers to fill their seats. Reynolds is the worst kind of faker, running as a “conservative” and then bringing in not one, not two, but THREE TAX MEASURES. And Huber and Brown pose as protectors of the poor – BULLSHIT people! At a time like this, they want to raise taxes? Tell them HELL NO! 

These people are all beholden to the union PACs. The employee unions are the worst kind of communist plot – the enrichment of the few, paid for by the many. Don’t fall for it, demand council bring employees back to the table to pay more of their own benefits, or throw these IMPOSTERS to the curb in 2022 and 2024. 

Why we need to dump collective bargaining – to end the union domination of California – and Chico! – politics

17 Mar

Thanks Dave, for this great article from David Crane:

https://www.hoover.org/research/bipartisan-opportunism-blame-californias-high-tax-rate

Crane gives us the history of collective bargaining in California, “which endowed police and other local personnel with the power to bargain collectively with the governments that employed them, handing political power over local budgets to government employees who were the principal beneficiaries of those budgets…”

Established by Ronald Reagan in 1968, this agreement “created a piggy bank to help finance GOP legislators.” But of course, it works for whichever party is in power, son when he became governor in 1975, Jerry Brown extended this agreement to school teachers and employees. This has resulted in elections controlled not by the Russians or the Iranians but by the public employee unions.

In Chico the biggest contributors in every election are the SEIU (management) and the CPOA (cops), with the IFFA (firefighters) coming in a close third.

In my opinion, this relationship is completely inappropriate – council approves hires, salaries, and benefits, sets staffing levels, and then accepts huge campaign contributions from the very people who benefit from their actions. I can’t believe the voters don’t see the conflict of interest in this system, but I’m guessing, most people don’t know. Everybody’s got their panties in a knot over the notion that Russia and Iran have influenced elections, but they don’t see corruption that is as plain as the nose on their faces. 

So City of Chico and County of Butte, both of whom have outrageous pension deficits, are considering Pension Obligation Bonds. This action would forever place the burden of the pension deficit – created by the ridiculous salaries, overly-generous benefits, and completely unrealistically low employee contributions approved by our “local leaders” – on the backs of the taxpayers. 

Instead, I suggest we dump collective bargaining – this could be done by city ordinance, and could be accomplished by a petition of citizens. Another option would be a city ordinance that cut the union PAC donations down to the same level as individual donations – about $1,000 per candidate. 

Crane agrees on point #1 – “The antidotes are to repeal collective bargaining rights for government employees or to offset these voters’ power with persistent support of our political parties from donors who care about the general interest (full disclosure: Govern for California provides such support), not to whine about one-party dominance.

Right now, as Doug Ose has said, “we are going backwards” as a state. Over-taxation has made housing too expensive, while infrastructure all over the state is failing. Chico Mayor Andrew Coolidge acknowledges the poor condition of streets in Chico, but advocates a POB, which would suck all the money out of the General Fund, which is made from allocations out of all the other funds – the streets fund, the park fund, the sewer fund, etc. You get the picture every time you drive or bike around town, or open your new sewer bill. Did you get the picture last night when council voted to INSTITUTE A FEE FOR USE OF UPPER PARK? 

Wake the hell up Chico, and write a note to your mayor – that’s andrew.coolidge@chicoca.gov

Intergenerational equity in the pension system, or, stealing candy from babies

15 Mar

A popular topic among academics is “intergenerational equity”. One explanation, taken from a box of laundry detergent: “Iroquois philosophy says that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.”  

Here’s a good article from wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intergenerational_equity

An old example of intergenerational equity would be  “debtor’s prison”. 

“Since the first recorded debt issuance in Sumaria in 1796 BC,[10] one of the penalties for failure to repay a loan has been debt bondage. In some instances, this repayment of financial debt with labor included the debtor’s children, essentially condemning the debtor family to perpetual slavery.”

Can you even imagine your kids being dragged off to jail because you can’t make your house payments? Apparently it still happens in other parts of the world.

“While slavery is illegal in all countries today, North Korea has a policy called, “Three Generations of Punishment”[11] which has been documented by Shin Dong-hyuk and used as a moral paragon of punishing children for parents’ mistakes.”

You think Americans are any better? 

“Stanley Druckenmiller and Geoffrey Canada have applied this concept (calling it “Generational Theft”[12]) to the large increase in government debt being left by the Baby Boomers to their children.”

And part of that debt is the retirement system. Here they are talking about Social Security, which we’ve heard for years is failing because it is not funded adequately. “What?” you say. “Anybody who has a job pays into it, it must be funded!” Hold onto your hat for this declaration.

“The U.S. Social Security system has provided a greater net benefit to those who reached retirement closest to the first implementation of the system. The system is unfunded, meaning the elderly who retired right after the implementation of the system did not pay any taxes into the social security system, but reaped the benefits.”

Sound familiar? Well, maybe you didn’t know – our former city manager, Tom Lando, receives about $155,000/year in pension,  for which he paid NOTHING. Until 2013, when Mark Orme agreed to pay a paltry 6%, the city made the “employer paid member contribution”. Meaning, the taxpayers footed the bill for pensions in excess of $100,000 a year, for people who paid nothing. And now, those people, including Orme, only pay 9%. Their underlings – those hired after 2013 – are required to pay more. It’s a big pyramid scam – the members at the top of the pyramid get the money paid  by the bottom rung. Here’s an analogy of the Social Security system that is also true for the public pension system.

“Professor Michael Doran estimates that cohorts born previous to 1938 will receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes, while the reverse is true to cohorts born after. Further, he admits that the long-term insolvency of Social Security will likely lead to be further unintentional intergenerational transfers.”

Just substitute “CalPERS” for “Social Security” and there it is – the “intergenerational transfers“. A nice way to say “stealing candy from babies.” A nice way to say, “condemning your children to debt, poverty and enslavement to the system.” 

It’s time for young people to realize what is going on. The pension system is not only a pyramid, it’s an upside down pyramid. There are too many taking out that never paid in, and too few paying too little.  The system will collapse within the next 10 years unless older pensioners agree to take less, and younger pensioners agree not only to take less but to pay more. The taxpayers cannot sustain this system. Like ex Chico city council member Randall Stone said – this burden should be born by the employees, not the taxpayers, who have nothing to gain. Especially since all the money is going to the pension deficit, leaving nothing for services. 

But I’m not too worried – I heard about this concept from my son, who told me, the biggest problem facing young people today, “is the pensions…

Teach your children well. 

 

Good question Bob: Why do we need to replace Constantin with anyone?

14 Nov

One last word on the departure of Chris Constantin – from a comment Bob left the other day:

Why do we need to replace Constantin with anyone? The truth is the City is over its head in debt and we can’t afford a replacement.

Besides, why should we continue to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for a bureaucrat who does nothing but scheme how to raise our taxes and get us deeper in debt with things like POBs while letting our streets and everything else fall apart.

Wow, good question Bob! So I wrote a letter to the ER about it.

When departing Chico administrator Chris Constantin was hired in 2013, he spoke to the Tea Party. He said our previous finance director was “Loosey Goosey”, bragging about his qualifications to “straighten out the mess” she’d left. He told us, once he fixed things, “you can hire someone cheaper, with less initials behind their name.”

Seven years later, I see a bigger mess. Constantin himself has told us, staff deferred maintenance on streets and other infrastructure while they continued to make bigger payments toward their pension liability (UAL) – this year $11,000,000. But the UAL continues to increase –  this year, the city manager created three new management positions with $100,000+ salaries.

When Brian Nakamura was hired, he went on a firing spree, gutting lower level staffers and bringing his own friends in for management positions – Mark Orme and then Constantin. Since then the assistant manager’s salary has gone from $142,652 to over $189,000/year. Orme and Constantin have also garnered themselves 457 Plans worth an additional $20,000/year each.

From a 2018 report to the California League of Cities: “City pension costs will dramatically increase to unsustainable levels.” Their first suggestion – make more aggressive payments to CalPERS. Meanwhile, “Change service delivery methods and levels of certain public services.” Meaning, squeeze the taxpayers for more money.

Top heavy management and perpetual demands for higher salaries and more benefits has our city upside-down. Constantin’s position should be eliminated, along with other unnecessary management positions, so we can hire the lower-paid workers we need to get this town “straightened out.” 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

Who will pay the unfunded liability? Taxpayers living on a median income of $43,000/year, or well-paid, well-heeled, entitled public employees making over $100,000/year?

5 Nov

It’s been said, the campaign begins the day after an election.  I like to hit the ground running. Here’s a letter I just sent to the ER. 

Butte County, like the city of Chico, is considering a Pension Obligation Bond.

POBs are a financing scheme that allows state and local governments to get the taxpayers to pay unfunded pension liabilities by issuing a bond guaranteed by tax revenues. Like CalPERS, POB proponents claim investments will pay for both the bond and the retirement fund. According to Oregon PERS manager Mike Cleary, “Some people call this arbitrage, but it’s not, it’s really an investment gamble.”

In fact, in 2013, Stockton and San Bernardino went bankrupt. According to the court, “Generous pensions awkwardly propped up with ill-timed POBs contributed to both debacles.”

In recent years, returns on POBs have often fallen below the interest rate paid by agencies to borrow the money, digging the liability hole even deeper. Nonetheless, they remain popular because they are instant money without voter approval.

Chico’s Unfunded Pension Liability has grown enormously over the past year – from $123,000,000 to $140,000,000, with another $146,000,000 interest – because of unrealistic employee contributions. Chico employees pay, at most, 15% for pensions that run from 70 – 90% percent of hundred-thousand-plus salaries. Meanwhile, taxpayers not only contribute a payroll share, but the annual “catch-up” payments come at the expense of city services – this year $11,000,000.

Who will pay the unfunded liability? Taxpayers living on a median income of $43,000/year, or well-paid, well-heeled, entitled public employees making over $100,000/year?

Let your elected representative know what you think of this scheme to leave the taxpayers holding the Pension Deficit Bag.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

No on Measure E; and there will be a quiz later today about that Finance Committe meeting!

16 Oct

Wow, who would have guessed Measure E – city council districts – would be such a hot topic. Looking at the stats the last week or so, that’s what people have been hitting – “Measure E – Divide and Conquer”.

In the music business, they would call that a “throwaway piece.” I was just annoyed and frustrated over the response I got from the city clerk when I asked about this measure. The clerk is like a sphinx, you could know her 30 years, and I almost have, and never know what’s on her mind. She states the facts, she answers a question as you ask it. Never opines. But, this time she seemed genuinely confused – it’s a stupid measure. And it makes a person think, council pulled a fast one – like the cell phone tax they collected illegally for years – and they need the public to approve it.

I hope that’s what other people are thinking, and I hope it fails. Districts are not only unnecessary, they are a ploy by both the liberals and the conservatives, who both seem to think they can manipulate this system.

Prepare to be manipulated!

And if somebody feels like emailing city finance man Scott Dowell, scott.dowell@chicoca.gov, they could ask him how much it is going to cost to REDRAW THE DISTRICTS after the upcoming CENSUS.

I’m also shocked to see how interested people are in the school board race. I’m sure glad, and I’m sorry I don’t have anything better to offer than “vote for people who aren’t/haven’t ever been school district employees”, but that’s my story, and I’m standing by it.

But I’m sincerely grateful to those of you who have downloaded and watched the video I posted –

https://gofile.io/d/zqp5BI

with big THANKS to DAVE for that link. Since I posted that last Friday, almost 100 people have seen it, and, as committee member Sean Morgan agreed, that’s a helluva lot more people than actually attend those meetings.

So, after I finish my chores this morning, I’m going to make a QUIZ! We all love a quiz, don’t we? I’ll try to make it good and tough. And yeah, I’ll probably allow cheating. The teachers I learned the most from were the ones who allowed open book/notes tests. And that’s the point here, I want more people to see how the city operates behind closed doors.

The Elephant in Election 2020: The pension deficit and staff’s efforts to shift the burden fully onto the taxpayers

7 Oct

Yes, I am still pissed off about being locked out of the Finance Committee meeting two weeks ago. But, I got a flash drive from staff, and having loaded it onto my laptop, I will post that video asap, with my usual snappy narrative. 

I wish I had waited until I saw the  meeting. I had endorsed all three members of that committee – frankly, on a “lesser of evils” strategy. After I watched the meeting, I found myself even more in support of Randall Stone, while my feelings for Morgan and Schwab have cooled considerably. 

I still say those latter two are the best bet (mind you, we’re talking about gambling) in their respective races, but I can’t endorse them. If they were horses I’d turn them out to pasture. Both of them voted to take this Pension Obligation/Lease Revenue Bond scam to the full council. But I don’t expect their challengers would have done any different. They all have a vested interest in funding the pensions. 

Finance Committee Chair Stone was the one who reminded everybody at the meeting that the consultant’s proposal was assuming CalPERS would achieve their full investment target of 7%. The consultant acknowledged this fact, adding,  I quote, “but we know that’s not going to happen…”  He repeated almost those exact words several times in the subsequent conversation.

Even though Morgan acknowledged same – “we’re certainly not going to fix CalPERS, I don’t expect they’re ever going to do any better on returns…” – he also said “we owe it to staff...” to continue the conversation with full council. Schwab agreed. Admitting that the conversation “raised a lot of questions,” she predicted the consultant would have a “much better, more prepared presentation for council.” Yes, I’m sure he will, having heard the criticisms of the plan, he will downplay the risks and play up the supposed benefits. 

Stone was the only committee member to speak plainly about the risks of these schemes – namely, the CalPERS debt and the bond debt will be paid ahead of any other expenses, including staffing and services – including law enforcement and fire personnel. The consultant spelled that out very clearly under the power point heading “Eyes Wide Open to Risks” .  If these proposals were ski runs they would be labeled “Black Diamond”.

Stone was the only one to openly discuss the truth behind these bonds. ” I’m uncomfortable shifting the burden from the beneficiaries to the rest of the city.” Meaning, not only does this proposal shift the burden of payment from the employees to the taxpayers, it shifts our resources away from services to paying the pensions. Period. Both the consultant and Chris Constantin made it clear this was a risky proposal that could bottom out our General Fund and cause layoffs. The consultant specifically mentioned public safety. So, this proposal to guarantee the pensioners their pensions would come at the cost of future employees, and that means, city services.  

The pension deficit and staff’s efforts to shift the burden fully onto the taxpayers is the Elephant in the upcoming election, but nobody cares? Chair Stone announced that no other members of the public had signed in, having acknowledged that I couldn’t get in. So, I’m pretty sure the only candidates who “attended” the meeting were the committee members. I wonder where the challengers stand on any of this? You might want to ask your candidate about that, if your district is on the ballot. 

The consultant set a timeline for this bond – including the discussion period – staff hopes to be signing off on this deal by next spring. So the public needs to weigh in. Now, because, the “upside” to these bonds, as pointed out by the consultant, is there’s no “validation process,” meaning, no voter approval. Is that really okay with you? 

It’s not okay with me, so I wrote a letter about it:

The city Finance Committee discussed restructuring the pension debt – now at over $280,000,000, including $140,000,000 interest. Two schemes presented: 1) Pension Obligation Bond, 2) Lease Revenue Bonds, using our city streets as collateral. The borrowed money would be invested. Ideally, the investments would pay off, and staff would make bigger UAL payments, eventually achieving a lower interest rate from CalPERS.

There is a razor’s edge to this proposal. Worst case and very likely scenario: both CalPERS and the city fail to meet their investment goals, the taxpayers end up owing both the bond investors and CalPERS.

Committee member Randall Stone commented that the consultant’s recommendation assumes a CalPERS investment return of 7%. The consultant acknowledged this fact, admitting, “but we all know this isn’t going to happen.”

Staffer Chris Constantin added, if the city’s not able to pay, “they could forcibly take the money from the General Fund… “ without regard to direct impacts on staffing and services. The consultant reported that a large Southern California county may soon lay off public safety personnel “so they don’t violate their bond covenants.”

Stone voted NO, commenting, ”I’m uncomfortable shifting the burden from the beneficiaries to the rest of the city.” Members Schwab and Morgan voted YES. Morgan admitted he doesn’t expect CalPERS “will ever do any better on their returns…” Schwab concurred.

The Government Finance Officers Association does not recommend these bonds, their first objection being CalPERS’ history of poor returns. What are Schwab and Morgan thinking?

 

New trend – California municipalities are “leasing” city streets to pay their pension deficit – a sneaky way to get a new tax past the voters

13 Sep

I was looking at Pension Tsunami

http://www.pensiontsunami.com/

and found this recent article from Forbes about how a city can make an end run around the voters by using streets and roads as security for bonds. You have to read it to believe it. 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2020/09/02/forget-pension-obligation-bonds-two-cities-areno-jokeleasing-their-streets-to-fund-pensions/#3cf8ccfa2233

“They’re using a bond-issuing mechanism called ‘lease revenue bonds.’ We’re all used to cities paying for public works, stadiums, and the like by issuing bonds which are paid off by a dedicated revenue source — sewer bills, hotel taxes, etc. But lease revenue bonds are different.”

According to Charles Schwab, “Instead of issuing long-term debt, like general obligation bonds do, to finance improvements on a public facility, the municipality may enter into an arrangement that uses lease revenue bonds. Often a trust, not the municipality, issues bonds and generates revenues to pay the bonds back by leasing the facility to the municipality. The municipality will generally appropriate money during each budget session to meet the lease payment.”

General obligation bonds require voter approval, but as staff described in their sales tax measure pitch earlier this year, there are ways to get bonds without voter approval. This is just one way.

Here’s how it’s a tax – once they make this deal, they can just “appropriate money” during each budget session to make whatever payments the lender demands.  “Appropriate” is a Legalese for TAKE. If you look at the agendas for city council meetings you see an appropriation at almost every meeting. A “lease revenue bond” is how they officially pass their pension deficit onto the taxpayers – they borrow money specifically to pay their pension deficit, using city infrastructure as collateral, and then it’s OUR debt, not theirs. 

This is what Chris Constantin and Mark Orme were intending to do with the money generated from the sales tax measure they tried to put on the November ballot. They were going to “secure” bonds, using the sales tax proceeds they told us would go toward fixing streets to make the payments. You can watch Orme’s presentation regarding the bond at the June 23 meeting and Constantin’s emotional plea for the tax measure at the July 7 meeting here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2

Nobody brought that bond up during the council discussion. When members of the public raised the question Orme actually denied it – having made a presentation that is available on tape? They were trying to pull a fast one, and they knew it. Stone rejected the proposal, ending the conversation about a tax measure for now, but he never raised the issue of the bond. I would fully expect Chico City staff to try to pull out something like this in future, and we need to let council know it’s out of the question. 

If your district is up in this election, you need to grill your candidates about the pension liability and how it will be paid.  Let the candidates know you’ve done your research, ask pointed questions. Don’t let them fake their way through another election.