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More agencies scrambling out of CalPERS

18 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of the end – 

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

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

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

17 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Time to ring their phones “off the hook” about the trash deal – city manager’s office, (530) 896 – 7200. Ask them why this rate increase wasn’t handled like PG&E and Cal Water rate increases.

11 Sep

I followed the advice of my fellows, Jim and Bob, and wrote the following e-mail to City Mangler Mark Orme and my 3rd District Supervisor Maureen Kirk, and cc’d city attorney Vince Ewing cause I have some questions of a legal nature. 

Good Monday Morning Mr. Orme,   Supervisor Kirk, and Mr. Ewing,

Have either of you seen this Chicoosity Facebook page? (linked  below) Scroll down to the garbage franchise conversation.

Like I told both of you, the public needed to be better informed of this city trash deal, given the lesson that should have been learned when the county rolled their deal out.  Remember what Mr. Hahn said – “phones rang off the hook with complaints for two weeks…”  I see people are just as mad about the city deal – wait until they get their new bills!

Something I realized recently – when PG&E and Cal Water raise rates, they put notices in their bills, a year ahead, and there are public hearings.  Why wasn’t that done with this trash deal? Why didn’t Recology or Waste Management make any attempt to notice customers more than two weeks ahead of roll-out? I just got my postcard on Friday (9/8/17). Why didn’t the city notice customers and hold public hearings?

Those are not  rhetorical questions, so I cc’d Mr. Ewing, maybe he can answer. 

Here’s the link to that facebook page – thanks, at your convenience, for an answer to my questions.  — Juanita Sumner

https://www.facebook.com/groups/chicoosity/

As I was reading that over, I realized, people called the county. You can reach city manager Mark Orme’s office at (530) 896 – 7200.  Be really polite, his underlings don’t get paid as much as he does. He won’t answer your call, but he’ll know about it. 

Make those phone lines dance People!

 

Not sure what happened with the trash tax, but it looks like the money will be going to the roads. Or something.

9 Sep

I’ve been busy lately but I’ve been trying to keep an ear to the trash tax discussion. You may have seen my letter in the Enterprise Record recently:

Next week Chico city council will discuss how the trash tax will be spent. While they promised to fix the streets with the new revenue, staff has listed “Priority 1” as “Fixed cost increases, such as built-in contract escalators, benefit increases outside City control including CalPERS pension contributions”. 

I am quoting directly from the staff report, available at the city website, with the city council agenda for September 5, 2017. 

“Priority 2:  Funding significant long-term liabilities, and replenishing General Fund and Emergency Reserve, Workers Compensation, General Liability, and Compensated Absences funds to established targets”  Employee costs, and money into the General Fund, which can be spent without the restrictions placed on other funds. 

“Priority 3:  Replenishing internal service funds, such as Vehicle Replacement, Building Maintenance” So, staff get new cars and upgrades in their office buildings?

Finally we get to “Priority 4: Discretionary expenditures and negotiable items.”  That would be, fixing city streets, cleaning up Bidwell Park, and dealing with increasing crime? Negotiable? As usual, public service is the lowest priority for staff. 

Let’s call this “franchise fee” what it is: The Big Lie

And get ready – next they will come at you by way of your toilet – sewer fees are going up, and so are septage pumping fees. All to pay down the pension and benefits liabilities.

David Little wrote a similar, but nicer editorial, we agreed – $taff told us this money would go to fixing the streets, and now they try to pull a bait-and-switch, trying to spend it on their own pensions. That’s called “fraud” and it’s illegal, at least in the private sector.

So, no wonder city mangler Mark Orme was just a little defensive in his opening remarks, saying there were other options, mentioning what was said in the newspaper – hey, Mister, I quoted from the agenda report you approved and signed. Here’s the preceding headers I left out of my letter:

Pursuant to the Council’s Budget Policies, the following [4 “Priorities” listed above] would be followed by staff without Council earmarking.
D.1.a. The City will dedicate new ongoing revenue sources in the following manner and priority·

In fact, road work and maintenance were the last “options” under “Options to Consider” Read the report here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=271&meta_id=56052

Mark Orme needs to go.   Having given and heard numerous reports about our financial situation, Orme still demanded a $9,000 raise to cover his increased pension payment – still less than 10 percent of his total package – still expecting to get 70 percent of over $220,000 in salary in retirement. 

But I was shocked with the conversation that followed. Sean Morgan and Andrew Coolidge refused Orme’s proposal and made a motion to dedicate the money to road work. I tried to type as I listened.

Morgan: I understand we have our own policy about what to do with new money… a continued discussion about how many trucks were on the road…how much damage that was doing.. no question the roadways are bad…biggest thing we deal with after unfunded pensions…allocate most of not all of that increase into roadways…in the report two line items for road maintenance…that was my initial thought…we could hire we could hire we could hire …. staff has done an incredible job of [lowering costs]…that doesn’t work when it comes to  repaving roadways...[mentions a group that wants a sales tax to fix roads]…

Stone: [admits the streets are bad]  I’m kind of comfortable dedicating for a year some amount…I’m uncomfortable about dedicating this long term, I don’t like to tie our hands…

Sometimes I think Stone should be bound and gagged, but I’ll admit, that’s not very nice. I will say I’m uncomfortable with him having a free hand to the til.

Sorensen: I think any action we take is only good as long as we take it…everything in the budget is up for grabs… my preference would be capital [improvements] … there would be much more grant opportunities [if we had matching funds dedicated].

Ann: things we really need…certainly roads is definitely a need…however we have an opportunity to at least start to pay for the permitting system that would certainly help streamline permitting process [more money for city]  … interpretive program for our park… 3 priorities – roads, permitting, parks.

Coolidge then asked for public comment.  

Sales tax increase advocate Stephanie Taber commented that the “$200,000 – $600,000” expected in the first year of the franchise is inadequate – “what’s that going to do for that $7 million we have missing [$taff indicated roadwork might cost up to $10 million a year, and there’s nothing in the road or capital improvements funds] …you guys have got to grab hold of the fact we haven’t got any money… the thing we need to fix [is that we are] millions of dollars behind in many things we really need…you really need to come up with a long term plan. I am very much in favor of the tax increase, I don’t see any problem whatsoever I think it’s the best thing for our city.  My 2 cents.”

Local businessman Mike Reilly commented that “most or all should go to capital…” with “50 percent toward the roads.” But he also opined that streamlining the permitting system “ is a one time [$250,000] cost and will help immediately.”  He believes it would save the cost of another employee, paying for itself within a couple of years. For this reason Reilly felt the franchise revenue should be “looked at on a yearly basis…but I don’t think we should pay PERS or add salaries…”   Adding police officers was one of the first “options” listed in the $taff report.

Coolidge:  Certainly there’s a long list of things we need…but at the end of the day I recall all our conversations about the franchise agreement…over and over…almost all my colleagues spoke to the fact that they were were doing this because of the impacts the trucks have on the roads and the roads had been neglected…personally I’d like to see it [the franchise revenues] locked up forever…the problem we get into is when funds aren’t locked up...[makes a motion to dedicate the entire amount toward “the roads”]…”for the period of the first year…”

Here I had a problem – for the first year?  Sounds like a trick! Luckily Morgan moved in with a “friendly amendment.” 

Sean: I absolutely agree with the motion..my fear is if we only do it for a year…we’ll be whacking the mole, we never end up getting anything…I would support your motion but I’d rather see it all go into road capital for a period of 5 years.

Then Sorensen tried to address another concern of mine – what fund are we talking about? There seems to be a road fund, a capital improvements fund – I haven’t been to the meetings lately, and they’ve changed everything.

Sorensen: I was going to add, it’s not clear, is it capitol or road maintenance he wants? [if] we can’t lock it in, we could vote to change it in two months…we should take it up as a budget item…

Morgan seems to agree with Sorensen, but poo-poos his concern about the possibility of an overturn of the decision. Morgan said he wanted the money “earmarked” so it wouldn’t “just end up in the General Fund,” where it can be spent with little or no restriction as to purpose. 

So, what’s the legal term here, earmarked? Dedicated? This is never explained fully to the public, and that’s how they get away with moving this money like carnival barkers.

But Morgan opined that any council member(s) who tried to overturn this decision “would have to stand up to the community…”

Ooooo, you’re scarin’ me now!

 

So I don’t really understand the motion they eventually made, I guess I will have to look at it when Her Royal Clerk posts the minutes on the website. They seemed to be saying both the capital and road funds, but they seemed as confused as I was. Presson didn’t read anything back, she just called for the vote. I don’t know if that’s appropriate – it sure doesn’t give anybody a chance to ask about the motion, whether they understand it or not, and I’m telling you, these people are not the sharpest pencils in the box. The clerk has made mistakes before – the most expensive being the motion that first passed for the scrap yard – and the council seem to follow with their noses to her behind without thinking about stuff.

The motion passed with Ory absent, and Schwab and Stone dissenting. 

Robert Marbut fails to address a public sector that looks at “the homeless” as cash cows

5 Sep

Yesterday an old post got an unusual amount of traffic.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2016/02/02/its-good-to-see-people-asking-questions-about-funding-torres-shelter/

Reading this morning’s paper, I see why –

http://www.chicoer.com/social-affairs/20170904/chico-homelessness-to-do-list-revisited-a-year-after-robert-marbuts-visit

Here’s the article from last year –

http://www.orovillemr.com/article/NB/20160923/NEWS/160929822

I don’t think any of the agencies here took Marbut very seriously. This is what Marbut failed to address – a public sector that looks at these people like cash cows. 

 

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

27 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think? 

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

18 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tsk, tsk, get good tires on your car.