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No Kidding – our city is headed for deep doo-doo

21 Dec

This is a repost from November, 2015.  

I sent the letter below last Saturday, I had to resend, although Dave Little excused himself – “just a lot of letters in the queue”  Sure, okay, at least he printed it before this item goes to council.

There’s another Finance Committee meeting scheduled this coming week. They will pick up the conversation they left in the “workshop” I’m speaking of below. This time they will talk about how developers have got off without paying sewer fees, and how the sewer fund has been in arrears for years. From the staff report, available here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/12-2-15FCAgendaPacket.pdf

“For over a year, City staff have highlighted the impact of reduced revenues received from development for sewer capacity fees. As a result, the City’s general sewer operating account has picked up the significant annual loan obligations required to pay the state for the capacity expansion made to the sewer treatment plant.”

Yeah, I’ve been following this conversation – what they don’t mention is, like the Private Development Fund, the Sewer Fund has been dipped into to pay salaries, benefits and pensions for people who have never even been in the neighborhood (where property owners complain they are being eaten by flies from the poorly managed plant, staff admitting they dump raw sewage in the Sac River during heavy rainstorms…)  They don’t mention the constant tug-o-war going on between the sewer operation and M&T Ranch – both suck water out of the river for operations, which has left City of Chico leach lines “on the rocks” on several occasions, leading to millions in repairs paid by taxpayers.

Our sewer plant is a disaster, but city of Chico keeps trying to hook more people up, cause they want those fees to pay – you got it – the Pension Liability.  Now they are holding a carrot out to Paradise? Wow, this is just getting surreal. 

So, I’m just glad Little finally decided to run my last letter, I already feel another one forming in the old Brain Pan.  I wish you folks would write too. Our biggest question being – all these years you been letting the developers off, you been charging private homeowners by frontage – meaning, the length of your property that meets the street. Developers pay a flat rate – why not homeowners? Here we been subsidizing development for years, and the fund is still RED.  

$taff has been embezzling. I realize, the developers have been getting a better deal than we have, but we all been taking a screwing from $taff. 

My letter, run this morning:

A consultant’s report given to the city Finance Committee says homeowners pay about 130 percent of the true cost of building permits while for-profit developers pay less than the cost of services they receive  from the city. But this is not the entire reason for a $9 million deficit in the private development fund. 

Consultant Chad Wolford explained, while we cut our workforce heavily, we failed to cut “overhead” – that is, the management positions that take most of our budget. 

Next door, the Internal Affairs committee tackled the subject of civility as I watched our mayor attack a local developer who came to the podium to question the allocation of a $6 million pension deficit on the private development fund. Mayor Mark Sorensen listed two other options – “keep moving in your direction…racking up a million dollars a year in debt…” he told Pete Giampoli.  Sorensen’s other option was to take the money out of the General Fund, already empty because of such transfers. 

The unspoken option is  cut management positions. One recently hired finance department employee, salary over $100,000, attended the meeting for no apparent reason.  He gave no report, sat in the audience, and left the building several times during the meeting. 

This is why we’re in trouble – we have too many redundant positions, getting over $100,000 in salary and paying little toward their benefits. Most of our management employees are longtime CalPERS participants who pay less than 10 percent of their pension premiums. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico

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Local Government Committee offering free city sewer lines to county dwellers, talking about hiring a homeless coordinator to bring in federal funding, and how to cover Station 42 – May 3, City Hall, 3:30 pm

27 Apr

One of the best meetings to  attend, to get an overview of both city and county business and stuff that will be on future council and supervisor agendas is the Local Governments Committee. These are held four times a year and cover issues that will affect your lifestyle.

The next meeting is Wednesday, May 3, here’s the agenda:

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/Local%20government%20commission/5-3-17LGCAgendaPacket.pdf

Attached to Wednesday’s agenda you will also find the minutes from the February meeting, be sure to read those. Having attended these meetings and then read the minutes taken by the clerk and approved by the board, I find attendance is better – the minutes are often lacking, don’t tell everything.  But they’re better than nothing. 

You’ll find, the city is laying free sewer pipe for a new subdivision in the county.  That’s inappropriate, as far as I’m concerned, but they’re desperate to get people to hook up to sewer since they expanded the sewer plant.

Yeah, I was wrong about the sewer plant being at capacity. That was several years ago, I found notes for a more recent meeting.  Yes, according to the sewer plant manager and ass city manager Chris Constantin, the city spent millions expanding the sewer plant and then the economy took a dump. This was December 2015. The economy has  rebounded somewhat, but the sewer plant is still starving. The plant director urged the city to come up with new fees to pay for this stuff, while the city works manager is hooking people up to sewer as fast as he can. They laid free sewer pipe all over the city, and now they’re moving into the county.

But in my neighborhood, a neighbor whose house burned down is being held from rebuilding – they want him to pay the entire cost of having a sewer line laid down the easement alongside his house.  That seems weird – county dwellers in brand new houses get free sewer, but my long-time neighbor has to spend 10’s of thousands bringing the city sewer down an annexed driveway? 

That’s the kind of stuff you find out about when you attend these meetings.

Pay Attention!

 

Randy, you have got to be kidding

4 Oct

I noticed a person had come over to this blog from city councilman Randall Stone’s campaign website. I won’t direct you there – I’d rather direct you to this:

Because at least Robert Preston is entertaining. Stone is just obnoxious.

Saved the Esplanade? Is that the way you remember it? 

I have been studying the candidates, and I’m not looking forward to this year’s election. 

You have to read the agendas

30 Jul

I haven’t been hitting the public meetings lately folks – when I realized this the other day, it was like waking up at the wheel of a moving car.

You know, Butte County public works manager is threatening to close the poo ponds at the dump, he says this will double the cost of having your septic tank pumped (!), and our local government officials are sitting around with their thumbs up their asses cause most of them are on sewer.

I just realized, my supervisor is on sewer. She represents two of the hill-billiest communities around here, Forest Ranch and Cohasset, and a district full  of septic tanks in Chico, and she doesn’t have a clue about septic tanks. Does she think the residents of Cohasset will pay twice as much to pump their tanks? No, when their tanks fail, they will call “Midnight Septic Service” and neither the county nor the city will be the wiser.

I told Maureen about the new soda machine at the Cohasset Store. Within a week somebody had shot it full of holes, leaving a note: “What? No Budweiser?!”  

Maureen is over her head, I don’t think she knew what she was getting into with that district. When the county made their trash franchise deal, County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn said his office’s phones “rang off the hook for two weeks with complaints.” I’d say, he was lucky people used their phones.

Maureen’s constituents had been blind-sided. She’d offered up a little public meeting at the Forest Ranch store, but didn’t notice it properly, and nobody came. When the deal rolled out and rates were increased while service was cut,  they were really pissed. I made a point to make sure they all knew who was responsible – most of my neighbors in Forest Ranch did not even know what district they were in, much less who was their Supe. Now they sure as hell know. 

Did Maureen learn anything? I don’t think so, this poo ponds thing has been kicking around in meetings for the better part of a year, and she has not notified her constituents. She has an office, and a staff, paid for by us, and she could get a list of her district addresses from Candy Grubbs, send regular notices as to what’s happening – especially stuff like, “the cost of pumping your septic tank is about to double…” – but she chooses not to.  She could have a website, but does not. 

So, I will have to attend the “Local Goverments” committee meeting next week, how exciting. I’ll try to keep you awake.

http://www.ci.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas/documents/LGC-8-3-16-AgendawithAttachments.pdf

Actually those meetings are full of interesting topics. At the same time they are discussing screwing septic tank owners all over Chico, they will give us an update about how they are trying to force more people onto city sewer. They will also discuss an accusation made by the Grandiose Jury that Chico does not spend enough “local taxpayer dollars” on the homeless. I’m sure some of you might have something to say about that. 

Of course there’s nothing on this agenda or any other I’ve received about pending rate increases from PG&E and Cal Water.  Nor is there an update on the trash franchise deal.

Does anybody pay attention to this stuff? No, at least half the residents of Chico are butt in air, head in gopher hole. That is a position that leaves a person is prime position for a good screwing.

How will you celebrate “The Fourth”? Try acting like an American

4 Jul

I always wonder, how many Americans have even read the US constitution? How many of you have read the California constitution? The city charter?

Good homework for “The Fourth.”  

I’ve been reading up on the laws regarding tax measures, how they are enacted, and how the public citizen can resist an avaricious government.

First, we must “Watch the skies!”   Actually, we have to watch the agendas. That is where the initial discussion of putting a tax measure on the ballot is supposed to happen.  We all know it actually happens in private meetings, but, legally, it has to pass through a public discussion before it can be handed to the county clerk, so there’s a place for the observer to begin. I’ve been watching agendas not only for council meetings and county supervisor meetings but the smaller committee meetings in between.

I have to admit, I’ve been distracted with Chico Area Recreation District, trying to figure out whether their tax grab will appear on the November ballot or whether they will go the slimy way and deliver assessment ballots by mail.  Assessment elections aren’t the same as regular elections – they are rigged with bigger property owners getting more votes, the “weight” of each property owner’s vote being determined by the very board that is asking for the tax. These shouldn’t be legal – that’s our fault. We need to try to get rid of the entities that can attach us this way, starting with CARD, and including the Butte County Mosquito and Vector District.

I haven’t heard an elected official at either the city of Chico or Butte County mention a sales tax increase, but with municipalities all around us seeking, and in some cases, getting a sales tax increase out of the voters, I’m worried. Ex-city mangler Tom Lando, the guy who came up with the MOU that attached city salaries “to revenue increases but not decreases,” has been stumping for a sales tax increase for a few years now, saying he wants this and that amenity for the public, as well as better paid cops and fire fighters. 

Wow, what’s better than a base pay of $62,000/year with automatic step increases and mandated overtime that can as much as double that base salary? Not to mention paying only 12 percent toward a retirement of 90 percent of your highest year’s pay at age 50? What the helllllll could be better than that? 

Ask Lando, a guy who is in the regular habit of dropping a C-note for lunch.

I don’t believe Lando is worried about the public, I think he is worried about his $12,000/month pension payments.  Can you imagine living on $134,000/year, without having to work? Just getting a check for the rest of your life.  Ask Barbara McEnepsy – how’s life out on Keefer Road Hon? I don’t even know what Barbara McEnepsy did for the city, but she receives an even higher pension than Lando. 

Here’s the real stinker – these two individuals retired before the rules were changed to make employees “pay their own share” – neither Lando nor McEnepsy paid a dime toward their pensions.

If you are not outraged about paying these pensions, I’ll say – you’re not an American.

 

Calling all Chico Taxpayers…

9 Feb

Lately I feel public and quasi-public workers are launching an attack on the working public to make us pay their ridiculous salaries and benefits whether they are sustainable or not. Not only are city of Chico, Chico Unified, and Chico Area Rec District asking for tax increases in November, but we’ve got a water rate increase and a garbage tax coming around the bend.  The county is also talking about getting rid of the septage ponds at the dump and making a deal to tote our poop all the way out to the city sewer facility west of Chico – if you have a septic tank, you are about to be forced  onto sewer rates.

The common denominator? Unfunded pension liabilities. I got a figure for CARD’s liability – about $1.7 million, and only for a staff of 33 employees.  I don’t have the most recent figure for city of Chico, but Brian Nakamura once quoted about $64 million. And good luck getting anything out of the school district – they’re not there to educate anybody. But I’ll guess their liability would rival the city’s. 

I never asked the county for their figure, but I know it’s bad because for years now they’ve been complaining that the dump can’t support itself. I know, these conversations are so dumb. One minute, they scream they aren’t getting enough trash, and the county has made a deal and the city is working on same deal that would force the trash haulers to bring all of our trash to Neal Road instead of taking it out of the area for cheaper “tipping fees.” Of course, cheaper tipping fees would be good for us ratepayers, but the county needs the fees to pay their salaries, and yeah, unfunded pension liability. 

But in a separate conversation they say the dump is so full they have to take out the septage ponds. Follow your tail, that’s right, just keep  following your tail…

My supervisor, who shall remain nameless right now cause I am too tempted to call her nasty names, tells me this is okay, “we’re not trying to force you on sewer.” But, I told her, if you make that deal with Chico to take our septage to the sewer facility, you are forcing us on sewer, and we’ll be at the mercy of city of Chico and their unfunded pension liability.

Ask Mark Sorensen, he wrote an extensive blog about how the city has pilfered the sewer fund into the red paying salaries and benefits for employees who have never even been on that side of town. Sorensen took that blog off the Norcal blog site after he became a council member, you can’t find it now, wonder why?  Because under Mayor Sorensen city staff has administered a system called “cost allocation” – if an employee attends a meeting in which the sewer is mentioned, their salary and benefits for that meeting are  taken out of the sewer fund. Yep, an administrative version of walnut shells and peas. Watch that pea, Suckers!

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/dan-walters/article55313690.html

Sorensen has made it clear he will not fix the pension problem, instead, holding employee contribution at 9 – 12 percent and  instituting a “step system” for automatic pay raises and promotions.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2016/01/03/public-managemen…ost-per-employee/

For that matter, the county has done nothing to turn their pension liability around. That’s why the weird conversation about the dump, they’re desperate to pay down that pension debt just like all the other public and  quasi-public agencies. They know we need trash service and septic tank owners all over the county are dependent on those septage ponds, and they’re twisting that knife.

Bernie Sanders talks about a revolution – well, you can’t have a revolution if nobody shows up. I’d like to mount a stronger campaign against these grabs, I need some help. 

Do you pay taxes? Of course you do. Do you live in the city of Chico or Chico “area of influence”? That would make you a “Chico Taxpayer.” Get involved. Bring your comments here, or take them to your various elected officials. Tell them you’re a Chico Taxpayer, and you’re fed up. 

I like to quote Arlo Guthrie here, even if he and I would probably never agree on much – but what he said in “Alice’s Restaurant” is absolutely true: “One guy is crazy. Two guys are (politically incorrect). But three guys are a MOVEMENT…”

It’s true, I’ve seen it – politicians don’t listen to one person, unless that person is a BIG donor. They don’t listen to two people. But something magical happens after that third, fourth, fifth person chimes in. Then it’s worth their attention, you might get them to actually DO SOMETHING. 

UPDATE:  I got a note from a fellow Chico Taxpayer regarding the city’s pension liability – as of December, over $99 million. This was apparently covered  in the finance report at the last council meeting, so the exact figure should be in the reports available on the city website. 

Thank you fellow citizen – it’s nice to know somebody is paying attention!

UPDATE UPDATE:  I got a note from another Chico Taxpayer asking about CARD’s staff, what kind of packages they get. I referred them to http://publicpay.ca.gov/

As I looked over the information, I see the employee packages are very inconsistent, spread out over more than 33 employees, but wow – how come some people get packages worth over $20,000 and others get packages worth less than $2,000? I don’t know how that money is divvied up, what they get for it, but I know there is no employee contribution. 

You public employees are nuts if you think we are going to pay down your $220 billion unfunded liabilities – pay your own bills, you slackers

19 Jan

But even as the governor and lawmakers debate how to spend a budget surplus, there’s a looming financial hurdle: Unfunded pension and health care liabilities of $220 billion for future retirees who work for the state and the University of California system.

Wait, shouldn’t that $220 billion been included in the total deficit? How can you have a budget surplus when you owe $220 billion?

As the Brown administration prepares to enter labor talks this year, the governor is seeking changes to help the state cut future costs, warning there’s “a serious long-term liability.”

Oh, you don’t say?!

Over the past four years, the Legislature moved to improve the financial outlook for the state’s largest public-employee pension systems, the California Public Employees Retirement System and California State Teachers Retirement System. Brown is now setting his sights on a rapidly growing retiree expense, health care. He’s asking workers to pay more to fund those benefits.

Get out! Asking workers to pay their own way! Stop it!

Reform advocates warn that failing to address unfunded liabilities will ultimately require higher taxes or cuts in other government services so the state can pay for its obligations to retired workers.

I guess that makes me, a reform advocate.  I don’t really like the word “reform,” cause they can turn that word in any direction, like a .45. “Reform” can just as easily mean, taxpayers pay more.

The state has promised an estimated $72 billion in health care benefits for its current and future retirees, an amount that will increase to more than $300 billion over the next three decades, according to the governor’s Department of Finance.

The bill for retiree health care has historically been paid year-by-year, about $2 billion in the proposed 2016-17 budget. Brown proposes prefunding benefits similar to the way the state pays for pensions — by paying into a trust fund that accrues investment returns over time, reducing the amount of money that taxpayers must contribute in the future.

In negotiations with public-employee unions, he’s asking state workers to pay into a fund through a deduction on their paychecks. The state would pay an equal amount.

“Over the next three decades we’d have enough money to basically eliminate that unfunded liability going forward,” Finance Director Michael Cohen told the California Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

That sounds like a no-brainer to me – have the employees pay ALOT MORE. But here’s the catch – if we expect them to pay their own benefits and pensions they want pay increases.

Brown’s budget proposal includes $350 million for pay raises that could be used as a bargaining chip in labor negotiations. The state is actively negotiating with four of its 21 bargaining units, including corrections officers, firefighters, scientists and maintenance workers. Talks with 15 others open this year.

The governor points to an agreement last year with state engineers as a model he’ll pursue with other bargaining units. Engineers agreed to pay an escalating portion of their paycheck toward their future health care benefits, eventually reaching 2 percent of salary, matched by the state.

Two percent of their salaries?

“The employees would not be too thrilled with paying the state’s bill” for retirement, but the agreement on the whole was viewed as acceptable, said Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, the union that reached the deal. The three-year deal included pay raises of 5 percent and 2 percent, he said, and there’s a chance to renegotiate before the health contributions are fully phased in by 2019.

Prefunding health care can help protect the benefits, but asking employees to contribute is part of the give-and-take of collective bargaining, said David Lowe, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of public-employee unions, their members and retirees that has fought to preserve the current pension system.

“That’s a legitimate way to ensure that the benefits get funded into the future,” Lowe said. “It’s just a question of figuring out how much the employees are willing to pay … and bargaining it.”

Find out how much they are willing to pay? Has anybody ever asked the taxpayers how much they are willing to pay?

“Reforms” enacted to date have done nothing to slow this train.  Public workers are determined to rip off the taxpayers.

“We can see from where the numbers are going how it’s going to crowd out education and all the other California services, and it’s ultimately unsustainable,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. “The governor has to address it now and he’s been clear that he’s going to try to do that.”

I don’t see that, I see a big  train wreck ahead. Public workers have gone completely crazy.