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O-ville talking bankruptcy? Time for public employees to take a walk in “the real world”

30 Sep

Thanks again Dude, for this link – I’ve been too busy to read the papers lately, get a load of this story from the Oroville Mercury Register – Oroville going bankrupt?

http://www.orovillemr.com/article/NB/20170927/NEWS/170929752

“The city’s finance director Ruth Wright told the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) finance and administration committee last week that the word “bankruptcy” was being thrown around, though not at council meetings.”

Not at council meetings? Council still in denial? Well, here in Chico, we have a $186 million deficit, and council is fully aware. So they handed out raises to top management! Now that’s a plan!

“The city [Oroville] cut down its $1 million deficit to achieve a balanced budget this year but is not exactly thriving financially, operating with low staffing levels and recently negotiating a 10 percent pay cut for police, with more negotiations to come.”

A 10 percent pay cut for police? You could expect Chico PD to walk out on any such negotiations – they threaten to cut service – which is essentially a STRIKE – if they don’t get raises.

Oroville’s finance director Ruth Wright says CalPERS is the problem and CalPERS needs to fix it.

“’All cities and counties cannot keep up with the increases,’ she said. ‘I think it’s up to them (CalPERS). They need to do something. They need to do a better job investing.’ The organization announced in December that discount rates would drop from 7.5 to 7 percent over the next three years in an effort to make the fund more stable, but with impacts to state and local governments.

“’CalPERS has a few levers to pull in dealing with pensions, having to do with discount rates,” said Wayne Davis, head of public affairs for the pension fund. “We’re very much aware of what lowering the discount rate means.’”

Well,  “we all” don’t know what he’s talking about – “lowering the discount rate…”

From CalPERS – straight from the horse’s ass –

https://www.calpers.ca.gov/page/newsroom/calpers-news/2016/calpers-lower-dis

“Lowering the discount rate, also known as the assumed rate of return, means employers that contract with CalPERS to administer their pension plans will see increases in their normal costs and unfunded actuarial liabilities. Active members hired after January 1, 2013, under the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act will also see their contribution rates rise. Normal cost is the cost of pension benefits for one year.”

Remember, I asked Chico Unified School District finance chief Kevin Bultema about this, right after the passage of Measure K in last November’s election, and he said the district would need to find more funding to pay pension costs or cut programs for the kids.

So, of course, this means a bigger deficit for Oroville, and don’t forget Chico.

“Oroville’s finance director said the number of city representatives coming to confront CalPERS has been growing. At the meeting last week, officials from cities such as Chico, Santa Rosa, Laguna Hills, Lodi, West Sacramento, Vallejo, Yuba City, Hayward, Manteca and Concord were there. A legislative representative for the League of California Cities also participated.”

Well, that’s funny – this hasn’t come up in the Chico paper, which is edited by the same David Little that edits the Mercury Register. Neither have we talked as a town about the $186 million deficit, or the $500,000/year “side payments” (in addition to the regular premium payments), which will balloon to over $1.5 million/year within the next three years.

And the sky is the limit, since our elected morons – both Chico and Butte County – keep giving out raises as though everything’s just rainbows and lollipops. They’ve acknowledged the mess we’re in – because they want us to pay more taxes.

The reporter finally talked to Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell – formerly with Chico Area Recreation District, which has a $1.7 million deficit for less than 35 employees. Dowell doesn’t think Chico will go into bankruptcy, but has been trying to work with CalPERS.

“Dowell was hoping the pension fund representatives would do some research on the possibility of freezing cost-of-living adjustments, meaning retirees would receive a flat rate every year. They would no longer receive additional money — currently up to 2 percent of their annual salaries — to account for changing inflation.

The other concept was switching all employees onto the same kind of pension plan as employees who started after Jan. 1, 2013. The Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act went into effect then, offering fewer benefits to new employees. That could mean the difference between retiring at 55 and 62, Dowell said.”

Both no-brainers as far as I’m concerned, and “the way it works in the real world”.

 

CARD makes “new” agreement with employees? Nothing really new, Willmann gets a raise but still only pays 2.5 %

24 Sep
 

Chico >> Ann Willmann, general manager for the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, noted good budget news following the conclusion of union negotiations.

Contract negotiations were concluded with different collective bargaining and employee groups, she noted during Thursday board meeting.

According to a staff report, each employee group with receive an annual cost of living increase of 3.5 percent each fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017 and ending July 2019.

Also, employees will be contributing more for their PERS coverage, ranging from a low of 2.5 percent per year to a high of 8 percent until 2020, depending on their collective bargaining unit.

Willmann noted that $1.7 million has been set aside by CARD to cover unfunded PERS liability, the exact amount of which changes.

On Friday, Willmann noted in an email, “The COLA increase is costing the district an extra $63,582.00 in this fiscal year.

“The increase in the percentage the employees are paying for PERS is saving the district $33,256.34 in this fiscal year.”

In addition, the negotiating units also agreed to reduce the salary schedule from the current 10-step configuration to a six-step schedule, which should be reached by July 2020.

City to form ad-hoc committee with CARD to “pursue cooperative development of facilities…such as sports and aquatic complexes…”

15 Sep

At next week’s council meeting, city mangler Mark Orme will suggest an Ad hoc committee with Chico Area Recreation District. A lot of items on his proposed agenda seem innocuous – discussions of various park and playgrounds and who will own and be responsible for them.

Near the end of the item we find this notation:

Cooperative Development. CITY and CARD agree to pursue cooperative
development of facilities that could enhance economic development, such as sports
and aquatic complexes.

The group “Every Body Health Body” has been fronting the sports/aquatics complex conversation eversince CARD gave up trying to convince the public they should pay a bond to support such a venture. Now CARD is going for a general bond, and EBHB has taken up the campaign to get us to pay for this thing.

I attended an event these people hosted at Cal Park Pavilion last year, and the first person I ran into was Mark Orme. Invites had been given to all the council members and board of supervisors, as well as key staffers. 

Orme told me he was there out of “personal interest,” that the city had no involvement.

Oh yeah? 

 

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? 

Who wants to go to the CARD meeting with me tomorrow night?

16 Aug

When I ran into Mayor Sean Morgan at LaMalfa’s community meeting, he asked me, “Where have you been?!”

Morgan and I have kind of a Junior High School relationship – like many other members of our local government, he would like to put my head in a toilet, but in a light-hearted, good sported kind of way.

The guy loves to argue, but he’s never screamed “Bullshit” or “Shut Up!” at me. 

That said, as I told him, I almost never agree with anything he does. He voted with council to give Mark Orme a $9,000 raise to cover Orme’s new pension share, having heard the pension deficit is poised to send us into bankruptcy. 

I guess I should have answered him, “Where have you been? On another fucking planet?”

A planet where everybody has a public salary and a public pension, and money  grows on trees…

But given the spirit of LaMalfa’s meeting, I decided, us two old porch dogs should give the public an example of how to be civil to somebody you’d cross the street to avoid, but they happen to be standing between you and the exit.  

This does not affect my feelings that Morgan needs to go. He’s just a shill for the public employees. 

Where have I been? Well, I don’t get paid to go to meetings, I get paid to work. Sometimes I have to do a job that’s beyond a 58 year old woman, and I get a work related injury.  I have sprained my back, it feels like somebody kicked me right between my shoulder blades, really, really hard. It only hurts when I sit up, walk, reach my arms out, or breathe.

Actually, it hurts all the time, but who am I to complain – if you are in pain, you are still alive. That which does not kill you, will only make you stronger and bitchier.

CARD has a meeting tomorrow night. They will undoubtedly discuss their plans to put a bond on our homes. My husband can’t take me, and I can’t make it by myself. Any takers?

Sales Tax Increase Anyone?

30 Jul
 

The headline read, “Chico government can’t be trusted with tax increase.” The letter implied current city management is deceitful in its handling of city finances. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the letter writer attended monthly Finance Committee meetings, any accusation of supposed mishandling of taxpayer monies could be explained. I know, I attend those meetings.

Since our new management staff (Mark Orme, city manager, Chris Constantin, assistant city manager, Scott Dowell, administrative services director, and Barbara Martin, deputy director-finance) took office many positive changes in financial reporting have taken place. Detailed financial reports are presented at both the committee meeting and at City Council meetings. Those reports are published online for all to see and pick apart if the public chooses. I cannot recall the letter writer coming forward with a question, comment, or criticism this entire year.

Most of the letter seemed focused on past majority driven ultra-liberal councils (2004-2012) and the old management team that was either unwilling or incapable of controlling their spending. Things have changed dramatically. All it took was one conservative council member and the Grand Jury report of May 2013 to shed light on the mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.

I have no misgivings in suggesting that the city raise sale tax by one-quarter of 1 percent (7.25 percent to 7.50 percent) equaling $4-$4.5 million annually. I will gladly pay that extra 12 cents on a $50 purchase if that meant we could repair/replace our hazardous city streets in this century.

— Stephanie L. Taber, Chico

 

My response to Taber, e-mailed 7/29/17 (we’ll see if this is printed, ER staff removed similar comments I made on Taber’s letter )
We have been assured that all Chico’s financial problems have been put to bed under our “new” staff.  
Former finance director and current assistant city manager Chris Constantin instituted the policy by which whenever a fund is in deficit money is “administratively” transferred from other funds. For example, the gas tax, which most people believe is dedicated to road repairs and improvements is routinely “allocated” for  salaries, pensions and benefits, just like when Jennifer Hennessy was our finance director.
Current administrative services (finance) director Scott Dowell was with Chico Area Recreation District when they failed to make recommended repairs to Shapiro Pool, instead spending $400,000 on a “side fund payoff” to CalPERS.   When he left that agency CARD had over $1.7 million in pension deficit for less than 35 employees, despite spending over $300,000/year in regular payments.

The city’s pension and benefits liability is now over $180 million, and the state is demanding an escalating payment scale. Meanwhile, we continue to pay the majority of our employee benefits, giving them raises to cover their increased shares.  We will never get out of our financial morass until our management staff agrees to pay 50 percent of their own pensions and benefits without corresponding salary increases to cover it.

A quarter cent sales tax increase would be spit on a griddle.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

You heard it in the Enterprise Record: “Chico Government Can’t Be Trusted with Tax Increase”

22 Jul

I wrote a letter to the paper in response to Stephanie Taber’s suggestion of raising sales tax to support salaries and benefits Downtown, it ran yesterday, now it’s gone! You have to know it was there and search it! How LOW will they GO?

That’s how Dave Little treats people he doesn’t agree with, he just squelches their letters.  He’s a very “Little” man, his testicles have to be put in the microwave every morning.

So, I ain’t proud – here’s the link:

http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/20170720/letter-chico-government-cant-be-trusted-with-tax-increase

And here’s the letter:

A letter writer has suggested a sales tax increase to “fix a couple of major roads a year”.   

Chico has reached financial crisis because of employee overcompensation.  In 2013,  third-party auditors found a $15 million deficit. Council cut workers and services, while raising management compensation to unprecedented levels. By October of 2016 we were one of six cities in California being investigated for fraud, having exhausted our emergency fund and outspent revenues for six years.. We are still on the state’s “watch list”.  

To avoid further audit, staff cooked up an “aggressive” repayment plan, purporting to raise employees’ share of compensation costs. But the increased shares came with salary increases that more than covered the new CalPERS shares.  According to publicpay.gov, the city now has a $180 million deficit and will soon be paying more than a million a year to beat it down. 

According to California Policy Center, “As Chico recovers, new development projects have been downsized to reflect the city’s long-term financial reality.”   Staff has spent all the money on management pensions and benefits, there’s no money left for road base, asphalt, or  qualified workers needed to fix the roads. 

Proponents of a tax increase measure say the money will be dedicated to the roads – don’t believe it. Staff has instituted a “fund allocation” policy – they move money from one fund to another like peas under walnut shells. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

It’s sad to me that we have such poor media here, Dick Little and Melissa Dogtree are just government shills. We have a council that plays lackey to the staffers who are ripping us off because all but one member of our council either get public  pensions or are married to one. 

Lou Binninger: The Pension Heist

14 Jul

Here’s a must-read:

http://territorialdispatch.biz/component/edocman/?task=document.viewdoc&id=337&Itemid=0

Cities  going broke paying down pension debt, CalPERS investments based on bribery, a scandal that led to the suicide of one CalPERS official. 

The city of Chico agrees to contracts with public employees stipulating all employees must pay union dues whether or not they want to be in the union. The city also agrees to collective bargaining. The unions are the biggest donors in every local election.  These problems could be solved with city ordinances. 

Think about it.

Wake up with Lou!

6 May

Here’s a fun Saturday morning radio show – Live with Lou, at KMYC, Yuba City.

http://www.kmycradio.com/

9 am to noon, every Saturday, Marysville/Yuba City businessman Lou Binninger rants, rambles – says it like it is!  You go to the website at 9am and hit the link to the upper right. 

Right now he’s rolling along on one of his favorite topics – waste and fraud from our public employees.  “If you work for the government it’s like giving everybody in your soccer club a participation trophy…some of those people have just been sucking their assets for their whole career…this whole concept of draining the swamp…”

Yes, Lou is very conservative, he really lays into the Democrats. I’m sorry he doesn’t turn his pokey stick on the Republicans too, but I still enjoy listening to him. Right now he’s haranguing Maxine Waters for being a hypocrite. I have to agree.  Waters is getting out of touch, she really has become everything she told us was wrong when she was a young politician – entrenched power. 

Now he’s talking about the new sales tax that was passed in Marysville a couple of years ago – more money for fire and police. “They said they wouldn’t be able to respond to 9-11 calls anymore if they didn’t get this tax…”  But the money was not dedicated – that would require a two thirds vote of the public. Instead the council opted to go for a General Fund tax, which only requires about 51%. “The first thing they did with the new tax money – 1 percent on all sales in Marysville – was to raise the wages of all the employees of the city…  

Binninger says this is “bait and switchthey use a fear tactic, if you don’t vote for this, all hell is going to break loose in the city…”  And of course, once they get the money, they do whatever they want.

Here we have Chico Area Rec District and their proposed “revenue measure.” We don’t know which tack they will try – a bond on the general ballot or an assessment ballot mailed only to property owners. Most people don’t know the difference – I’ll admit, I’ve struggled with the rules. 

CARD has made many rainbow promises – switching back and forth from the Taj Majal aquatic center to claims that their facilities all over town  are suffering because they don’t have enough money or staff to maintain them. They say they want money to improve the existing skate board park, a longtime hobo jungle that has been closed more than it’s been open, due to vandalism and neighbor complaints.  CARD took it from the city about 10 years ago and one maintenance supervisor after another has thrown up his hands and walked on down the hall.

Remember that – bait and switch. CARD is already having problems deciding which story line to use – they don’t believe either story themselves, and that makes it hard to pitch. 

The real story is the $1.7 million pension deficit that  their Matson and Isom audit team said will grow incrementally as long as their employees continue to pay only 2 – 6 percent out of their own paychecks. Right now it grows by over $57,000 a year, and that will grow  – you know how to do “rabbit math,” don’t you? As their salaries and therefore their benefits packages grow, the deficit will grow. Whenever CalPERS makes demands, they will take money out of their General Fund to pay it down. In 2012, they ignored a consultant’s report regarding repairs at Shapiro Pool, they made a $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS, in addition to the roughly $500,000 a year they already pay. 

Excuse me – we pay.

But I’ll say here, Binninger doesn’t get it either. He tells us we should be sitting at home, “bathing your kids and driving them to school,” we should be able to trust our politicians?

Wake up Lou! We should all make more of an effort to watch these people. Everybody should go to at least one public meeting a year, even just one would make a difference. If the public would start attending these public meetings, it would be like shining a flashlight on a rat. 

Furthermore, I have faith in the public – I know they are asleep now, they don’t know what’s going on in these meetings. One meeting folks, listen, really listen. Once you know what’s going on, you can’t forget, you can’t not be disgusted.

The answer is more public scrutiny, not sitting at home trusting your elected officials. Wake up!

CARD to discuss PR campaign for revenue measure at tomorrow’s board meeting

19 Apr

http://www.chicoer.com/general-news/20170418/card-to-discuss-marketing-campaign-budget

The meeting will be at the CARD center on Vallombrosa, starts promptly at 7pm, and may very well be over by 8pm, so don’t be late.