Tag Archives: Chris Constantin City of Chico Ca

A budget surplus generated by the Camp Fire influx should go toward the roads – instead $taff wants to put it in the Pension Stabilization Trust and “Homeless Solutions”

15 Mar

As you may know, the city of Chico has cancelled the March 17 meeting because of coronavirus.  The agenda was full of contention, and they expected a big turnout, so heeding the governor’s recommendation against gatherings of over 250 people, they postponed the meeting until the first week of April.

They were scheduled to discuss overturning both “sit-and-lie” and the “crimes against property” ordinance, but the item that caught my eye was the extra $3,050,000 they found in the budget and what $taff wants to do with it.

Here’s the agenda they posted for March 17 before they cancelled.

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=332

To make a long story short, after pointing a dirty finger at the Camp Fire refugees, blaming them for “overwhelming” the streets and sewers, and using them pretty blatantly as an excuse for a sales tax increase, the city of Chico actually PROFITED FROM THE CAMP FIRE. To the tune of an extra $3 million+.

I believe this money should go into the streets fund, since city mangler Orme and public works director Erik Gustafson have claimed the refugees caused massive damage to our streets. They’ve already decided to raise sewer fees. $3 million would be a nice chunk for the road fund. And, $taff has admitted deferring maintenance while taking money from the road  fund to transfer into the Pension Stabilization Trust, so I believe it would be a good use of one-time money to pay that back. Instead $taff has come up with their own wish list:

Grant Match for AIP Grant (Runway)       $1,405,000
Community Choice Aggregation Loan     $350,000
BMX Relocation Project                            $100,000
Redistricting Demographer                      $  30,000
Fire Station #1 Remodel                           $250,000
Pension Stabilization Trust                    $400,000
Homeless Solutions Project                      $515,000

Every item on this list concerns me.

First, I think it’s foolish to spend one-time money on the airport, the airport should provide it’s own steady stream of revenue. That hasn’t happened for years, and using one-time money to prop up airline service is a mistake. Sure, they need to fix the runway, that is what lost them the contract for serving the fire planes. That money should have come out of the airport budget years ago, instead they constantly raided it to pay salaries, benefits, and the pension liability. If you don’t believe me, pull Mark Sorensen over at a stoplight and ask him. 

Same for Community Choice Aggregation – Mark Orme’s Music Man pitch for the city to buy electricity and re-sell it to residents, using PG&E infrastructure. This scheme will never pencil out for the ratepayers, but will be a new and steady revenue stream for the city.  Using one time money to jump start a scam like this is just the beginning. 

As for the BMX relocation – they should have to pay for that out of the annual $4 million they receive for “consolidating” transient services on the site formerly leased to the group  that built the BMX track.

I haven’t read the report on the fire station “remodel” but that money should come out of the public safety fund, which eats about half the city budget.

The last two items I find completely insulting.

$515,000, taken from people burned out of their homes and still on the lamb, for something as vague and amorphous as “Homeless Solutions Project”?  Those people, including my son, had to  find their own solutions, but now they are expected to pay for the warming tents and other “solutions” to keep the junkies happy? GFY City of Chico.

But most outrageous is that $taff must get their thumb in the pie – $400,000 for the Pension Stabilization Trust. Scott Dowell, Mark Orme and Chris Constantin like to brag about their “aggressive payments” toward THEIR pension deficit with OUR money. Meanwhile, they pay very little out of their own pocket toward their own benefits, and this has created the “unfunded pension liability” in the first place. 

Last year I asked Scott Dowell about the “shares”. Employees are divided into groups that pay different shares. Two main groups – “safety” (cops and fire) and “miscellaneous” (everybody else)  are divided into sub groups “classic” and “PEPRA”.  “Classic” means, hired before 2013, when the Public Employee Pension Reform Act went on the books. This law requires employees hired after 2013 to pay 50 percent of employer cost for their pensions. 

I didn’t get that, I thought the law meant employees would pay 50% of total cost. Silly me! It means they pay 50% of what the agency they work for has agreed to pay CalPERS. That varies with agency – for example, CARD only pays 14% total. The city pays more, but still not enough.

Notice management (Orme, Constantin, and Dowell) pay the second lowest contribution, even though they brag about picking up 3% of the employer contribution. 

Group                             Employer Cost                           Employee Cost*

Miscellaneous  Classic    10.235%                                    11%                            Total: 21.235%    (leaving roughly 79% for the taxpayers)

PEPRA                             10.235%                                     9.75%                       Total: 19.985%    (leaving roughly 80% for the taxpayers)

Safety Classic                  18.843%                                    12%                           Total: 30.843%    (leaving roughly 70% for the taxpayers)

PEPRA                              18.843%                                   15%**                        Total: 33.843%   (leaving roughly 66% for the taxpayers)

*Includes 3% cost sharing of employer cost. Note CPSA employees pay 6% of employer cost.

**CPOA PEPRA pay 15%; IAFF PEPRA have ratified an agreement to pay 12%.

City of Chico employees are paying, or are nearly paying, HALF of the CalPERS pension costs.

So, the city pays different shares and totals than CARD, and even by group. And while they pay more than CARD, the highest total is only 33.843% of cost. That leaves the rest for the taxpayers. I know, they claim they will make it up on the stock market – but they keep lowering their anticipated returns, and demanding more and more from the various agencies (taxpayers). 

I was unsure about how it works in $$$$, so I asked Scott Dowell for the figures on an employee making about $220,000/year (obviously a “classic” or management employee). Here’s what his staffer sent me:

A Miscellaneous Classic Employee earning a base salary of $220,000 has a PERS contribution of:

Employer:           $22,517 (10.235%)

Employee:          $24,200 (11.000%)

Total:                     $46,717 (21.235%)

An employee retiring with a salary of $220,000/year would get a base pension of $154,000. With cost of living increase, it will go up every year, adding to the liability. For example, ex city manger Tom Lando got a base pension of about $135,000 when he retired almost 15 years ago. Today,with COLA, he is taking almost $155,000/year. Just in pension, he also gets healthcare and other perks that we pay for. 

Here’s a stumper – sit down and hold onto your seat – Lando never paid anything toward his pension. At that time, the city paid the “employer paid member contribution,” meaning, we paid Lando’s entire share.  That scam went on until the taxpayers figured it out, and only now are employees beginning to pay anything. Any reform would have been something, but it’s not enough. It’s not true reform.

True reform would be dissolving CalPERS and hiring new employees who will pay their own pension costs. An agency contribution should be warranted by years of service and dedication, not a given. And, since CalPERS is 64% funded at this point, retirees will get over 50% of their anticipated pensions, which are based on some pretty generous, even outrageous salaries in the first place. 

Don’t be afraid to speak up, don’t be intimidated by union members telling us we’re ripping them off – BULLSHIT! Time to press for TRUE PENSION REFORM!

 

 

City of Chico double ends us on our utilities, collecting Utility Tax on our total bill while adding franchise fees to our rates

31 Dec

If you watch the government steadily over time like I have the last 50 or so years, you see the contradictions and the outright lies. My favorite of late was Obama’s promise that we would not lose our health care providers under Obamacare.

So when Chico City management started repeating their Big Lie about the Camp Fire evacuees all landing on Chico  like a plague of locusts, I knew it was really all about pushing for the sales tax increase. In fact, at a Finance Committee presentation of the proposed measure, Ass City Mangler Chris Constantin actually said we should put it on the March ballot so we could “take advantage of the population influx.” He not only acknowledged then that the evacuees would be temporary, he also predicted that the economy would tank soon. That’s another blog.

But CARD got their parcel tax (Measure A) on the March ballot before the city could decide what to do with theirs, and knowing they would be stupid to have two tax measures on one ballot, the city decided to wait until November. That gives them more time to campaign anyway, since they can’t campaign for the measure once it has  been submitted and accepted for the ballot by the county clerk.

Brian Nakamura made the mistake of using taxpayer money to produce and distribute flyers promoting the city of Rancho Cordova’s tax measure, and that got him the can, so his former cronies will not make the same mistake.

http://www.kcra.com/news/rancho-cordova-faces-formal-campaign-mailer-complaint/28980752

So staff has to be creative, they need to create financial problems and then convince the taxpayers that they need to pay more money to solve them. They don’t want us to find out the real truth about city finances – whole funds are in arrears because they’ve been siphoning off money to pay down the pension liability. Look at the budget here,

http://www.chico.ca.us/finance/documents/2019-20CityAnnualFINALBudget.pdf

and push “Control F” on your keyboard. Then type in the words, “pension” or “pension liability”, look at it for yourself if you don’t want to take my word for it. Then type in “gas tax” and be further outraged. 

I think you will see stuff that inspires you to write your own letter to the editor, here’s mine.

NOTE: Here’s a further irony I was not able to address in 250 words – they add a franchise fee that increases your rates, and then they use that total to figure the 5% Utility Tax. Sock it to me BABEE!

After a year of Chico staffers complaining that the Camp Fire evacuees were “straining” our services, we find a $20,000,000 “boost” in city coffers. Where did that come from?

Staff reports sales and bed tax were up, way up, during those months after the fire. Staff didn’t mention Utility Tax or the franchise fees that are tacked onto our utility bills. The city adds a 5% Utility Tax to your PG&E, Cal Water/sewer, and landline bills, taking $7,051,581 last year. With rate increases and new development, that goes up about $50,000/year. Think what a temporary population influx meant.

 A letter writer mentioned the trash tax or “franchise fee”.  The city also collects franchise fees from PG&E and Comcast. Last year the city added $1,102,674 to our trash bills and expects to collect about $1,600,000 in 2019-20. They tacked another $757,192 onto our PG&E bills and $899,942 to our cable tv bills. 

Shouldn’t these funds be used for street maintenance?  Last year staff used almost $400,000 in Comcast fees to remodel council chambers. These hidden taxes go into the General Fund, where they are available for any whim of council.

Council created the ordinances by which these taxes are added to our utility rates, and council can lower or eliminate them.  Ironically, they also created a “no price gouging” ordinance, but proceeded to make profit from the tragedy.  Let them know how you feel about that by claiming your annual Utility Tax Rebate, available from May 1 to June 30. Email the clerk at debbie.presson@chicoca.gov for details.

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

 

Linda McCann: Wake up people, you should be concerned as another hand wants to slip in your pocket to remove your cash!

11 Dec

It’s official – I got my “free” subscription from Mike Wolcott and now I know – the only good part of the tired, old and fuddled Enterprise Record cat box liner is the letters section. Thank you Linda McCann for tipping us to the latest assault on Prop 13.

 

I read with interest and concern the article in the December 6 Chico E-R regarding AB 48, or as it’s been dubbed Proposition 13.   OK I get that,  a proposition to put to a vote a bond issue to raise money for our schools. However there’s one sentence that is of great concern to me as it should be to all home owners protected under the 1978 Proposition 13.

The article states and I quote, “AB 48, Proposition 13 is not to be confused with the 1978 Proposition 13 which some education groups hope to overhaul in November to raise revenue for cities and schools.”

Wake up people, you should be concerned as another hand wants to slip in your pocket to remove your cash!

— Linda McCann, Paradise

Here’s the legislative digest entry:

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB48

This is a proposal to lower the voter approval for bonds from 2/3’s to 55 percent. This is not democracy, it’s overpaid school administrators sticking their hands in our pockets to pay for their outrageous pensions. In Sacramento, one school district is tanking because of a 15% raise they gave their already generously compensated teachers. 

Do they really think we’re stupid enough to fall for this trick? Calling a bad proposition “13”? Are we that dumb? Don’t wait until after the election to find  out – tell your family, friends and neighbors not to fall for this trick. Write a letter like Linda McCann. 

Just think, what if Paul Revere had thought his actions didn’t matter?

The Homeless Industrial Complex is a failure – how many people will die on Chico streets this winter despite all the money shoveled into the system?

30 Nov

The headlines were conflicting this week in Chico – Black Friday shopping, Thanksgiving fun run, community meals, city setting up a “warming tent”, and a woman found dead along Lindo Channel.

Knowing how extensive our “homeless” services are here, I have to wonder – how does this happen?

The city and county continue to bumble the whole operation. We have services, plenty of them, but they are not coordinated, often compete for funding, and work toward their own instead of the public’s best interests. For example, Tom Tenorio gets a very generous salary out of the Esplanade House, even taking one of the apartments intended for housing a family to supplement his office. I’m reminded of a scene from Doctor Zhivago: “All this office, for just one fat-cat bureaucrat!

There’s alot of competing for funds and in-fighting in the Homeless Industrial Complex. They fight over money like crows fighting over road kill. When Stairways manager Mike Madeiros made a decision not to accept a grant because it would mean allowing transgender individuals into his shelter, Tenorio went on the warpath, complaining that they would lose that grant because Madeiros had refused it. Wow, that was an eye opener about the way these “non profits” are operated – too bad so few taxpayers were paying attention.

We also have disagreements over who will be served.  Madeiros was uncomfortable with allowing transgender or women in his all male shelter, worried about conflicts. Some shelters will not accept inebriated people, so CHAT (Chico Housing Action Team) has had set up “low barrier” shelters in houses around town. The city offers a warming tent, set up this weekend, that is supposed to be open to anyone who is cold. So far these tents have served less than 20 people a night, including city officials  and staffers.

And now Chico Housing Action Team wants to install “elderly” transients in Tough Sheds in a field along the freeway. 

All these programs are competing for money. And, as of this weekend, they are failing in their mission to get people off the street. 

In Chico we have many “low-income” subsidized housing projects. I just found out a huge old apartment building around the corner from one of my rentals is owned by HUD.  We have newer stuff, like Jarvis Gardens in south Chico, and 1200 Park Avenue, both built to house low-income seniors. These are public projects, paid for with tax dollars. 

But again, there is a lack of coordination. The Camp Fire is a good example of how these agencies have failed – here we had truly needy people, a natural disaster, and we couldn’t house them? But we spend millions a year on programs set up for drug addicts and criminals? 

CHAT proposes little sheds built on an empty lot along the freeway. These people are duplicitous. They already run low-barrier shelters in homes spread out across Chico, no noticing of the neighbors – CHAT knows they need to keep this project a secret. They have nothing to crow about – no list of names of people permanently taken off the street into stable housing. No success stories. And every year, several people die out on the street, regardless of all their feel-good fascism.

Now they want to build a project with city support –  they’ve already racked up a pile of $taff Time with their demands.  They want to be let out of the regular building process, sub code, no environmental review, NO FEES. And they are not being honest about how much it will cost to provide sanitary infrastructure. They first said there would be a common bathroom – now they show us plumbed sheds with toilets? Those will all have to be hooked up to sewer, which is not available on the property. There isn’t even water or electricity on the lot. 

But when my family bought a crapped out old house, the city and county, the school district, CARD – they all wanted to get their thumb in our pie, with all kinds of fees and constant inspections. The code enforcement officer, without so much as a smile, told us we had to put more Dap on the toilet because we had male children. She demanded a ladder to climb up on our roof.  She told us we had to  tear down an old building on the property before we could get clearance on the house.  And then she told us the tear  down required yet another permit. 

This is how taxpayers get treated. 

The city of Chico is a mess. Our finances are in the red, we have constant threats of bankruptcy, although, you will only hear about these problems in Chris Constantin’s pitch for a sales tax increase. Constantin and Orme are walking a fine line – trying to tell us what a mess our city is in without taking any blame for that mess.  For years they’ve mismanaged our money, putting most of it into their salaries, pensions and benefits, admittedly deferring maintenance on city infrastructure all the while. Management salaries are at an all time high, and Constantin admitted recently we spend more on cops than other California cities our size. 

The transient problem is just another part of the mismanagement. They allow these bums to trash our parks and creeks, predate on our neighborhoods, and spread drugs to our kids because they are a revenue source. When the city council signed the Shelter Crisis Designation, they got an annual grant worth over $4 million. They got another $4 million for handing part of the county fairgrounds over to the Jesus Center. That’s an annual grant, and it will go up. And they don’t have to spend it on the “homeless”, it just goes right into the General Fund. 

Just like the proposed  sales tax increase. 

So, we need to ask ourselves – why would we hand a tax increase to Mark Orme and Chris Constantin?  They stand over this whole mess, it’s their recommendations that council follows, dumb and blind. The best argument against this sales tax increase is our current management, and how they have mismanaged millions already.

Jen Sidorova: Why millennials should care about government pensions

25 Nov

Here’s something hopeful – Bob sent this piece from Market Watch, written by a young person. 

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-millennials-should-care-about-government-pensions-even-if-they-dont-have-one-2019-11-21

Jen Sidorova explains the pension crisis and why young people should be concerned. 

“Governments with underfunded pensions need to come up with the money somehow, and the most obvious way is to raise taxes. What this means for millennials, who are already the largest generational group in the workforce, is that more of their tax dollars could be diverted to paying down public pension debt instead of paying for public services. All the funds that should have otherwise gone toward schools, roads and state parks, could be redirected to cover underfunded pensions for employees who stopped working 10 or 20 years ago. So, pension debt will affect all millennials, even those outside public sector jobs — because everyone’s a taxpayer.”

That last line, “everyone’s a taxpayer,” seems to escape certain groups – like renters, and young voters who still live at home or are supported by their parents. Young people have to stop saying “No worries” and start worrying about this mess before it’s just a fact of their lives. 

Sidorova explains the two-prong fork – not only will young people live with crapped out infrastructure and higher taxes, if they go into the public sector – like my son and many of my friends’ kids – they will not enjoy the same level of pay and benefits generously lavished on their predecessors. In fact, their contributions go directly into the pockets of retirees they never even knew.

“Currently, state and local pension contributions make up about 26% of the total payroll costs. According to my analysis of the PPD, in states like Illinois and Kentucky, the government’s contributions exceed 50 percent of the total payroll costs of their largest pension plans — a consequence of enormous unfunded liabilities. All the money that could’ve gone toward increasing salaries and improving work conditions now goes toward paying pension debt. That means young workers are missing out on benefits and pay raises in the short term. For state employees, given the constitutional protection of pensions, salary freezes are another likely consequence of growing pension debt.”

Here she talks about solutions,

“As these systems try to find solutions, it’s crucial they focus on reforms that ensure paying down debt as fast as possible, adopt more conservative actuarial assumptions about investment returns, and introduce financially sustainable retirement plan offerings, as those could go a long way to ensure retirement security of the millennial labor force.

what she doesn’t talk about is who should pay down the debt. I believe the workers should assume much higher shares, or accept the loss of their pensions and go with 401ks. But that would take strong, publicly supported politicians, and I don’t know where we will find those people. What I do know is, neither our city councilors not the CARD board have the guts to do this. In fact, Tom Lando, who has been with CARD for a few terms now, is the city of Chico’s biggest current pensioneer.

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

LANDO, THOMAS J CHICO $11,236.48/mo $134,837.76/yr

That’s a nine year old post, they get cost of living increase every year. Here’s an up-to-date table from Transparent California.

https://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/search/?q=Thomas+Lando

Wow, cost of living increases more than $1,000/year, for some people, because Lando’s pension has gone up by about $16,000 in 13 years, to $150,671.00  And he serves in various interim positions, which come with more salary – for example, he was the interim director of Feather River Recreation District, and then the interim city manager of Oroville for a couple more years. 

https://www.chicoer.com/2018/03/21/tom-lando-appointed-interim-oroville-city-administrator/

He took a smaller salary – “not to exceed $30,000” – so what? How many of us would like to pocket another $30,000, in addition to the $150,000/year we already get? For nothing. 

This is so  ridiculous – people have to wake up.

It’s up to us to vote for better people. In the mean time, we need to get the word out to young people about how they can change their own futures for the better.

Joshua Rauh: Public Pensions are an economic time bomb, and young people will be at the epicenter of the blast

24 Nov

Bob sent a link to a really interesting video that explains the “pension time bomb” in language the average person can understand.

https://www.prageru.com/video/public-pensions-an-economic-time-bomb/

Josuah Rauh is a professor of finance at Stanford School of Business, Director of Research for the Hoover Institute, and has written extensively on the nationwide pension problem. I love his no-nonsense style. This problem is really simple.

Rauh doesn’t mince words.  “I want to talk about three words that should scare the heck out of you, especially if you’re young. PUBLIC PENSION LIABILITIES”

He’s absolutely right, young people will be left holding the bag.  To quote Chico City Manager Mark Orme and Assistant Manager Chris Constantin, this city has “kicked the can down the road” on infrastructure maintenance  for many years. What neither man mentions is that the city has continued to pay increasing salaries and benefits for city management. They both lie through their teeth, claiming to have “stopped the bleeding…” performed “a miracle”. In truth they have both taken very generous pay raises and have already added a 401k plan to their already generous pension packages. More about that later.

So, our kids will get stuck with failing infrastructure and the billions in taxes it will take to fix it. Not to mention, paying for generations of public workers, like Orme and Constantin,  allowed to retire at age 50 – 55 with well over $100,000/year in pension.

Unfortunately, this is a message that mostly falls on deaf ears. Rauh continues, “that’s why all of this is so scary – no one is paying attention.” Well, in defense of the average citizen – myself – I’ll say, it’s been made complicated on purpose – go to a meeting, and listen to staff make it as convoluted as possible. 

Rauh puts it in simple language, as if he is explaining this to someone from another planet, who has never heard of such a ludicrous policy. “What is a public pension liability,” he asks rhetorically. “A guaranteed lifetime payment to somebody after they retire.” That seems simple enough, but the important word here is “guaranteed“.

Years ago,  private sector workers got pensions, but private businesses were not able to keep up with the costs associated, and either dropped their pensions plans for 401K’s or went under. Right now, once giant media conglomerate McClatchy (which formerly owned newspapers and tv stations all over the state), is going under due to unfunded pension liabilities. 

McClatchy’s financial distress has the company exploring options — including a sale

 

But public workers will not cooperate, they demand to keep their guaranteed pensions.  According to public employee unions,  no matter how the economy tanks, they get their money. While CalPERS promised to fund these outrageous pensions via investments in the stock market, they have failed miserable, and now they are laying the bag at our feet. 

Rauh continues, “They are eating state and city budgets alive… more than 62,000 retired public employees are receiving pensions of over $100,000/year…  Currently many cities are paying for multiple public departments at the same time, the department that’s working now, and (due to people living longer) a generation of two of public employees.” Estimates of the state’s total unfunded pension liability go over $200 trillion. 

The problem, he says, is “a corrupt merry go round  – public employee unions give donations to candidates who are then responsible for negotiating how much of your money  goes  to public sector workers“. In Chico the biggest donors in every local election are the employee unions, usually led by Chico Police Officers Association. 

The other problem is, “they hide the payments that are  due down the road.” Here in Chico, you have to know the right question to ask, in the proper vernacular, or they just ignore you. You have to watch agendas and read onerous reports printed in the smallest typeset available, sideways on the page. 

You have to be forward with these people.  Even when Dave Howell corrected CARD General Manager about their pension deficit, Willmann overstated employee contribution figures at the informational meetings. She corrected herself in an email when I questioned her about it later, after she’d already been misinforming people for weeks. She made no attempt to correct herself publicly, even after I wrote a letter to the paper about it. 

Rauh points out same. “How do they get away with this? They use a time tested political strategy – they lie.

The first, big lie was that they could pay for these increasingly generous pensions, “not by collecting taxes but by making investments.” Then they went about raising the roof on salaries. For example, former city manager Dave Burkland left in 2012 at $130,000 base salary. His replacement, Brian Nakamura, came in at $219,000. About a year later, Nakamura left for another job, and his assistant manager Mark Orme, also his former assistant in the city of Hemet, replaced him at a salary of $205,000. Now Orme enjoys a base salary of $223,000/year, with a benefits package of over $42,000. 

CalPERS keeps claiming a return of 7% on their investments. But, as Rauh says, ” it’s less and less likely that they will make their investment assessment, because they do risky investements.” So, why, oh why, does our council keep agreeing to annual pay raises for Orme and other management? Why did they give these people, in addition to their costly and generous benefits packages, 401k plans complete with an employer share? 

The problem is the salaries are too generous for the taxpayer to ever be able to guarantee 70 – 90% in retirement. Rauh says, “We need to turn things around using public pressure, discipline and common sense.”

Public pressure – read agendas and reports, do some simple research, and contact your elected officials to tell  them what you know about this problem. Some of our city council members seem genuinely clueless, willing to be led by  staff instead of the people. It’s time for the people to lead.

Discipline – I mean, really, read the damned agendas, read the reports, look up stuff you don’t understand, ask questions. Don’t let yourself believe you can’t make a difference, but yeah, it’s a lot of hard work. 

Common Sense – this issue really is simple, don’t let public employees try to make it sound too complicated. Here’s one common sense question to ask yourself – was I included in the conversation? Did I make these promises? Why should I be on the hook for these outrageous salaries and pensions? 

Now, using public pressure, discipline, and common sense, here’s what Rauh says we need to do:

“We need state and local governments to report their  unfunded liabilities honestly, the real numbers, using the 2 – 3 % yields that sound financial reporting would require. No more pie in the sky stuff…”  We have Stephanie Taber to thank, back in 2011, for demanding the finance reports be given properly. Then Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy was not doing reports at all, her boss Dave Burkland didn’t require her to do it. Can you believe that? What private sector company would get away with that? Taber had to use public pressure, discipline, and common sense. Now the finance reports are given every month and available online. 

And now, using letters to the editor and posts on this blog, Dave Howell is trying to question the city about their true pension costs, demanding they make their Annual Finance Report (CAFR) available to the public. The city is hiding their true liability figures, saying they are only $130 million in deficit when the true figure is over $200 million. 

“the truth should shock  voters into demanding action.”  Yes, it should, but people use the most ridiculous excuses for not paying attention. This is where discipline comes in – I’m not an accountant, but I’ve made myself read and understand those finance reports. You can too. And then open your mouth and squeal like Ned Beatty, cause you are being screwed.

The action Rauh suggests we demand is “to phase out the guaranteed pension programs as quickly as possible and introduce 401k plans…

I agree with Rauh. Public employees who do their jobs should be amply compensated. He calls 401k’s a “win-win’ which,  “if designed properly, can provide excellent retirement benefits…” Here’s the win for taxpayers – employees are responsible for their own investments, and if they choose poorly, the taxpayer is not on the hook to bail them out. 

Furthermore, “401k’s are portable, employees can take them along, don’t have to be locked into government jobs to get retirement benefits.

Now, unfortunately, here’s where the corrupt merry-go-round comes in – our council, fed on employee union donations, has already given management employees a type of 401k called a “457 plan”, in addition to their guaranteed pensions. Here’s Orme’s contract, read it for yourself:

http://www.chico.ca.us/human_resources_and_risk_management/documents/OrmeEmploymentAgreement10-2017.pdf

“The City has established a Deferred Compensation Plan in accordance
with Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 457 (“IRC 457 plan”). Effective from the first pay period in
January 2017 considered in calculating the maximum IRC 457 plan limit and annually, City agrees
to contribute nine thousand dollars ($9,000), to Employee’s IRC 457 plan. Additionally, effective
October 15,2017, the City agrees to contribute four and fifty- two hundredths percent (4.52%) of
base salary to Employee’s IRC 457 plan.”

In Chico, public employee unions SEIU, CPOA, AND IFFA are among the biggest donors in every council election. I think the only donor that gives more money is Franklin Construction.  So, I would add to Rauh’s list – change the laws to restrict donations from public employee unions. Our city council can do this, but as you can guess, that would take a lot of public pressure.

Rauh suggests “lets end the current structure of public sector pensions and move to a sustainable way of compensating our public employees.” He’s not advocating cutting anybody off, but frankly, I am. I would suggest we press council to refuse to approve new contracts for management employees who refuse to take pay and benefits cuts. As stated in Orme’s contract, council has the right to refuse salary increases, and even to ask employees to take a cut. Again, this would take a lot of public pressure. 

So, it’s really up to us. 

 

Dave Howell: Chico ranks 50th worst financial risk out of 471 California cities

14 Nov

Dave Howell has been telling us about the CAFR – a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, a set of U.S. government financial statements comprising the financial report of a state, municipal or other governmental entity. Out of 471 cities of similar population, Chico was ranked 40th worst financially. 

Read more about CAFR here:

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

Thanks for writing Dave, and I hope more people will chime in.

Of 471 cities, the state auditor ranked Chico 50th worst for financial risk. Chico is at high risk in four pension and OPEB categories. The most recently available CAFR indicates Chico has over $200 million in liabilities, most of that for CalPERs which assumes an unrealistic 7% discount rate.  Chico has runaway employee costs that must be reformed.Instead, council member Scott Huber criticizes council member Sean Morgan for not supporting a tax increase. Yet Morgan like the rest of the city council voted to move the sales tax increase forward. Tax increases will not solve runaway unfunded liabilities. The city council knows this which is why they will use the revenue from the sales tax to take on hundreds of millions in new debt resulting in future tax increase demands. Of course the PR firm the city is paying our hard-earned tax dollars to didn’t mention any of this to the registered voters they contacted for their survey used to word the ballot measure.

Instead of reforming runaway city employee costs, Huber, Morgan and the rest of the city council put us on a path of ruinous debt and future tax increases. This in a county with a 21% poverty rate where bureaucrats and other city employees can retire in their fifties with multi-million dollar pensions.

This is what happens when a clueless citizenry doesn’t hold an incompetent and corrupt city council accountable and is yet another example of how democracy is failing in our country.

Dave Howell, Chico