Tag Archives: city of Chico budget surplus

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.


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!