Tag Archives: City of Chico employee contracts

Chico now follows Yuba City into the abyss

25 Mar

Here’s a story from the Appeal Democrat in Yuba City/Marysville. The title states the problem – read further – city expenses have increased to pre-recession levels while revenues have continued to fall, retirement costs have increased by almost 10  percent a year while 32 positions have remained vacant. 

Sound familiar? Well, not if you’ve been listening to Chico Assistant City Mangler Chris Constantin lately – he just made a Pollyanna speech about how everything will be getting better and we need to pump more money into police salaries for cops who only pay 12 percent of their pensions, 90 percent available at age 50. Constantin assumes higher property tax and sales tax revenues – I’d like to see the crystal ball he’s been using, cause my crystal ball says we’re headed straight for the second dip in the ‘W’. Housing prices are going up too fast, builders are building in a glutted market.  In my neighborhood, the same contractor is flipping three houses – putting lipstick on pigs, and jacking the price up to $400,000 plus.  

Below, Constantin admits we can’t really afford these raises for the cops, but insinuates they won’t stay if we don’t pay them more. Meanwhile, interim chief Dunbaugh told Stephanie Taber we had more than 100 recruits for those three positions they just filled the other day. The lies just keep on flowing – Chris Constantin is full of double talk.

“While this agreement includes base pay adjustments, the CPOA has agreed to pay more of their pensions costs (the highest of any employee group) and to convert to a new employee 14-step schedule that reduces the annual step increases from 5% down to 2.5% (a new salary schedule also agreed to by our non-public safety management group). This is a unique solution to the unique issue faced by this high priority area. Unfortunately, it is not something we can afford to give to others without compromising our financial future; however, I believe the return on the investment will positively impact all of us and will bring relief to a workforce that is struggling to maintain even a minimum safe staffing level.”

I predict Constantin will fly the coop before the city announces plans to pursue a sales tax increase. But, read below, you see we’re on the same road as Yuba City. 

 

 

Yuba City budget deficits remain as costs rise

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for Yuba City’s budget woes, but it’s obscured by a mountain of pension debt and rising health care costs.

Those rising costs mean budget deficits will remain until 2018, when the city pays off its pension obligation bonds. Consequently, it’s unlikely the city will be able to add or expand services, Finance Director Robin Bertagna told the City Council during a mid-year budget update at last Tuesday’s meeting.

 Basically, city expenses have increased to pre-recession levels, while revenues, despite an uptick from the improving economy, have not, Bertagna said.

Bertagna projected the city would have a $2 million budget deficit by the end of the fiscal year, although the actual number will likely be lower due to one-time savings realized by 32 vacant positions in the city, said City Manager Steve Kroeger.

Since 2004, retirement costs have increased by almost 10 percent each year. Health benefit payments have increased by 5 percent annually and overtime costs have risen by almost 8 percent each year. Comparatively, general fund revenues have increased by almost 3 percent a year over that same time period.

And required contributions to the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) will increase by 33 percent by 2021, which will add just less than $2.2 million to the city’s budget.

The city has handled the budget deficit in several ways. Employee furloughs have resulted in significant savings — without the 10 percent furlough, the projected deficit this year would be $4.2 million, Bertagna said.

The city has also used a reserve fund, the Economic Stabilization Fund, to balance the budget.

Currently, the fund has a balance of $4.5 million, which Kroeger said should sustain the city’s deficit through 2018.

In 2018, the city will have paid off its pension obligation bond. The city sold the bond to make a one-time PERS payment of about $7 million.

The bond was sold in the interest of saving money, as the bond’s interest rate is two percentage points lower than the unfunded liability rate that PERS charges the city, Kroeger said.

Even with the one-time payment, the city’s total unfunded PERS liability, representing the difference between the assets the city has to pay pension costs and the amount of pension obligations it has, is $53 million.

Kroeger said the city has planned well for the extended economic slump.

“It’s a downturn that most expected to recover sooner than it has,” Kroeger said. “The city’s conservative fiscal planning has served us well.”

CONTACT reporter Andrew Creasey at 749-4780 and on Twitter @AD_Creasey.

Council offering management employees 12 percent raise over 5 years, and we still pay their pensions

16 Nov

I know I’m not a “Human Resources” expert, but I think city employees are overpaid. When you’re paying a guy $80,000 a year to collect change from parking meters, you have to ask yourself, “am I getting a good deal?”

The management employees’ contract proposals have been made available here:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=92&meta_id=42619

Read it yourself. Yes, it’s true that management employee have taken pay cuts over the last few years  – I’d call them “adjustments.” They are still making almost twice the median income, and probably at least twice what they would be making in the private sector, if they could find jobs in the private sector. 

They want a step raise system by which their salaries are automatically raised by 2.5 percent a year. Who gets that? Only public employees would have the gall.

And  sure, they’re giving up their workman’s comp payments – because we will still pay over 90 percent of their pensions and benefits.

This is not as bad as the cop contracts that ask for 5 percent raises, but this kind of “Me Me Me” is going to sink our ship. According to John Chiang’s new charts, here:

https://bythenumbers.sco.ca.gov/finance-explorer/view-by-city

Chico has over $70 million in “liabilities”. Brian Nakamura said our pension liability was over $60 million – I think he said exactly $68 million.  When I looked at  the chart, it looked like the figure was going down for a couple of years after 2010, but now it’s headed right up again, going from $75 million in 2012 to $75.8 in 2013. 

Meanwhile, Mark Sorensen plays his fiddle over our burning ship. I like to make salads with my metaphors, it’s so hard to choose one when they all fit our perfectly disastrous scenario. 

 

ER ran my letter, here’s a few comments from Faceblob

11 Sep

We’ve seen letters to the editor, the police seem to be pushing a sales tax increase “for public safety.” 

 

Folks, the cops get over $20 million a year and fire gets another $17 or so. Million. Our budget is only about $42 million, do the math. According to a recent revelation from Downtown, the cops [sorry – correction – I’m sorry I screwed this up –  cops and fire between them get 72 percent, over half of which goes to the cops] get about 72 percent [more like 42 percent] of the General Fund [almost half the total budget], and they still can’t do their jobs. While the college students seem to have been keeping the fire department off their butts lately, the cops have gone on vacation as our crime rate goes up, up, up. We had a fatal stabbing at Downtown 7-11 last week, and a tussle with a guy who was later found to have a knife at Rite Aid on Mangrove.  Compare that to the number of cops who have EVER died in Chico – one.  And those are just the incidents that made it into the press. Chico is becoming much more dangerous for the general population, while the cops, who eat half our budget, walk away from their duties saying they don’t get paid enough. 

 

Months ago, I sat in a meeting Downtown, with Chief Trostle and now-retired officer George Laver, and told them how bad the situation was getting at Mangrove Plaza. I told them how twice I’d been in the Payless Shoes store when shoplifters had just about run over customers getting out the door with shoes. Payless takes a responsible stance – their clerks are told to stay put, never follow anybody out of the store. Wise thinking, you can get dead so fast, over a radio or a pair of shoes? Forget it – that’s the cops’ job.

All it would take is an undercover cop at that shopping center for a week, just a guy in shabby clothes, or a woman dressed like a housewife, and you’d be able to figure out who’s who and what’s going on down there.  I think the cops could learn something by talking to the people who work in those businesses, but Trostle just sat there as I told that story, the muscles in the sides of his head moving like boiling milk. I told him about an encounter I’d seen between some customers and a screaming drunk in front of Rite Aid. I told them about a guy who stood in front of me in line, stinking drunk, and bought a bottle of whiskey at 10:00 in the morning. I got no response. I don’t even know if they approached the management of either business.

Our police problem is not financial, it’s mental. They think they’re too good to serve people. What they’re doing in “public service” is anybody’s guess. Oh, I’ll answer that – they know the money is  great, the benefits are unreal, they don’t have any illusions about doing society any favors.  As soon as they put on that uniform they start to breathe their own farts and their attitude goes right through the top of their silly little hats.

I sent the following letter to Chico Enterprise Record two days ago, we’ll see if they run it:

Any candidate or incumbent who wants to be elected to Chico city council in November should be quizzed extensively about the employee contracts which will be back on the table in December. So far none have discussed the contracts in detail, nor have promised to curtail excessive compensation.  They all complain that employee negotiations are complicated, and promise to save the city with cuts elsewhere, but won’t elaborate.  So far, cuts have resulted in the disgraceful deterioration of our streets, our parks, and public  safety in general. 

 

One provision of  the contracts that needs to be changed is the city’s collection  of union/political action committee dues, even from employees who do not want to be  union members. These same funds are channeled into every city election, throwing the odds ridiculously. 

 

And, as pointed out by former candidate and administrative law judge Joe Montes, it creates a terrific conflict of interest. The city councilors sign the contract that allows the money to be collected, at taxpayer expense, and handed over to PAC’s that turn right around and hand it back  to the council candidates of their choice, either through direct contribution or through “indirect” support such as mailers and billboards. 

 

This election will be a turning point for Chico. As the public safety unions become more powerful, the average citizen will see their influence over their locally elected leaders get weaker and weaker. Speak while you have a voice – join Chico Taxpayers Association. 

UPDATE:

The ER ran my letter yesterday. I noticed there were a few comments – I don’t participate in Faceblob, so I brought the comments here, where anybody who can use a keyboard is allowed to participate in the conversation, not just people who are mainlining their social life through a box.  I’d like to see this conversation go beyond “the usual suspects”. 

Juanita you are wrong about the power of “public safety” unions. The fire union is powerful, the police union is not. The fire union was taking raises when then the police union was giving money back to the city. The police department is losing officers to higher paying agencies where the fire department has hundreds if not thousands who would do the same job for half the pay. You should recognize the difference.

This woman is not speaking to my letter, she’s a cop groupie who attacks the fire department. That is so distressing – aren’t they all public safety workers? Why do they act like characters from Super Troopers or Gangs of New York? Aren’t they supposed to support each other? But you’ll hear this same rant from police Chief Kurt Trostle – “the firefighters get paid to sleep and play X-Box!” He said exactly that when Stephanie Taber and I were invited to meet with him at the police station one day. He is very juvenile, like a big pouting teenager.  Angela is also playing with the facts – look at the salary charts, the cops have continued to get salary increases despite the theatrics played out in city chambers. 

Michael Jones answered:

I agree the Fire union members are more overpaid than police. And if it can be independently confirmed that Chico pays below market rates for police, then perhaps they’re not overpaid. But they make a lot more than the sheriff. Did you know that Dave Main Chico fire captain makes more then the Secretary of Defense? Is anybody really OK with that??

I don’t know what he bases this claim on, that fire fighters “are more overpaid” than police.   Maybe he will come around with the background on that. Does he mean they take more overtime? Also, he just showed a chart that blows the “Chico pays below market rate for police” out of the water – look at Chico Politics.  It is clear that both are fire and police are paid well above the average. 

http://chicopolitics.com/2014/09/10/ann-schwab-corrected/

I don’t really understand this entire remark, but I will say, no, it’s not okay with me that both our police and fire chiefs make more than the Secretary of Defense. Furthermore, they make more than four times the median income.  They are paid by people who live on less than a quarter of what they make, just in salary, then we pay their benefits. No, this is not okay with me.

 

 

Brian Nakamura under attack? Fears for his personal and family’s safety? Apparently he’s talking about the police and fire employees

7 Nov

Last week I attended the Tuesday night Tea Party meeting, and by Thursday morning I’d sent off a letter to the Enterprise Record about it. On Sunday I realized I had not received the usual response from David Little, so I resent. Little himself has told me, and other regular letter writers, to resend if I don’t get that “it’s in the cue” response directly from him, so I always do. He responded a day or two later complaining he had a lot of letters. My letter finally ran yesterday, Wednesday. Today it’s gone, fuckyouverymuch!

I also can’t help but notice – other letters that ran yesterday are still up.  I hate to be a sour apple, but that’s how I feel when I get the short end of the stick. Especially from a guy who takes the sticks in his hands, measures them up, and then looks around the room and says, “you again – you get  the short stick.”  I’m used to that from him, but it makes him smaller and smaller every time until some day I expect him to disappear and suddenly some new, fresh-minded young person will be standing there, ready to hand over a clean new deck of cards. I  can dream.

I spend time writing these dam-ned letters. In this case, I wrote to the ER instead of writing a blog about this meeting because I was short on time and figured it was important to tell other people. Fat lot of good it did to write the the Enterprise Record! 

I also wrote a letter to the News and Review, about another aspect of Nakamura’s chat at the Tea Party meeting – that ran with the first send, and will appear on the website into perpetuity. Read that here:

http://www.newsreview.com/chico/letters-for-november-7-2013/content?oid=11973038

I don’t write letters to the editor to see my name in the paper, I write because I know the general public doesn’t make it to these behind-closed-doors ass-kissing sessions, isn’t privvy to this information – even though we all should be. Here’s my letter about Nakamura’s fear of Chico PD and Fire. Why are we letting this guy negotiate our employee contracts? 

Brian Nakamura and Chris Constantin were featured speakers at a recent Tea Party meeting. I was shocked at what Nakamura related about dealing with the police and fire departments. 

 

The city of Chico is currently negotiating contracts with employee unions. I asked if Nakamura, who serves as city liason, was having any luck getting city employees to pay their own benefits and pensions costs.  He said he could not give us specifics of the contracts, but described the talks as “turf wars.” The police and fire unions he said, bring in “legal resources” from out of town to fight “any changes” in the contracts. 

 

When asked if he had considered contracting Cal Fire, Nakamura warned, the council chambers would be packed with people wearing red Chico Fire shirts, and he’d be run out of town.  “It happened in Hemet!” he exclaimed, and described himself as a “target” at least five times. 

 

When asked about a sales tax hike to fund the police department, Nakamura wouldn’t support it – “you can write whatever you want into the measure to try and protect the money, but the complexities of the General Fund…” allow the money to be moved to other funds by Staff without public oversight. 

 

Constantin agreed, adding, “I’m not going to advocate paying more when police don’t pay a dime toward their own benefits…”

 

Chico Fire and Police departments are apparently the biggest threat to public safety, both physical and fiscal. 

 

Juanita Sumner, Chico