Tag Archives: Scott Dowell City of Chico CA

Getting public information out of city staff is like pulling teeth

26 Sep

Bob sent the article below the other day – it’s a good read for Halloween.

About 7 years ago, short-lived city manager Brian Nakamura told us about the pension liability, and he briefly mentioned the “benefits liability”, but that second topic never came up again. Here below, George Russell talks about the  “OPEB” liability – “other post employment benefits”.

 

George Russell: Marin County public pensions are due for reform

So, the League of California Cities, and city management all over the state are looking out over the back of the boat, the cigarettes are falling out of their mouths, and they’re saying, “You taxpayers are going to need a bigger boat...” 

Here in Chico, they have never told us point-blank about OPEB, but I’m sure it comes up at those small, daytime meetings that nobody attends. So I asked city finance manager Scott Dowell – he’d recently given me a figure for the “unfunded accrued liability” – I didn’t know if that figure was just pensions or included the OPEB. His response, simply, “No, OPEB is separate.” But no figure, I had to ask for that in a separate email. Cause they just don’t want to tell us this stuff, it’s counter to their best interests.

I call this “willful insubordination,” but I went ahead and sent a separate e-mail asking him for the figure. I try to be nice, I apologize for bothering this guy.  I’ll get back to you with his response. 

City exploring pre-funding of pensions – do they ever do anything Downtown besides figure out ways to pay themselves?

16 May

Finance Committee meeting Wednesday, May 23, 2018 – 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  Council Chamber Building, Conference Room 1

Committee members – Councilmembers Morgan (sean.morgan@chicoca.gov), Stone (randall.stone@chicoca.gov) and Chair Sorensen (mark.sorensen@chicoca.gov)

Next Wednesday the committee will hear reports regarding a fairly new scheme for skimming money off the taxpayers to fund employee pensions. Below is an article from Public Agency Retirement Services (another public retirement agency?) describing the benefits of this program. 

http://www.pars.org/2016/03/a-new-tool-for-pension-budgeting/

With our maturing public pension plans, we know that we should expect greater fluctuations in required contributions from year to year. And since we know big fluctuations are coming, our actuaries are warning employers to plan for it in order to ease the burden when big contribution increases do arrive. But how exactly does one do that? It’s not like big portions of your annual budget are discretionary spending.

If you’ve been in the position of sitting on extra cash, you will have quickly learned that there’s little you can do with that money to “prepare” your agency for fluctuating contribution requirements. If you give that extra money to CalPERS, CalPERS will apply it toward your unfunded liabilities, and it will probably make only a small dent in your annual required contributions due to their amortization rules. While paying down unfunded liabilities is always worthwhile, it won’t help you manage future year-to-year changes in required contributions. You could stash some cash in a rainy day fund, but that has its drawbacks as well. The good news is: we’ve got an answer for you. Duh, dah, dah, duh…. The Section 115 trust!

Here’s something funny – “ If you give that extra money to CalPERS, CalPERS will apply it toward your unfunded liabilities, and it will probably make only a small dent in your annual required contributions due to their amortization rules.”

Current city finance wizard Scott Dowell worked for Chico Area Rec Dist before he got the job with the city. He made those “small dent” payments toward their pension deficit – a “side fund payment” as he described it, of $400,000 in one year. That money could have gone toward badly needed repairs at Shapiro Pool – a consultant said the pool could have been brought up to code for less than $500,000 – but Dowell told me the agency saved a lot of money! by making that side fund payment instead. That’s like making interest only payments on your credit card.

This man gets paid almost $200,000/year, in salary alone, to make decisions like this. And when they’re bad decisions, well, gee, he just changes his MO!  And gets a raise and more for his benefits package.

So you have almost a week to write to the fellows on this committee – that’s Seanny, Randy, and Mark-e-Mark – and tell them what you think of Dowell’s little schemes to fund his own pension. 

City financial officer gives a much different figure for utility franchise fees – ???

16 Feb

City of Chico “Chief Administrative Officer” Scott Dowell finally gave Presson an answer to my question – how much money does the city of Chico receive in franchise fees from PG&E. 

I had found an article from Ch 7 news in Redding:

http://krcrtv.com/archive/pge-pays-millions-to-northstate-counties

detailing payments to Chico, Butte County, and other local cities and counties, it  reported a much larger figure – in fact, three figures that added up to over a million dollars for fiscal year 2011-12.

 Chico$ 407,735.25 $ 201,282.46 $ 609,017.71 

Dowell came back to me with $690,768. 

Hmmm. Not sure what to think, I responded with the figures from Ch 7 and asked him where I could find this information in the budget.

Look Scott, I’m not calling you a liar, I’m just asking, why the difference in figures? Maybe he’ll come back and tell me how these franchise fees are based. The article indicates local agencies collect more in franchise fees every year, but maybe that was some kind of sunset thing, and the sun went down on it. I’m willing to give a person the benefit of the doubt.

Gee willikers –  maybe Ch 7 screwed up and gave three years’ figures? 

We’ll see what he says – I’m not expecting an answer before next Tuesday.