Thursday, May 28, 2015

Where Are City Employee Health Care Insurance Costs In Sierra Madre Now?

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The City's health care insurance costs came up a few times in the comments yesterday, so I thought today we should look into this topic a little bit and see exactly where we are at. It never hurts to check on these sorts of things.

As you may recall, it was about a year ago (add a couple of months) that we were treated to the news that the taxpayers of Sierra Madre were paying what looked to be the single most expensive employee health care insurance plan in California in the year 2012. A record that was only broken recently by a water district located in Long Beach.

This 2014 article, penned by Transparent California's Robert Fellner, was called "State and local government spending on health insurance grew by twice the national rate for 2012" and you can link to it here.

One of the more alarming data points I have come across while compiling the necessary records for the Transparent California website has been the large sums of money spent on health insurance for public employees. As our site groups together the cost of pension payouts and health insurance in order to present the information in a uniform and understandable manner, the cost of individual health plans was not something we were particularly focusing on.

However, in the course of formatting and uploading the necessary records to Transparent California.com, several agencies jumped out at me due to their alarmingly expensive health insurance plans. First, it was the $20k+ plans in Corte Madera, Calif. and the Contra Costa Community College District. Then I saw the $30k+ plans in Beverly Hills. Finally, I came across what remains the most expensive plan I have seen to date — a $37,815 health insurance plan for the Water Superintendent of Sierra Madre, Calif.

As the City of Sierra Madre shows signs of cranking up the UUTax hike initiative "process" for an unprecedented third time in six years, it is important to remember that it was not too long ago that some of the most ridiculous health insurance spends imaginable were being doled out to city employees here, and with no questions asked. And in 2012 we not only had the single most expensive health insurance package out there, we also owned the lion's share of the Top 10 for the entire state in that category. Only the City Manager of Beverly Hills even came close to our guys.

Here is a chart that Transparent California's Robert Fellner put together for us showing just how out of line with the real world we really were in 2012.


The City's individual health insurance plan costs started to come down a little. Here are the Top 20 or so health care package costs for the year 2013. As you can see, they were still quite high, but at least Sierra Madre was no longer setting state records.


All of the adverse publicity that the City of Sierra Madre had been receiving on this site and elsewhere began to have an effect. In November of 2014 City Hall posted the following on their website. This is a notice that they had established a maximum of $18,000 a year for management medical insurance plans, and $15,000 a year for classified employees. Here is what the management version of this looks like (link):


Which, when you compare it to the excesses of 2012, isn't quite so bad. Again, not being the highest in the entire state for things like utility taxes and health insurance plans isn't necessarily a bad thing. Certainly we'd had more than enough of that sort of infamy.

But here is another 2013 Transparent California chart for you to check out.


Notice the bar all the way to the left. Average private sector health insurance package costs on the west coast are $7,464. All the way to the right you can see that the Metropolitan Water District is over $16,000 on average. Which just goes to show it isn't only their water that is golden.

Now while we're not quite that bad these days, City Hall health care insurance packages in Sierra Madre are still not quite in line with the real world. Even that $11,000 state government average is probably quite a bit less. We are kind of extrapolating here a little because City Hall has yet to share its 2014 numbers with anyone. Unfortunately those are still under wraps, though I am certain they must know what they are by now.

So we do need to ask, where are City employee health insurance costs in Sierra Madre today?

As the residents of this town are being asked to struggle with exactly where and what to cut as far as spending goes, and given this city's rather sketchy past in the category of health insurance plans for its employees, this would seem to be information that everyone needs to know.

As one commenter put it early this morning:

It is not really fair to talk about what department budgets (or departments altogether) should be cut because we don't really know what goes into those budgets. Health insurance costs are one thing. There are others as well.

If Sierra Madre has to bring its budgets down by $740,000 or so, wouldn't knocking health insurance costs down somewhere near the private sector average save the city around $100,000 of that figure? Again, we don't have the 2014 numbers so it is hard to be exact.

But I'll bet it would be more than enough to save Community Services.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

54 comments:

  1. I would also be curious of the salaries and severance package cost.

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  2. It is not really fair to talk about what department budgets (or departments altogether) should be cut because we don't really know what goes into those budgets. Health insurance costs are one thing. There are others as well.

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  3. we all know that nothing nada zip would have done about health care costs unless the absurdity of how our city is managed was exposed a year ago

    touting this as an accomplishment is like a bank robber saying - "at least we didn't kill anybody"

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  4. You can only change the health plans for new employees. Existing employees benefits are already set. Bear in mind that those employees are also paid about 20-30% less than a comparable position in other cities. The benefits packages are an attempt at compensation for that.

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    1. Yes, but aren't we talking about saving city jobs and entire departments? I think that would be the higher priority.

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    2. So what 6:44. First, if they don't like the wages paid here then let them go get a job in another city that pays more- no one is forced to work here. And second, you defeat your "they make less than other cities pay" when you note that Sierra Madre employees have that "wage gap" made up for with platinum health benefits.
      thanks for playing

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    3. That "20-30% less" than elsewhere is such a bunch of hooey. If that is the case, those other positions are actually overpaid. I'd like to see the figures of other cities with populations of 11,000 and how much the city hall staff makes.
      It's a pretty easy gig to work here.

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    4. That is why the City Manager needs to be fired.
      Hire John Hutt
      Do what other cities are doing...All employees have to re-apply for their position. Good luck!

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    5. "You can only change the health plans for new employees."

      This is false. You're thinking of pension benefits, maybe?

      The health plans have been changed for all employees. That's actually been documenting in today's post when referencing the drop in cost from 2012 to 2013, and the further drop in 2014.

      The claim of being paid 20-30% less than comparable jobs is going to need some evidence to support it.

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  5. We have a city manager who gives her people these big salaries and big health insurance salaries and wont hire a local person but goes out of the city and gets her own guy. How much against the city does she have to do before we can get a local person to replace her. This city has made some bad decisions over the years and it all comes out of her office and it's always in favor of spending more money. So what did we get for this last $234,000 she spent on water treatment that doesn't seem to be working. Also, how much water are we paying for that is leaking out of our pipes? We need to hire a replacement that works for the town, not their little hand picked people that are yes mam down the line.

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  6. What the heck does the council do if not bring these over costs back in line. Oh wait, one or two of our council gets a big pension and insurance plan. Were doomed, lets replace all personnel with non union and see how that goes for a while. Could not be worse, waters already messed up and that's the life source of our town.

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    1. Two of the members of the City Council are big union guys, and that is the agenda they're working on. Because of them I think the UUT will go back on the ballot where it will fail for a third time. meaning another two years will be down the drain.

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    2. Gotta pay for those Platinum Pensions.

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  7. What has been the increase in the UUT revenue with the 40% increase in the water rates this year? Will the city provide that information BEFORE the June 6 meeting?

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    1. As people are using less water and it's costing the City more the revenue increase is negligible.

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  8. There's that old expression, "Ya can't fight city hall!" And that's where we're at folks. Locked into CALPERS for the next 5 years. The police chief must have a retirement package from where he worked before. If so, why does he get insurance here? Are there any other employees like that? No matter what we ask, no matter what we say, the cuts that need to be made, won't be. I could live off of the chief's salary or even Elaine's. The UUT will pass, and they will have more money to spend and we'll have the same crises next year and the next.

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    1. It is time to stand up to City Hall & to Elaine!
      Elaine must go or recall anyone that does not support her removal.

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    2. You can't fight City Hall, but you can surely make the UUT sunset so they stop spending more and more $$$ each year.

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    3. You can fight City Hall...Start with Fire City Manager

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    4. Maybe we could share City Mgr. / Administrator with another town. Like San Marino, South Pas & San Gabriel(?) sharing a Fire Chief. Saved a boatload of money.

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  9. The police department is bleeding the City dry. If it continues to consider itself immune from cuts, any tinkering around the edges will only delay the inevitable.

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  10. We the people are never told the truth from City Hall. We need an audit! The City Manager and City Attorney are fleecing our Village. We must have a City Council with the courage to fire the City Manager. If a City Council members does not support her removal they should be Recalled.

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  11. The mayor has a nice retirement plan, guess he votes with Gene and John.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, remember when Capoccia was a fiscal conservative (kinda)?

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  12. Middle School update from last night: Students MIGHT get into new classrooms by the start of the school year in August. Schedule is tight for that. But for sure the gym, auditorium, etc. won’t be ready until December at the earliest. If you see the portable classrooms being dragged out before July 1, that’s a good sign.

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    1. Any news on why the project managers (Frazer especially) and the architect are gone?

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    2. They would not comment on “personnel” issues (a convenient dodge). Frazer is the only one let go. Proj. mgr. and architect are still on board.

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    3. I heard Frazer resigned out of frustration and took a job in the Bay Area.

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    4. Way back when construction on this school began, the school board promised to sell one of the portable classrooms to the Friends of the Library for a very, very reasonable price so they would have dedicated space for their book sales. Who is following up on this?

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    5. That plan has been scrapped due to many problems associated with a portable building in a residential neighborhood. Costs were too high to rehabilitate the building to standards.

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    6. They said that the elevator permissions weren't finished and they are waiting on them. There's a Frazer letter from February saying he was worried about the timeliness of the State responding on the elevator because it takes 14 weeks to fabricate the elevator once permissions are given. A few weeks after he said that, the new guy Nelson was brought in. Last night they said they have to get these permissions Frazer was worried about in February in the next week in order to open the school on time. So it's been over 3 months at least since they started trying to get these permissions. And the issue of timeliness was a clear one.

      Nelson also said last night that around March a bunch of things were flagged as being deficient and then were covered up, and he is ripping things out and making sure things are done properly. There was an implication that supervision was lax at this time. But now I read that he was working in March, right when all these things were being flagged. Perhaps he meant when he came in during March he became aware of these issues?

      In March, when leadership began its musical chairs process, did the elevator follow-up slip through the cracks (these permitting things have a long history of being forgotten about, especially because of the higher ups getting distracted with politics and bureacracy), or is the state truly the problem? Generally the State is very slow and creaky to do anything, which means someone has to hammer them all the time to make sure timelines are met.

      I'm still confused about why the gym and auditorium won't be done until December, is that because of problems or was it always the plan?

      I don't want to throw a fit if it means the job will be rushed and done badly. Nelson also made a point that more would be provided in the gym, and there would be other upgrades because he is doing things correctly and methodically. The implication is we will ultimately be more pleased with the extended timeline because we will have a much better school for the long-term.

      I don't know what I think.

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    7. Frazer was doing the job well. However, the new PUSD wants their own "boys" in. This may not end well.

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    8. New supe, new rules. A real crap shoot.

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    9. Remember when school boards actually did what was best for the kids? What the hell happened?

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  13. Please show up to the Town Hall meeting on June 6. Even if you think it is a scam, Denise and Rochelle will listen to you.

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    1. I don't think it is a scam, but I believe that two other council members are going to try to use the Town Hall meeting to get the UUT Measure on the ballot again. If you don't go your voice will not be heard. I guarantee the pro-tax hike people will have their people out. Armed with some of the saddest tales you have ever heard.

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    2. Will we get a look at the 2014 employee compensation numbers before then?

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    3. Plus you can win free prizes!
      Opportunity to Provide Valuable Input and Win Great Prizes at the Budget Town Hall Meeting
      http://www.cityofsierramadre.com/city-news/813-opportunity-to-provide-valuable-input-and-win-great-prizes-at-the-budget-town-hall-meeting

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    4. Big whoopee - dinner with the Mayor is one prize. The only one I'd like to win is the helicopter ride.

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  14. These health plans better cure cancer!

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    Replies
    1. Includes Medivac service for sprained ankles and worse.

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  15. Out west on Highland there is a complete remodel underway of what was the Kraft Estate. Was that ever on the Historic Register for the City? The new owner started this project long before the demolition ordinance went in for older homes, however, there is nothing there except open floor space and some 2 x 4s. What a loss!

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    1. I was at the planning commission meeting for that project. They will be restoring it back to the original look.

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    2. That's good news 2:15.

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  16. Hello everybody--We live in a very special town in Southern California that needs some serious readjustments in spending patterns if we hope to hold it together. Just asking for more money from the UUT or no UUT is not the answer. We are smarter than that.

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  17. How can we get an outsie audit of the city?

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    Replies
    1. Sure let's spend $50,000.00 on one.

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    2. We tried.
      You should check out some of the Neuroblast videos.

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  18. we just spent over $200,000 on water that was a waste. at least a legitimate audit would let us know some facts on where were really at with money.

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  19. I'm not so sure about that? But "better safe than sorry" and "hindsight is always the best sight"

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  20. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/bankruptcy-judge-deeply-concerned-unfunded-160650420.html

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