Saturday, June 6, 2015

Budget Town Meeting Wrap Up: It's Not the Services, It's the Salaries



I figured I should post this now rather than waiting until tomorrow morning. For one it is fresh on my mind, but also I already have something written for tomorrow. It involves the full-throated fire horn, so obviously it will be a lot more popular as far as blog traffic goes. And what could possibly be more important than blog traffic?

Here is my takeaway from this morning's community get-together. It isn't the services that need to be changed or adjusted, it is the costs for those services. According to Wikipedia (link) the average household income in Sierra Madre is right around $80,000. Here is what the Top 10 most compensated employees at City Hall are pulling down. The column farthest to the right is what you are paying.


The total for just those 10 employees comes to a rounded off number of $1,730,850. And that is just a small portion of the total headcount. Click here to view the entire list. Do grab a chair, it goes on for a while.

Aren't you somewhat amazed that city employees make more than many of the taxpayers who shell out for their salaries? Is your self-esteem so low you believe they are worth that much more than you? Or that they do things that you yourself are incapable of doing? Like rent picnic tables?

The only way the city can sustain this level of spending for employee compensation is to raise utility taxes. Something the voters of Sierra Madre have now refused to do twice. The other option, cutting employee salaries, did not appear on any of the helpful information boards or handouts at the Fire Station. At least as far as I could see.

And let's face it, if City of Sierra Madre jobs were thrown open to the public to apply for, the line would extend all the way down Sierra Madre Boulevard to Hastings Ranch

You pay a lot of taxes to live in Sierra Madre as it is. Anyone who has cut a property tax check lately can tell you that. So don't you deserve the kinds of community services any city can provide? Of course you do. 

Yet rather than curb salaries and overall compensation, apparently what the city is proposing to do is cut services. That is, unless you vote yourself a tax hike.

Quite a story if you think about it. Ever feel like you've been used?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

44 comments:

  1. What we have here is a communication problem.

    Let it sunset. Sure, they'll threaten to cut cops and close the library.

    I call their bluff. Now.

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  2. I hear Chicken Little attended.

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    1. we're all of the current council members present, too?

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    2. Just two that I saw. Denise Delmar, who was gamely trying to explain things to people who didn't seem to be getting it. And Forest Goss, who didn't try very hard.

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  3. Maybe the Sheriffs Department should come to Sierra Madre and give a presentation on what they can offer to this town. Obviously as a much bigger, better staffed public safety service there is a lot they can offer that people might not know about.

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    1. That would be quite a presentation. I hope they land a chopper on the roof of City Hall.

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    2. Check it out.
      https://www.google.com/search?q=los+angeles+sheriff's+department+military+equipment&biw=1280&bih=622&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=_55zVYviCcHOsAXnqYGwCw&ved=0CCwQsAQ

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  4. FACzt... 1) The sheriff's Department will occupy the SMPD building! 2) and the SHERRIF Deptmant will not be supervised by the city hall or city council 3) since there is no supervision required by city hall or council, the city managr s salary and benefits must be reduced because she will have less people to lie to!

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    1. This is true. HR/Personnel will not need a full time HR director, either since they'll be no hiring/firing/discipline for police. The Cuty Mgr. would call up LASD and tell them to reassign any deputies that were 'problems". Fixed!

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    2. The Library wouldn't have to close.

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    3. You mean like 24-7?

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  5. Why is there a sugar beverage dispenser on city property? I'm calling Michelle Obama.

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  6. Life is like a box of chocolates.

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    1. I Am The DentistJune 6, 2015 at 1:10 PM

      We need more soda machines!

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    2. I was hoping they would have an espresso machine.

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    3. They hid it.

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  7. So I guess none of us went to the meeting?

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    1. I was at the meeting for as long as it appears that City staff has worked to balance a budget without raising my taxes. That is, not at all.

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    2. I think nobody wants anything cut. They also don't want to increase taxes.

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    3. I don't have problems with cuts. It so resembles real life. Less money coming in, you should spend less.

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  8. Can't we just do like Bart Doyle and John Buchanan? Take out a huge bond and pretend that only paying the interest for 20 years will make everything better?

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  9. One of the best alternatives I have heard, came from a retired police officer who resides in SM. Arcadia borders SM on 2 sides. If we subcontracted the fire dept and police dept to Arcadia, we could save over a million dollars right off the top. It would be like merging 2 corporations, resulting in minimizing duplication and getting rid of the dead weight at the top.
    Another novel approach would be, since we are a training ground for fire fighter recruits anyway, why don't we create a certified fire training program where we charge the recruits, rather than classifying them as volunteers. It would make money for the City of SM and our volunteer fire dept would be self sufficient.
    Further, I agree with Sir Eric Maundry and the Tattler, that all job positions in the City should be open for hire. However, I would take it one step further. I would fire the City Mgr. I know people who are a hell of a lot smarter and far more qualified than Ms. Aguilar, who would appreciate the opportunity to do her sole job and balance our budget, and would gladly do it for less than the $225,000 that we currently pay her, not to mention our future pension obligation to her.
    If the City Mgr truly cared about SM she would have done her job and introduced options that would not have been popular to her and her staff instead of crying "the sky is falling" and we will have to cut services unless you vote for higher taxes. How many time do we have to say NO to higher taxes!

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    1. You don't want Arcadia PD. They're no better then what you have now. If you look under Arcadia on Transparent California, you'll discover just how many make more than the Arcadia citizens median income. Arrogant, rude, and uncaring "professionals" are really expensive to have around.

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    2. http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/2013/arcadia/

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    3. Beautifully said 4:17PM. This dog and pony show was a waste of everyone's time. It said Town Hall meeting didn't it? To me, that means open questions and answers. What a farce.

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    4. Why are city employees so expensive? Why are they paid so much more than people in the private sector? I don't get it. I work with people who are far smarter and harder working than city hall people, but they make half as much money. How did it get this crazy?

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    5. Hey 4:27 Yes I do if it saves the taxpayers over 1 million. It would save our "full service" city. It would even provide additional cut backs at the City. Further, the City manager needs reduce the salaries, including the City Manager's compensation and limit further hiring. This will increase further services to our Village. We need to hire a forward thinking City Manager, not a self severing City Manager that we currently employ.

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    6. If we can save a million bucks on cops, go for it. Can't get much worse, right?

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    7. I think Arcadia turned down our request to have them provide police to us.

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    8. This is a low crime community. I don't understand the law enforcement fetish some here have.

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    9. 5:06, I'll tell you why public employees have become so expensive. It all started with the CHP back in the 80's when they started offering their employees the 90% pensions they get today. It spread like wildfire and every other government agency and municipality wanted the same unsustainable situation for themselves, which is basically where we're at today. Now, to directly answer your q, there are no "brakes", so to speak, to hold today's salaries back. Think about it, Elaine and the union are always pressing for higher pay for "their" people. The taxpayer basically has nobody fighting to hold back or lower pay in times of crisis like this. Technically, we have the city council supposedly going to bat for us, but the union puts their hacks in there (i.e. Goss, Harabedian, etc.), so we really don't have anyone, certainly not a majority needed to actually get things accomplished. Bottom line, the taxpayer is on the hook for these salaries and pensions, but they have virtually no say so when it comes to setting the terms. In the private sector, a persons boss is dealing with real finances that can be diminished, eventually putting the entity out of business, which is the vital catalyst that ensures numbers crunch when calculating budgets and what not. Like another blogger mentioned, EVERYTHING has increased substantially since Elaine came on board 7 or 8 eight years ago. We need to seriously look into having her gracefully replaced.

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  10. Anyone that thinks todays circus and pony show was anything other than that, is nuts. It was just to give the impression that the citizens have input...smoke and mirrors. The decisions have already been made and the City Administration is trying to justify putting the UUT back on the ballot.

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    1. I saw all the sheep writing away and drinking the koolaide.

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    2. Yes, but that was nothing new. They're the only ones who show up to these things. They're a relatively small harmless minority.

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  11. Observing a question asked today as to what percentage of the pie the litigation funds were coming from, the answer was the Administration slice in the General Fund; which is 1% of the entire pie. This would make it 1% of the annual budget of the General Fund (1% of 9 million dollars equals $90,000). Is the Administration slice designated for lawsuits only or are there other Administrative costs associated in that General Fund slice?
    Whatever the answer, there is no way that this number can be an accurate reflection of the costs spent on the current lawsuit situation inflicting the City of Sierra Madre. I personally witnessed Taryn Hildreth at the podium at a City Council meeting stating the City had incurred $280,000 in legal fees over a 2 year period on their case alone. That does not include attorneys fees on the current lawsuit at 1 Carter or any other pending litigation. The numbers are skewed and this is another example of why we need a forensic audit. It does not appear that the numbers the City Hall Administration has provided are accurate or truthful.

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  12. screw city hall.

    vote to repeal all uut taxes

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  13. The top 26 Sierra Madre employees have 6 figure compensations.

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    1. Where can I apply?
      I vote to replace the City Manager. The employment contract is coming up. City Council, tell Elaine thank you for your services but please don't bother to re-apply
      HIRE: John Hutt for City Manager

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  14. How we have managed on this mismanagement is anyone's guess. When the city implodes maybe the truth will shuffle to the top.

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    1. John Buchanan was on hand this morning, chatting up Gene Gump. A lot of the mismanagement and way overcompensated help happened while he was running Sierra Madre.

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    2. Venita Singh is (was) a great example. She graduated from La Puente high school, never went to college, worked at Sears Roebuck for a couple of years and then entered into the wonderfully high paying, but low demanding world of government employment. Long story short, she ended up being an assistant to the Finance Director and was making about $90k a year before she left. Where could someone like her go and earn that kind of money in the private sector with her essentially nonexistent background? (Silence fills the auditorium)

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    3. Sorry, I stand corrected, Veenita's total compensation in 2011, the last year she was full time before leaving, clocked in at a whopping $106,138. Her official title was "Deputy Director Of Administrative Services". Again, tell me where someone with her credentials can go in the private sector and earn just under $110k per year working for an employer that is nearly bankrupt? I thought not...

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