Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why Is It City Hall Never Mentions Pension Costs When Talking About The Library Budget?

-
I was told the new librarian is retiring. Now we will have the privilege of paying Toni Buckner's and Carolyn's retirement plus the cost of a new manager. Paying three people for one job. Any idea how many double paying jobs the city has? - A recent email to The Tattler

The point is a good one, of course. How much money can a small city of around 11,000 people be expected to pay for the lifelong comfort and well-being of its retired employees? How many millions of hard to come by tax dollars would have to be spent in order to do this? That question never seems to get brought up. Even when City Hall is asking you to vote yourself a tax hike for just that purpose.

Here is an example of what I mean. Recently the City of Sierra Madre sent out the following press release.


How you feel about contracting out Library services is a discussion that needs to be had. Like many of this city's services, such costs have become an issue. The money isn't as plentiful as it used to be, and certainly the sunsetting of the UUT (AKA "CalPERS Tax") has contributed to this situation. But it is by no means the only reason why things have gotten to this point.

One of the biggest financial problems facing the Library going forward will be the pensions of its two most recently retired Directors. Both of whom received over $150,000 in total annual compensation during their working years.

This following item can be found in the most recent edition of the City Manager Report (link):


Per the Transparent California site, here is what Carolyn Thomas pulled down in total compensation in the year 2014 (link):


Am I the only one who believes that $157,600.77 is a lot to pay someone yearly to run the library of a small town of around 11,000 people? Any idea of how much money Carolyn Thomas will be paid by the taxpayers of Sierra Madre in yearly pension costs for the rest of her life?

Here is what the previous Sierra Madre Library Director Antoinette "Toni" Buckner received in pension payments last year (link):


To the point of the person who sent us the email I cited at the top of this post, once a new Sierra Madre Library Director is hired, exactly how much will it cost yearly to pay that person, plus his or her two predecessors?

My guess is, and this includes our mandatory continuing participation in CalPERS, somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000 a year. That is what needs to be covered. Some for one active Library Director, the rest for those two aforementioned retired predecessors.

Just in case you're wondering where a big chunk of the Library's budget gets spent. And why under such pressing financial constraints this venerable city institution might actually end up having to be outsourced to Los Angeles County. Along with one or two other similarly financed departments, like the SMPD.

Of course, don't look for that kind of information in any City of Sierra Madre press releases. They don't really want you worrying your pretty little head over things like that.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

69 comments:

  1. Did someone post here once that, by charter or something, Sierra Madre must maintain a library?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is true. Opening it a few hrs a week would meet that requirement.

      Delete
    2. If the charter is an issue I wonder if you could argue that the internet is now the public library so the current bricks and mortar one is now obsolete.

      Delete
  2. Rule number 1, knowledge is power and we who have power in City Hall will not share nor will we give you the codes for ALL the hidden fees to which we charge to and only place money in OUR pockets and NOT yours, but you will keep paying through the nose for out spending sprees. Remember all those numbers add up to something and not always shown in a progressive time line with the grand total at the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. City Staff is financing their pensions. The last thing they need is you butting in on the action.

      Delete
    2. Least we up set the apple cart of graft & corruption in Sierra Madre, California.

      Delete
  3. That press release is nothing more than a utility tax sales pitch. Very disappointed in Elisa.

    ReplyDelete
  4. We should act now to keep an independent library by contracting with the sheriff. In fact, the only thing standing in the way of increased library funding is the council's decision to keep an independent police force.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some are in favor of a parcel tax to fund the library. All that would do is free up the current library funding and divert it to the police and benefits for staff. Let's keep our money in our pockets and let the city life within its means

      Delete
  5. Maybe we should get rid of the library. There's a branch in Pasadena just one mile west.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree! I don't understand all the hysterics over keeping the PD and keeping the library. If it's cheaper outsource to the county but that is a logical conclusion so I doubt that will happen.

      Delete
  6. Is there really anything we can do about pension costs? other than bankruptcy? This is a serious question if anybody can enlighten me.
    It seems to me that we have "promised" these pensions to folks when we hired them. How do we renege on our contracts? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Google up Detroit bankruptcy. The pensioners too a haircut , 50% I think, in the settlement. Their pensions got cut in half.

      Delete
    2. Should civilization come to a halt because of the bogus promises that were made. What's worse, not keeping these extravagant promises that were given up at the point of a bayonet from the unions, or every resident in every city going without vital city services in which there is more than enough money to pay for those services if taxpayer's money is managed prudently. Its an easy choice for me.

      Delete
    3. The only permanent fix that will work is to switch all public employees from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution pension plan. With the former, any city council can play fast and loose with the taxpayers money and makes promises in exchange for political support - which promises don't manifest themselves until long after the council members who made the promises are out of office. With the defined contribution pension plan, if a city council want to allow employees to retire at the age of 50 with 90% of their salary, they would have to budget for that promise in that year's budget. It forces reality on those spending the taxpayer's money. That's why the unions don't want it and that's why we absolutely need it.

      Delete
    4. Thank you Doug Hayes for the pension mess.

      Delete
    5. We (the Taxpayers) have every right to "renege" on these grossly excessive (by any reasonable metric) pension & benefit promises (i.e., contracts) that are fraudulent because the are the result of collusion between the public Sector Unions and our Elected Officials ...... with the former BUYING the favorable votes of the latter (on Public Sector pay, pensions, and benefits) with Campaign contributions and election support.

      Delete
  7. The first step is to make sure we don't take on any more pensions like this.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Please tell me that Anointette Buckner doesn't receive $98,000 for the rest of her life in a pension for working at a local small town library? Are there cost of living increases and what about medical benefits? Does she get that too? If its true, that's insane. How old is she anyway. I hate to sound morbid, but based on actuarial tables, how long are taxpayers on the hook for? And what are the "Total Benefits" compensation that raises Carolyn Thomas's pay to over $157,000 per year. This is the library for crying out loud. I'm sure we can get volunteers to help out.
    This is exactly like what Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Tax Organization said about General Motors. He said that "General Motors stopped being a car company but became an employee benefits company that built cars on the side." Has the Sierra Madre Public Library become an employee benefits company that dishes out six figure pensions to retirees and lends out books on the side. Is that what we've come down to in our little town. And you want to raise the UUT tax to pay for all this. NO WAY!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe city hall exists to create big pension accounts for city employees. That seems to be the reason for its existence these days. They don't seem to do much else. I personally think we should outsource everything before these pension obligations bankrupt this town.

      Delete
    2. Very well said 8:11

      Delete
    3. Agreed. If the CC fail to fix this ,BK is inevitable.And since the no recent CC has honestly dealt withe this Pensions Bloat - the sooner BK comes the better for the future of Sierra Madre. 50% haircut = perfect !!

      Delete
    4. General Motors paid CEO Mary Barra $16.2 million in total compensation for 2014, more than 290 times the pre-tax straight time annual pay of a veteran UAW worker with enough seniority to earn the union's top wage.

      Delete
  9. The answer is city hall never mentions pensions because it would take away from their message that the city's financial problems are the fault of those who voted against an increased uut. While not correct, that is what they want you to think. It is sad to think they are not telling the truth in order to get more taxes out of the residents. But hardly surprising.

    ReplyDelete
  10. To get rid of CalPers I believe you have to file bankruptcy. The private concern gave a better bid than the county did. I would go with them. Passing the UUT as the city is run now, will only buy a little time, put no money away to fix the infrastructure. Thus it will be increased again and again. I have no problem paying a UUT if some of the serious problems around town get fixed. It would all be so much easier if the CC would just be honest about all of this. The PD needs to go and it doesn't need someone at the pay of the Chief to moderate it. Keep the library under the private plan that was presented. Fix the leaking pipes. What will happen to the city when we are faced with high fines for every day we are over limit. And we are over limit because of the leaks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My understanding is the UUT is a CalPERS tax. To fix infrastructure the city is planning for an increase in property taxes. But that would go on the ballot in 2018. One thing at a time seems to be their approach.

      Delete
  11. A study of double paying jobs would be an interesting one. Charlie Martin gets a big pension, but we outsourced legal services to Michael Colantuono. I guess one of the best things we can say about our city attorney is at least we don't have to pay her a pension.

    ReplyDelete
  12. We made Pension Tsunami today. Check it out.
    http://www.pensiontsunami.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. "how long are taxpayers on the hook for? And what are the "Total Benefits" compensation that raises Carolyn Thomas's pay to over $157,000 "


    "exactly how much will it cost yearly to pay that person, plus his or her two predecessors?

    My guess is somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000 a year. That is for one active Library Director, and those two aforementioned retired predecessors.""
    _____________________
    Taxpayers are no longer on the hook for her pension. That $46,000 total benefits is mostly the amount contributed to CalPERS to prefund her retirement. Her future pension will come from the principal and interest in the fund, not directly from current taxpayers. (Part of the $46,000 was health insurance.)

    The yearly cost going forward will be just the $150,000 + for the wages and pension prefunding for the new Director. The others are already paid for.

    If Transparent California is going to publish the pay and benefits of public employees, they should make some attempt to clarify the categories. I have read several mistaken statements that this worker receives $157,000 a year, PLUS a pension for life. Not so. The cost of the pension is included in that $157,000.

    It's bad, but its not THAT bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Moderation - so you are saying we no longer pay money to CalPERS? This is quite a revelation if true. Can you share some additional insight with us, because I have heard the city is obliged to pay millions over the next few decades.

      Delete
    2. 9:05, your stupid is showing. CalPERS is still charging Sieraa Madre a boatload of $$ for retired employees? Why? Because Sierra Madre has only funded about 79% of its pension obligations. So we keep paying, baby!!

      Secondly, CalPERS is avoiding even BIGGER contributions by assuming a 7.5% return on the pension fund contributions which is just made up. If they got honest and said a 4% return, Sierra Madre's pension costs would triple, easily.

      Reducing employee count by, say, using LA Sheriff instead of SMPD will shut off future pension costs for police the day we contract out. LASD pension is pay as you go and included in the annual contract.

      I'd go into more detail for 9:05 but I don't want to make his/her head explode.

      Delete
    3. That's why they call the UUT a CalPERS Tax. Gotta pay those retirement bills. So what if it costs us a Library?

      Delete
    4. Douglas, this is Rex, your claim that the $157K prefunds part of healthcare is false, there is no way to know that. Many Muni's do NOT prefund healthcare and pay as they go-Ponzi style. And many others here are right about a high discount rate, the 7.5% CalTURDS discount rate is absurdly high. CalTURDS had a 2.4% ROIn for 2015. Largest U.S. pension fund earned 2.4% in fiscal 2015

      Delete
    5. If it is true that SM underfunded its pension obligations, you paid less than you should have and foisted the obligation onto the future. So why are you whining 9:29? (I suspect that 9:29 underfunds (doesn't tip) in restaurants.)

      Delete
    6. Cool. Let's blame the victims. Screw the taxpayers, and then tell them it wasn't enough and you need more.

      Delete
    7. I appreciate your concern, Tired Taxpayer, but my head is safe for now.

      As I said, it's bad, but not as bad as the editorial suggests:

      "My guess is, somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000 a year. That is for one active Library Director, and those two aforementioned retired predecessors."

      Wrong.

      Yes, CalPERS is avoiding even BIGGER contributions by assuming a 7.5% return, which is not "just made up", but is a compromise of expected returns and what cities can afford right now. A 4% return is not "honest". Even the most ardent financial economists who recommend a risk free rate for calculating the " value" of the unfunded liability, do not predict an ongoing 4% return, and do not recommend using only risk free investments for the fund.

      Delete
    8. You have somehow neglected to answer the question. Are we no longer paying money - lots of money - into the CalPERS system?

      Delete
    9. Such a simple question. Can it be our friend cannot answer this because it doesn't require an overly complicated answer?

      Delete
    10. Anonymous 9:09, 10:30, 11:13 Moderation never said we no longer pay money to CalPERS. The city is still contributing 11% of payroll for all miscellaneous workers, plus about $400,000 a year to pay down the unfunded liabilities.

      Delete
    11. Oh yeah, we're payings tons of money to CalPERS. Assume a 4% rate and we'd get to 100% funded which means no longer annually paying CalPERS every year for employees long retired or quit.

      Dear Dougie, telling a lie many times doesn't make it a fact. No matter how many times you repeat the lie. Veritas.

      Delete
    12. So its $400,000 not $300,000? Plus 11%? Wow. Lot's of money! You could build a new Library with that kind of dough!

      Delete
    13. Mr. Mod-CalPers made some poor investments, so I believe we have to pay more each year.

      Delete
  14. Prudent development of the Monastery unused land would solve all these problems for 10-20 years. I will be dead in 20 years and my children cannot afford to live here anyways so let's carefully reconsider that option.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So your saying it is OK to destroy Sierra Madre's last remaining natural resources in order to pay CalPERS? Interesting.

      Delete
    2. But developing the Monastery and raising the UUt will never be enough.That is the whole point. The City Employees greed for money is insatiable.And the CC aids and abets it.

      Delete
    3. 9:09 is obviously on the development team from Mater Dolorosa for the Monastery project. Sorry pal, but we're not going to sell out the town.

      Delete
    4. Rape, plunder and pillage. Yeah, great solution.

      Delete
    5. Priestly plunder.

      Delete
  15. The issue is not a sentimental yearning to preserve the Library/SMPD/Heasley Field.
    The issue is how to stop the Ponzi scheme of pensions,benefits and bloated salaries for City employees.
    If the Ponzi scheme is not stopped voluntarily ,compulsion will come in the form of a very crude weapon-bankruptcy.

    ReplyDelete
  16. CALPERS gets contributions from the employer while the employee is working. When the employee retires, the contributions stop. CALPERS pays the retired former employee the pension benefits from its pool of prior contributions and returns on investments.

    Public employers tend to like it when long time (higher paid) employees retire because they can replace them with lower paid employees and thus pay lower salaries, lower pension contributions, and lower payroll taxes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And if we quit CalPERS? What happens then?

      Delete
    2. 9:45 not the whole story. Yes an employee pays into the pension fund, but not enough to cover all the years that they will collect the retirement pay. And adding in the "7%" Cal Pers claims to be making on the pension contributions is not enough either to fund all the pension payments. This is part of the reason the city needs to get more money from the UUT, to cover the shortfall.

      Delete
    3. How can you quit CalPERS if it's part of the city employees' employment contract? You honor your contracts, don't you.

      Delete
    4. The city could probably just quit paying CalPERS just like you can quit paying your mortgage. You are free to do so. You just have to be willing to accept the consequences.

      Delete
    5. Didn't know that,10:01, when I wrote it. Thanks for educating me on it.

      Delete
    6. Please, go read Einstein's definition of insanity. We are not obliged to pay for the mistakes of others forever. Let's just go with the sheriffs and fire all those lawsuit happy whiny 4F cops.

      Delete
    7. The Sue Platoon.

      Delete
  17. While we are discussing the topic of the General Fund, it should be mentioned that the Dial A Ride program has been reduced drastically over the years. It used to have two busses that ran all day Monday through Friday, and one bus all day on Saturday. Now it only has one bus on Monday through Friday. According to the city's brochure, it operates from 8:00-10:30 am and 2:00-5:00 pm during the week. No Saturday service anymore. It's a shame that the seniors have lost a lot of their independence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Go give them a ride. Be a volunteer instead of a whiner.

      Delete
    2. If I were a Republican, I'd ask why should I have to pay for seniors' poor retirement planning?

      Delete
    3. The little buses used to ride around town empty most of the time. I think that is why the city decided it would be best to cut back on that service. Had it been used more we'd still have it I am sure.

      Delete
    4. If I remember correctly, the Dial A Ride was mostly funded by monies from the State. That money has dried up in the past couple of years. So, blame the State, not Sierra Madre for the lack of concern for our seniors.

      Delete
    5. Actually nobody was riding the damn things and rather than continuing to waste money on something that was not being used the city ended the program. As far as the seniors go, can we sell that house at Memorial Park and fund cop pensions? That way seniors will be safe.

      Delete
  18. Pasadena Star News - CalPERS changes to squeeze finances in many cities
    http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/general-news/20130417/calpers-changes-to-squeeze-finances-in-many-cities

    Many cities will be required to pay more to the state pension system for at least a few years because of changes the system's board approved Wednesday, stretching its already-thin finances. The actuarial adjustments, designed to make the California Public Employees' Retirement System once again fully solvent within 30 years, won't go into effect until the 2015-16 fiscal year.

    But it's already worrying many cities where CalPERS is a large and growing expense. "Right now, for Upland, we're having a tough time making ends meet," said Upland City Manager Stephen Dunn. "This is just more costs that we're going to have to cover, which means it's less services. "

    Dunn calculated the changes will cost at least another $500,000 a year, based on information provided by the California Public Employers Labor Relations Association.

    In San Bernardino, which stopped paying CalPERS since it filed for bankruptcy in August but plans to resume payments in July, the likely increase was one of several serious issues the city would need to watch out for, consultant Michael Busch of Urban Futures warned. "It's not a rumor any more. It's going to happen," Busch said of the actuarial changes. "And that's an uncertainty you need to be aware of. "

    San Bernardino continues to defer payments to many other creditors as it continues in bankruptcy court, with a financial situation that's better than when it filed for bankruptcy but still precarious and dependent on bankruptcy protection, Busch said. Any increased costs hurt, including those with CalPERS, the nation's largest pension fund and the city's largest creditor.

    The changes in the way rates are calculated will help avoid large increases in extreme years, but was a tough decision, CalPERS board President Rob Feckner said in a written statement.

    "This was one of the most difficult, yet most important decisions we have had to make," Feckner said. "Moving our plans more swiftly toward full funding will ensure a sustainable pension system for our members, employers and ultimately taxpayers over the long term. "

    CalPERS expects almost a 25 percent increase in the portion of its future obligations that are funded over a 30-year payment.

    ReplyDelete

  19. The citizens of Sierra madre will have to face the music eventually. They will either need to pay more money to fund city Halls out of control spending or make them reduce spending / expenses These union pension will need to be funded by the city employees, not city hall.

    ReplyDelete
  20. YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUSNovember 14, 2015 at 4:44 PM

    $150k for a library lady? Isn't that an insult to every hard working person in this town?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Otherwise she would have gone to work somewhere else and we wouldn't be able to pay her pension.

      Delete
  21. A better question is who approved such largess?

    ReplyDelete
  22. The pension crisis will be solved with shared pain. Retirees in Detroit and Stockton lost their COLAs and health benefits as they should have. Karen Lewis is warning teachers in Chicago to save 25% of their income in preparation for a possible long strike next year.

    ReplyDelete