Sunday, March 27, 2016

Measure UUT & Sierra Madre's CalPERS Pension Debt: "Every individual household in Sierra Madre owes $6,754.00 dollars in 'unfunded market liability ...'"

Sierra Madre's untrue ballot initiative question? (link)

Most people in town would tell you that the reason they are going to vote "Yes" on Measure UUT is because they want to save the Library, or what remains of the Sierra Madre Police Department, or the Paramedics, Water Department, that sort of thing.

And you really cannot blame them too much. After all, isn't that what they are being told by the elected officials they've entrusted to run their city's affairs? Backed up by a $30,000 largely city employee union funded postcard campaign run by a Pasadena political consultant? With cash also kicked in by those very same elected officials?

So why should residents not believe what these people are telling them? It's not like they would deliberately fudge any facts in order to get more money out of the taxpayers, right? Then again, maybe they would. Because it certainly doesn't look like they are telling the truth.

Unfortunately, Measure UUT isn't going to pay for much of anything quite that useful. It isn't going to fix the pipes, repair the sidewalks, trim the trees or maintain any parks. Mostly it is going to be used to pay for employee salaries, benefits and, for the largest part, Sierra Madre's potentially crippling CalPERS municipal employee pension debt.

There is this very interesting website called Pension Tracker (link). It is run by a Dr. Joe Nation, who is the Project Director for the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. As in Stanford University in case you had any doubts, or feared some sort of conspiracy. Here is a screenshot from the site that displays just how immense California's government employee pension debt problem has become.


This $946.4 billion dollars in unfunded statewide liabilities is unequally divided among hundreds of California cities, Sierra Madre included. Here are the numbers for the town we're discussing today (link).


There are a lot of interesting and very large numbers there, including that $9,665,477 in "unfunded actuarial liability." What this means is the solons who run the city's affairs have committed to more than $9 and one half million dollars in CalPERS pension debt that they cannot otherwise pay for without first raising utility taxes here a full 66%. Out of an incredible total amount of $36,907,048. And, under California state law, the only way they can do this is to get you to vote for Measure UUT.

Untrue claims?
However, the political problem for these folks is that should the city share the real reason driving their need to get Measure UUT passed, paying for vast amounts of stupidly acquired pension debt the city cannot otherwise cover, they fear you will not vote for it. So instead City Hall, along with the mercenary-run and veracity free crew at the "Yes On UUT" campaign, have chosen to tell you that instead it is to "Save the Library," the Paramedics, etc.

None of which is actually true. Though yes, City Hall probably would fold the Library into the county system before reneging on their CalPERS obligations. 

According to Pension Tracker, every individual household in Sierra Madre owes $6,754.00 dollars in "unfunded market liability" CalPERS debt. That is what each family living in Sierra Madre is on the hook for right now. And it will go up even more as CalPERS fund investments continue to underperform. Measure UUT is how City Hall plans to collect on that family by family debt to pay for its immense CalPERS liabilities.

And why would the city want to do this? Partly because it is their own pensions that are at stake. How will they be able to retire if they don't? Or if the City of Sierra Madre slips into insolvency because it cannot pay this debt? Which, right now, it cannot. They're almost $10 million dollars in the hole.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misinformed and naive people out there who probably never will be able to wrap their heads around any of this. Or, as P.T. Barnum famously put it, "There's a sucker born every minute."

In Sierra Madre you can tell who they are by the purple signs in their yards.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

56 comments:

  1. So by lowering taxes the debt will increase not decrease I don't understand?

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    1. For me it is mostly the dishonesty of the city's message for raising utility taxes. It is being driven by the CalPERS debt, yet they are telling us it is for a lot of other, less controversial things. If the city had been honest from the get-go I might have actually voted for Measure UUT. But I have a problem with being lied to for money.

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    2. So you want to increase the debt to make a moral point?

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    3. I think it is important to reestablish taxpayer control over the city's fiscal policies. Between CalPERS and the largely unacknowledged interest only payments being made on water bond debt this city is carrying over $30 million dollars in secret debt. Do you really want to give more money to the people responsible? Do you want to let them get away with not discussing this in an election where the big issue is raising taxes?

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    4. I thought the water department paid the water department debt. I thought that didn't come out of the general fund.

      Are CalPers costs increasing their share of the general fund? Are they taking a larger share of the pie? If we get rid of the UUT, will we be able to cut out the CalPers pension plan to reduce expenses?

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    5. 7:39 - 50% of the city workforce is SMPD. Replace it with the sheriff and we not only get a $4.8 million savings over the next 8 years, we reduce our future CalPers accruals by 50%. That only happens if this 66% tax inrease is defeated.

      No brainier, unless the boys in blue have compromising pictures of you.

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    6. Nobody is "getting rid " of the UUT in this election. It will drop from 8% to 6% if a plurality of voters do not vote yes. And we've been living on the water dept. debt for years that's one of the problems. The rest you can research yourself please.

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    7. Why don't you see if you can get Mayor Capoccia to explain this to you. Oh wait, he already did. It's about the Wistaria vine.

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    8. The City can outsource 100% of the PD to LA Sheriff's Dept. which has their own well-funded pension.

      This will stop the rate of increase of the General Funds portion to CalPERS.

      We save $$ on police, pension, workers comp (probably cut that cost to the City by more than half), general liability ( probably cut that by more than half, too), legal (less $$ to city attorney), don't need a public safety director (the Chief has more than enough years to retire).

      There's more but I don't want 8:32's head to explode.

      Yes, we can cut debt and expenses by "No". We'll stop wasting the taxpayers' money. The Councils since 2012 knew it was sun setting and did NADA.

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    9. So it's not about the water department debt, and it is about cutting the police primarily. And cutting the police also effects pension costs.

      That's an argument with a lot less spin. For people who keep complaining about others hiding their motivations, you would think you guys would be the paragons of straightforwardness.

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    10. You must be a magician to make $21 million dollars in decades old water bond debt vanish like that. Have you spent much time in Bart's hot tub?

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    11. So the water bonds are paid from the general fund and not water bills?

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    12. Who knows? Was the water bond debt mentioned by the city when they rammed through the last round of water rate increases?

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    13. tax me, little johnny sunshine!

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    14. I guess you are not claiming the water bond debt has anything to do with the UUT, since you've just stated you don't know.

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    15. You're not lowering your taxes, you are restoring them to the already voted upon level. Twice.

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    16. When I had to decide about the new water rates, I went to the city website to review the water budget, and they did have the debt, what it paid for, and the current cost of the debt. I certainly was under the impression that water fees paid for water debt, and everything else related to a water utility.

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  2. After seeing the Ad that comes up on the top of a Google search for yes on UUT and reading the misleading info on the yes on UUT website that makes it appear Mr. Gold in for abolishing the UUT. I have decided to vote for Mr. Gold and no on UUT increase. Mr. Gold is not in favor of abolishing the UUT and he will do what needs to be done when he is elected he is honest if nothing else.

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    1. And please lets try to be civil this Easter day it is the holiest of a Christian holidays. In looking out of my window to the Monastery "unused land" shrouded in the fog I realize that we are blessed to live here

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    2. Barry Gold is the most civil man I have ever met. Yet look at what the Yes On UUT people are doing to him.

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  3. The public employee unions are desperate to get more cash to the government through higher taxes so that their gravy train will not run off the tracks. People just need to know that is what this is all about and why the police union is spending thousands of dollars in Sierra Madre to make sure that the UUT passes.
    People need to see behind the veil. Its a wolf in sheep's clothing although as Justice Scalia had said in one of his famous disssents: "In this case, the wolf comes as a wolf".

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  4. Does anyone know who brought Martin Truitt in to run the Yes On UUT campaign? Was it Harabedian?

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    1. Don't say that name you may be sued.

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    3. The aging wonder child of Pasadena is very aware that he has become a big issue in this campaign. His vicious slash and burn tactics, in particular his highly financed campaign to smear the reputation of City Council write-in candidate Mr. Gold, has badly tarnished the Yes On Measure UUT campaign.

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    4. Let's put tubby Marty out of work! :)March 27, 2016 at 8:38 AM

      And if he loses to a NO group with zero funding no one will ever hire him again. This explains his desperate tactics. It does not explain the mayor's decision to bless those tactics.

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    5. Ask Truitt how he helped defeat PUSD's Measure CC with his dead fish postcard.

      You see, Martin was against tax increases before he was for them.

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    6. Marty's political career is a lot like that dead fish. It flipped and flopped a lot before it died.

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    7. Trust ran Rachell's campaign.

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    8. sMarty. the golden boy

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    9. Rachelle turned out to be a traitor. Truitt lost his compass somewhere down the line.

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  5. Remember this; the 'yes on UUT people' have one thing to save, their jobs and golden retirements along with staying out of jail if closer inspection of financial records prove they were involved in kick back scheme's to line their own pockets.

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  6. So Mr Gold's plan to raise the UUT rate by 50 percent is better?

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    1. You are leaving out an important detail. What Mr. Gold is proposing is only raising the UUT after we are completely assured it will be used to pay for infrastructure such as water mains, sidewalks and streets. This while maintaining important local institutions like the Library. Right now Measure UUT will go to pay down the city's disastrous CalPERS and water bond debt. Done without the city being honest enough to admit it.

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    2. Yes anon@8:29 it is.It is quite rational actually.

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  7. The frightening thing about the attacks on Mr. Gold is that they are so viciously mean-spirited. This is not the usual rough give and take you see in campaigns in Sierra Madre. This is designed to cause considerable hurt to the person targeted. You really have to wonder about the mental health of the Yes On UUT leadership.

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    1. I disagree that it's not the usual....anyone who goes against the Civility Party has had rough, underhanded treatment. They work through rumors and backbiting. It's their standard behavior.

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  8. Fill bubble. Vote 4 Barry.March 27, 2016 at 8:51 AM

    It's okay to treat him badly because he has only lived here for 4 years.

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    1. Unfortunately a lot of the Yes people are ruled by emotion, paranoia and narcissism. They really do think they're special.

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    2. The Yes people think they own Sierra Madre. They only let you stay if you agree with them.

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    3. They are about to lose a UUT vote for the third time. As usual their arrogance has done them in.

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    4. 8:53: The Armchair Psychologist-Diagnostician.

      9:20: You believe certain people have the power to make you leave SM? You may want to consult with 8:53.

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    5. The Yes On UUT people have the power to make me laugh. When you spot them walking the streets pimping their tax hike they all look like they've just smelled something bad. Where they get their high opinions of themselves is beyond me. It certain isn't based on anything real.

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    6. 6:07pm - I thought I was the only one who noticed this. Glad I'm not alone. There are good people here but some act like that and don't come across as welcoming to anyone.

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  9. Is 9:13 telling the truth. Will our beloved wisteria vine - the world's largest flowering plant - face the vengeful mayor's ax if the 66% uut inrease does not pass?

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    1. 9:13 is wrong. It is about film production.

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    2. The vine is on private property. Has nothing to do with the city. If it were mine, that where I would start conserving water.

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    3. I think 9:52 was talking about the city event that involves the wistaria vine.

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  10. if the uut doesn't pass, you will lose your library, police dept, fire dept, wistaria, halloween parade, nativity scene, snowman, all of your orange water, and the santity clause. but you get sMarty, cappuccino joey, and little johnny sunshine. hallulujah he has risen

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    1. What about the wine tasting room?

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  11. Today's title could have been:

    Measure UUT & Sierra Madre's CalPERS Pension Debt: "Every individual Sierra Madre household's bank account contains $6,754.00 more than it should."

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    1. You must be the bank robber.

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  12. 8.31 you got it all wrong. The calpers penson continue to increase each year. There is no paying down any calpers. I believe you are thinking of Calpers as a mortgage. There is no mortgage, it's just continued increase of yearly debt. The taxpayers are paying for the pensions for a 100 city employees to live like royalty, which they are not!

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  13. That Pension Tracker link was a real eye-opener. I live in Arcadia (don't hate me, I admitted it and I am seeking therapy) and the liability is 10 TIMES larger than Sierra Madre's and the per capita and per household figures are 2 TIMES larger. Arcadian's LOVE THEIR UUT so we can spend like there's no tomorrow. Except even Annie knows "..it's only a day away". http://www.pensiontracker.org/agencySummary.php?id=1382#summary

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  14. If this City wants to get out of the red there will need to be more compromise from everyone in it and that means allowing for tax revenue to come in. This place is popular place for out-of-towners so we need more sales tax revenue from them. The downtown area has more sales tax exempt services that don't contribute to our City revenue. I'm all for preserving the City lifestyle but not at the expense of falling behind. We can preserve what Sierra Madre is about by sacrificing one aspect of it (Sierra Madre Blvd.,)we should open Sierra Madre Blvd. to higher volume sales tax driven stores instead of services which don't tax. There are many reasons to vote NO on UUT and this is one of my reasons.

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