Friday, December 27, 2013

California State Controller John Chiang's Figures Don't Quite Match What We've Been Hearing From City Hall

Sierra Madre 2010
What we have to offer you today are two screen shots from California State Controller John Chiang's website. Click on each to enlarge. This particular site is dedicated to the cause of tracking the amounts of money cities such as ours pay their employees. And if you have been following some of the arguments being put out by City Hall to justify extending our combined state leading utility tax rates into the distant year of 2022, then you will notice something here that seems a bit out of sync with much of what we have all been hearing for a while.

The first screen shot is from the year 2010, which you can also link to directly by clicking here. What this shows is that the City of Sierra Madre employed 276 people that year, and paid all of them combined a total of $5,410,910.00. An additional $992,452.00 was tagged for retirement and health costs. Or a $3,596.00 average in benefit costs per employee.

Sierra Madre 2012
However, between 2010 and 2012, the City of Sierra Madre had to make some drastic cutbacks. Or so we have been told, and on more than one occasion. The loss of Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds to Sacramento took a significant chunk of cash out of the City's wherewithal, a serious problem that needed to be dealt with. The overall tax take also took a big hit, mostly due to effects from the Great Recession. Positions were eliminated and hours reduced, with the total employed here declining from an equivalent of 276 employees to 230. This represented a notable drop in the headcount, one that we were told resulted in significant savings.

We have often heard that the City had been forced to cut to the bone, and did. And once having made such sacrifices, due to both bad economic conditions and the raking off of CRA funds by the State, everything that possibly could be done was done. There is just nothing left to cut without doing significant damage to our community.

So then how do you explain Sierra Madre's salary and benefits picture posted on the State Comptroller's website for 2012 (link)? While it is true that total salaries here dropped by $585,358.00 to $4,824,552.00, benefit and retirement costs soared from $992,452.00 to $2,045,825.00. A huge increase to $8,895.00 per employee, or way more than double that of 2010.

Which means that total yearly employee costs, rather than having been significantly cut, instead actually increased during this period, going from $6,403,662.00 to $6,870,377.00. And rather than a million plus dollars in savings during the two year period as some have claimed, it appears that this money was instead plowed into increased employee benefit and retirement costs.

So what it all means, at least based on what you can see on the State Controller's site, is that this City's often stated demand that our combined utility taxes must remain at the very highest levels in California really is being driven by the need to fund vastly more expensive retirement and benefit costs.

This, rather than the implied dark threats to public safety and the library that we have been hearing so much about from certain hostage taking City Councilmembers, is what is really driving the demand to maintain our high utility taxes.

It could also be having an effect on the water rate increases as well. After all, the less General Fund money that potentially would have to be used to fund Water Department needs (in particular bond debt service), the more is freed up to fund the kinds of retirement and benefit increases described above.

So, go figure.

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36 comments:

  1. Bruce is working on a plush retirement, why cant we just all get on board. We've paid dearly for his lack of education and knowledge in the water department, why not continue to do so in his golden years?

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    Replies
    1. yeah but Bruce knows his rusty pipes

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  2. I don't recall hearing about these big increases in employee compensation during the run up to the UUT measure for this April. Did I miss something?

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    Replies
    1. its about rusty water pipes and fixing them and nothing else

      we can trust the city to be straight and honest with us

      or can we?

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    2. It is about $15 million in bond debt the city has been making interest only payments on for years. Of course, since the city is never wrong, it has to be about rusty pipes. Nobody likes rusty pipes.

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  3. if you give the city money, they will spend all of it and then cry for more. the only way to make them behave responsibly is to cut off the flow of funds. Just say NO to the UUT Tax Increase.

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  4. It must be nice to be able to write your own ticket.

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  5. The time might be ready to reintroduce "checks and Balances system" in how the city is able to spend or commit funds in the future.

    Restrict the authority of city hall to $25,000 anything larger has to be brought before a public meeting in city hall and vetted before be allowed to be spent. This should or could slow down the excessive spending habits?

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  6. Thanks for posting this Tattler. I knew there was a shell game going on.

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  7. Thiss text is worth everyone'ѕ attention. Hоw can I find out more?

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  8. next election somebody has to ask the candidates serious questions and scrutinize their backgrounds - like "why" are they running for Council and is their resume padded with the "in" crowd volunteerism - I'm sort of tired of those who list Kawanis Club, Friends of the Library or SMLL, Chamber - all the "profile" organizations but no grunt work - just fluff positions

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    1. Some of the Friends of the Library, Kiwanis, and Civic Club members work their a-- off for the best of Sierra Madre, so don't take all at face value. It depends on how long they've been members, etc. Without some of these members, there would be no volunteers. Volunteers are the life's blood of our City, and Nancy Walsh is guilty of discouraging the real volunteers by her constant criticism. Look for the candidate who has done the tough stuff for the City - the ones who Nancy bad mouths. Look to see who Nancy supports, then do just the opposite.

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  9. does the report list the salaries of the key positions, because an average salary of 19K must include part time positions or low level clerks?

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    1. If you go to the links for the Controller's reports all of the salaries are listed. The screen shots don't have that.

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  10. something doesn't jive - 2012 avg salary 20 k but avg pension was 8K?

    who is being padded?

    this is why govt is so screwed up

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  11. 40% for health & pension sounds about right. the gospel according to CalPERS and the Police union.

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  12. I don't know anyone in the provate sector that has a defined benefit (guaranteed) pension. why do I get a 401k but have to pay for the city staff to get their guaranteed pension? Baloney.

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  13. Ah, cash flow is king. You can run a deficit for years if you can sidestep around it with cash flow.

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    Replies
    1. Would that cash flow be the UUT increase?

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    2. This is all about pension and benefits. City Staff is taking care of itself, and they have four city council critters that are willing to help them out.

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    3. 11:18 who are you kidding.

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  14. I used to be surprised when the city came out with information that turned out not to be true. Now I expect it.

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  15. Our City Manager seems unable to confront a basic basic manager function. Agree on a budget with the City Council (also suspect) and bring into alignment funds and expenses. The feathering of the employee nest with outlandish retirement pensions and benefits seem to be avoided in the mix of planning and execution. This is a problem facing many governmental entities where underfunded pension plans run into the millions. This is an outgrowth of a system that allows those who will benefit from the pensions the ability to establish the the amounts to be allowcated for themselves by themselves, (almost $900,000) this past year in Sierra Madre. It seems one year its "pipes" the next year "bonds" and now "pensions". This all smells like a failure to plan, agree on the plan, and then execute what has been agreed to. Evereything in Sierra Madre seeems to be past history rather than financial planning. Or it reflects a City Manager that knows much of this would not be approved so we learn of it after the fact.

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    Replies
    1. You can thank Tammy Gates and the then council for our pension situation.

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    2. Great comment 4:45.
      I think the rot goes back before the current inept city manager. In fact, I think we've been chumps for quite a while.

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  16. The City Manager is Corrupt! I have read on this post all the time about the mismanagement of this City. I have read about the comparisons to the City of Bell... It was all about inflating the pensions. Is it only me that sees it. City Hall has been controlled by the Troll for years. The promise... the Pensions. The City Manager is going down it is only a question of when.

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    1. The City Manager is not corrupt. Inept, but not corrupt. Could the jump in pension payments be due to the large increase given to the police the last contract?

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    2. The City Manager is not honest. She told us costs were cut through employee firings and cutbacks. Not the truth.

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  17. You know what is truly sad about all of this? 80% of our City Council cares more about the needs of the hired people who do paperwork at city hall than they do the taxpayers that elected them to office. How'd they get so stupid?

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    1. I just don't get why so many city council people turn into staff worshippers. It's like a virus. And I think it's just weird how the staff has such a hold on their jobs, jobs that they obviously find miserable - when there are people all over the place, including in town, who would love to get hired. Crazy.

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    2. Exactly! What hold does Elaine Aguilar have on our dumber city council people? If I was elected to the city council the only time I would talk to Elaine is to tell her she'd been fired.

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  18. Don't care, how 'bout the Duck Dynasty guys, that's news.

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    1. I hear they cooked and ate Honey Boo Boo.

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  19. Those politician's and public employees in sierra madre city hall, "figures lie and liars figure" now isn't that the complete picture as you see it too?

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    1. Telling people they'd cut costs when what city hall really did is increase spending and then try to hide it in their pension accounts is a very bad thing. If we had a real City Council heads would be rolling.

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