Tomorrow: Joe Nation Addresses Fullerton’s Pension Problems

Joe Nation of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research will be visiting Fullerton tomorrow for a special presentation on Fullerton’s public pension and retiree medical liabilities.

Back in July I asked the city council to hire Joe Nation and the SIEPR to produce a comprehensive, independent report on Fullerton’s substantial pension debt and its projected impact on Fullerton’s financial future. While the full report won’t be available for a few more weeks, Joe has agreed to make a special presentation to the council at the Fullerton Public Library on Tuesday at 4:00 pm. The presentation will be recorded and posted online in a day or two. An agent of CalPERS will be on hand to present his viewpoint, as well.

With skyrocketing pension debt affecting cities throughout California and the nation, it’s important for Fullerton to understand where we are headed and what this city will lose if we don’t address these issues head-on. This independent analysis will be an important step towards the goal of reining in our debt and ensuring the city’s financial stability over the long haul.

Commissions and Committees

The new city council is still soliciting applications for appointments to the committees and commissions that advise the council on various subjects. There are/will be openings in the following groups:

  • Planning Commission
  • Community Development Citizen’s Committee
  • Library Board of Trustees
  • Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Transportation and Circulation Commission
  • etc…

If you’re interested, fill out an application and drop it off with the city clerk. (Download the general committee application or download the Planning Commission application).

Applications are due tomorrow, July 31 at the end of the day.

A Close Look at Total Compensation

Thanks to the City of Bell scandal, local governments are now required to report compensation figures to the state every year. The other day a reader shared that report with us.

This is the first time that we’ve been able to see pension contributions, insurance premiums, overtime, etc. added together for each of the city’s employees, showing us the full value (and cost to the taxpayer) of a job with the city of Fullerton.

The numbers speak for themselves:

[iframe_loader width=’100%’ height=’600′ frameborder=’1′ scrolling=’auto’ src=’https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AiyL667gfsw9dHlZalV5WTQ2R3dqRnFMMEJucEI4LWc&output=html’]

 

Keep in mind that the city’s pension and retiree medical plans are severely underfunded even with these sizable contributions. That means these cost figures are actually understated.

Yes, I Have An Agenda

There’s been speculation about some of the new city council members and if they have a “hidden agenda.” While I don’t speak for any other council members, it did occur to me that I do actually have a personal agenda that I’ve been keeping since early June.

In the interest of transparency, why not publish it?

Here you go: my raw and unredacted personal agenda, online and up-to-date for everyone to see:

[iframe_loader width=’100%’ height=’600′ frameborder=’1′ scrolling=’auto’ src=’https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1l2nvBpJCJwSBM8vDUlvoi92Akl-bT14DqhtbZZiu0xg&embedded=true’]

The Fate of the Water Tax

The current city councilmembers (or at least a majority of them) have finally agreed to meet quickly on Monday morning for the sole purpose of certifying the results of the recall election. Once that’s out of the way, the three new councilmembers will be sworn in unceremoniously by the city clerk during the day on Monday.

Why skip the usual pomp and circumstance? Because there’s urgent business to take care of.

The new council has called a second special meeting for Tuesday evening to immediately deal with the collection of the 10% in-lieu franchise fee on water bills: a tax which was called illegal by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association over a year ago, yet still persists today.

And so at their first meeting, a fresh city council will finally have a chance to eliminate the water tax entirely – a fee that was never properly authorized by taxpayers under Proposition 218 and was illegally diverted to the general fund to pay for non water-related costs (primarily salaries and pensions) for the last 15 years.

There are probably a lot of residents who wouldn’t be sad to see it go.

Some Recall Statistics

The folks over at Ballotpedia.com have been tracking California recalls for the last few years, and they show some interesting historical data on local city council races.

For example, of the 35 city councilmembers put on the ballot for recall since 2007, 32 were successfully removed from office.

2012 Recalls

Approved Shasta Lake: Dolores Lucero

2011 Recalls

ApprovedApprovedApprovedApproved Bell: Hernandez, Jacobo, Artiga, Mirabal
ApprovedApproved Hercules: Donald Kuehne and Joanne Ward
ApprovedApprovedApproved Point Arena: Riboli, Sinnott, Ingham

2010 Recalls

ApprovedApprovedApprovedApproved San Jacinto: Stubblefield, Mansperger, Potts and Ayres
ApprovedApprovedApproved Hughson: Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley
ApprovedApproved Dunsmuir: Peter Arth and Mario Rubino
ApprovedApproved Livingston: Daniel Varela and Martha Nateras
ApprovedApproved Montebello: Kathy Salazar and Robert Urteaga
Approved Mission Viejo: Lance MacLean
Approved Poway: Betty Rexford
Defeated Lake Elsinore: Thomas Buckley

2009 Recalls

ApprovedApproved San Fernando: Jose Hernandez and Julie Ruelas
Approved Cotati: George Barich
Defeated Oceanside: Jerry Kern
Defeated San Jose: Madison Nguyen

2007 Recalls

ApprovedApprovedApprovedApprovedLynwood: Byrd, Pedroza, Johnson and Vasquez

That’s a 91% success rate for Californians who’ve sought to toss crummy councilmembers out of office mid-term. And only one of those cities had a recall preceded by a media storm as intense as Fullerton’s…that was the infamous city of Bell.

So I’d say things are looking up for the people of Fullerton. Still, I’ve got a hunch that the boys in the Recall mailroom will leave nothing to chance.

Paying a Fee to Pay Your Taxes?

Even the heartless IRS wouldn’t try to pull something this repugnant.

A frustrated local business owner sent me this copy of his annual Fullerton tax renewal in which a $25.00 tax payment was accompanied with a $20.00 “processing charge.”

 

You read that right. It’s an 80% surcharge for the city’s Herculean effort to cash your check and rubber stamp you as paid.

All local business owners must pay this ridiculous fee, from doctors and lawyers to handymen, ice cream trucks and taxi drivers. Presumably the actual processing is handled by administrative staff, who are likely already being paid out of the General Fund for other duties. How did they reach that $20 cost? Who knows?

And who decided that business owners should have to pay a fee to pay their taxes? 

Ya'll have gone insane. Now pay up, hear?

Water Tax Scofflaws Admit Guilt

Last night Councilmembers McKinley, Bankhead, Jones and Quirk-Silva finally admitted what the rest of us had been saying all along: the City of Fullerton’s in-lieu franchise fee is illegal, and has been for the past 15 years. After blowing off the issue for nearly a year (and really, a decade and a half) the city council was forced to suspend the fund transfer that went to pay for General Fund expenses.

Here is Doc Jones’ befuddled admission:

Note that the angrified and bewildered Jones believes that part of the 10% tax maybe had something to do with water delivery. Wrong. It all went to the General Fund to help pay for pensions and four-star hotel room junkets by Jones himself. The water infrastructure and repairs were never paid for out of the General Fund, either. That’s just more confused claptrap from Jones.

And by no means was the tax repealed last night. In fact, the fee will show up on your water bill next month, just as it always has.

Councilman Bruce Whitaker said it very clearly: the franchise fee was collected from ratepayers illegally, was never properly authorized by taxpayers under Prop 218, and needs to be completely thrown out altogether. Deficiencies in the water fund do not change this simple truth, and those shortcomings should be addressed separately with the full notification and approval of the public.

When the tax is finally repealed by a fresh city council, don’t forget that there are millions of illegally-taken dollars that still need to be refunded to water users.

Ballot Challenge: Does Fullerton Really Have $500,000,000 in Pension Debt?

The city clerk called me tonight to let me know that someone had come in to protest my sample ballot statement.  She says this person took issue with the following claim:

Has Fullerton’s pension debt really risen to half a billion dollars?

Yes.  According to the CalPERS pension system’s own analysis in this OCRegister article, the lump-sum payment to close out all of Fullerton’s pension liabilities (debt) right now is somewhere between $456,000,000 and $540,000,000.

It’s hard to blame anyone for doubting this figure, as the number is simply unbelievable. But it’s 100% true. That’s half a billion dollars which must somehow be paid off by my children and yours, all thanks to the unchecked generosity of union-backed councilmen like Don Bankhead and Dick Jones.

Felz Blows Off the HJTA. Illegal Water Tax Ripoff Continues. Lawsuit Imminent.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association fired off another pithy letter to city manager Joe Felz last week, accusing him of intentionally delaying the termination of the illegal 10% in-lieu water franchise tax while continuing to collect over $100,000 per month from Fullerton residents in violation of the state constitution.

The letter states that Joe Felz verbally admitted to the illegality of the fee and promised action within a certain timeframe. But honesty is not a virtue within city hall, and nine months later Felz and his trusted council majority of Bankhead, Jones and McKinley still allow the city to continue its theft without comment or remorse.

Mr. Bittle closed out his letter with a threat of a class action lawsuit that would seek a refund on behalf of all Fullerton water users. As one of the 135,000 ripped-off residents, I’d say that’s a great idea.