Brooks Institute Fiasco Exemplifies Ventura’s Bad Money Management

“EVERYONE’S ENTITLED TO THEIR OWN OPINION, BUT NOT THEIR OWN FACTS” —Daniel Patrick Moynihan

 Brooks Institute continues to be an issue

Ventura’s City Council’s bad deal with Brooks Institute exposes its lack of financial understanding. The Council

Brooks Institute closure exemplifies Ventura’s bad financial management.

and the city staff are scrambling to cover up those flaws. They’re feeding voters information designed to distract the public from the real issues. Ventura city staff believes it did enough due diligence. They’re trying to sell that opinion as fact in a Ventura Breeze article dated Sept. 13, 2016. The city staff’s facts ignore economic reality, though.  Follow the money and you will always find the truth. Brooks Institute is no exception.

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts

Venturans for Responsible and Efficient Government (VREG) followed the money trail. VREG filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city. The city provided the documents they evaluated to extend Brooks Institute a 46-month lease. What VREG learned reveals incompetence and lack of understanding.

W Brooks Institute is not an isolated problem; it’s a symptom of a larger problem. It shows the city council’s inability to manage taxpayer money. Brooks Institute surfaced at a time when the city is asking for another $270 million in taxes from Measure O.

Discovering The Cracks in the Foundation of the City’s Due Diligence

Brooks Institute exposed the cracks in the city’s procedures.

The city provided four foundational documents used to check Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC. The city staff believes these documents showed Brooks Institute was a good “risk.” In the private sector, these documents would have been insufficient.  Here is why.

1)    GP Homestay’s Commitment Letter Is Meaningless from a Financial Perspective

GP Homestay, Brooks Institute’s parent company, provided Ventura a ‘letter of guarantee.’ City Manager Mark Watkins announced this at the September 12, 2016 City Council meeting. The decision makers considered this meaningful in the decision to lease to Brooks. The letter has many shortcomings, though.

First, GP Homestay wrote the letter to a third party,not to the City of Ventura or any entity related to the Brooks Institute lease. GP Homestay wrote it to the WASC Senior College and University Commission on January 15, 2016. WASC Senior College and University Commission is an accreditation organization for Brooks Institute’s curriculum.

Second, nobody signed the letter. It is of no value to the City of Ventura as a basis for financial support, or to any of the other groups or businesses defrauded by Brooks.

Brooks Institute parent company, GPHomestay, took advantage of Ventura and its contractors.

Third, the contents of the letter are not something the city can depend on. The letter states, “Green Planet guarantees continued financial support for the proposed period of financial losses prior to reaching the break-even balance between revenues and expenses in 2020.”

This suggests two important facts. One, GP Homestay didn’t expect Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC to be profitable during the entire term of the lease.  Two, after 2020, Green Planet could withdraw any financial support. These are hardly the assurances on which to base a 46-month lease, nor do they guarantee any payment.

2)    Brooks Institute’s Loan Agreement with GP Homestay Arrives after the Fact

The city provided a loan agreement for $2.5 million dated March 28, 2016 between GP Homestay and Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC. This document is worthless from a financial perspective for several reasons.

First, the loan agreement is actually for a line of credit. There is nothing that indicates that the line of credit was ever signed or if Brooks Institute drew from it.

Second, nobody from GP Homestay signed the line of credit document. An unsigned document is worthless. It is unenforceable and not the basis for granting a 46-month lease.

Third, and most important, the date on the document is 33 days after the start of the signed lease. It could not have been available for the City Council to review while doing their due diligence.

The city approved the lease on February 22, 2016—more than a month before this document. So this document could not have factored into the decision to lease to Brooks Institute.

3)    Dissecting Green Planet, Inc.’s Consolidated Opening Statement Balance Sheet

Green Planet, Inc. provided a consolidated statement to the city to support a 46-month lease. The statement dates back to June 16, 2015, making it eight months old at the time the city issued the lease.

Green Planet, Inc. consolidated statement includes six other corporations.  To understand Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC, the city would have to separate out each of these corporations. That’s impossible with this statement. So, depending on this document for financial information would have been a waste of time. To cap it off, Green Planet, Inc. did not provide any guarantees to the city of the Lease Agreement or the construction period. This document doesn’t support the decision to lease space to Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC.

4)    Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC Financial Documents Don’t Paint a Pretty Picture

The financial statements Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC provided lacked substance. First, the statements covered four months. Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC only existed since March 2, 2015.

Upon examining the financial statements, several irregularities signaled danger and demanded further questions. For instance, Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC’s available cash. Brooks would have had only $403,805 in cash if it paid all current liabilities. The balance sheet showed a cash balance of $2,750,598 and Current Liabilities of $2,346,793.

This statement was seven months old when the City Council discussed the lease agreement. Yet the city didn’t verify Brooks Institute’s available cash by demanding bank statements. The city had no way to know how much cash Brooks had available.

The Statement of Income showed a Net Operating Loss of $21,531. GP Homestay expected this loss and future losses until the year 2020, as they stated in their letter. Yet, the Statement of Income is misleading. The Statement of Income shows Net Income of $1,738,026. This is the result of the acquisition of the school valued at $1,759,557. The only reason it showed a Net Income was due to the value it placed on acquiring itself. An acquisition is a one-time, extraordinary event. It does not show true profitability.

The Scramble to Cover Up the Flaws

The city began spinning the story soon after Brooks Institute closed its doors. First, there was City Manager Mark Watkins’ public mea culpa in the Ventura County Star. In it, he stated the city erred on execution on Brooks Institute by not collecting rents and fees. Next, there was an article in the Ventura Breeze by “City Staff” (whoever that is). It read, “As part of the City’s due diligence in determining the viability of the lease, the City was provided access to Brooks’ and its parent company’s (GPHomestay) confidential financial information. Based on that review it was determined that Brooks was solvent.”  City Staff hoped nobody would discover the truth by examining the financial statements. Finally, there is Councilmember Cheryl Heitmann’s plea. She urged the city to get out in front of the problem at the September 12, 2016 council. She reckoned citizens were forming their own opinions without the city’s input.

The city’s rush to move Brooks Institute downtown forced city staff to cut corners.

The truth will out. The city was eager to do the lease with Brooks Institute. The city did a minimal review to rush the deal. After the fact, the City Manager admitted errors in the process. He stopped short of saying the city approved the lease without proper supporting documents. And the city failed to ask and answer many questions before it signed the lease. Even a cursory examination revealed Brooks had only $403,805 in cash. Brooks lacked enough funds to remodel the City site, let alone several other locations.

This situation will take years to resolve. Here’s what we do know now. Brooks Institute closed. The city has unpaid rents. Brooks stiffed contractors for tenant improvements they completed. The city will have to renovate the buildings Brooks leased to lease them to someone else. Brooks Institute Holdings, LLC didn’t couldn’t fulfill its obligations on the 46-month lease agreement. And, neither the city staff or the City Council researched enough before issuing a long-term lease agreement.

These are the facts. The city is trying to distract the public by zeroing in on the amount of money the city lost. The City Council and the City Manager want voters to believe the losses were $70,000. That amount of money is significant in itself. It may not be the full extent of the city’s exposure to losses, though. The real exposure is closer to $1,095,000. There is the $70,000 in lost rents from Brooks Institute. There is also the $825,000 mechanic’s lien by the contractors that the city refuses to pay. There will likely be legal costs to defend that position. Finally, it will cost $200,000 to return the sites into leasable condition according to Mark Watkins.

Editor’s Comments

The city played fast and loose with taxpayer money on the Brooks Institute deal. The city made several public apologies. They sympathized with the Brooks Institute students and facility over their loss. Yet, they admitted no wrongdoing. There was no apology to the City Council for making them look foolish and uninformed. But, worst of all, the city didn’t apologize to the taxpayers. It’s the taxpayers who pay for the city’s mistakes.

With or without an apology, though, one thing remains clear. The city has mismanaged taxpayer money on Brooks Institute. The situation demonstrates city staff and City Council’s incompetence or lack of understanding. So, it would be imprudent or foolhardy to trust this City Council with another $270 million through Measure O.  Don’t give city government more money until they show they can spend the money they have. Vote No on O.

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Vandalism a part of election rancor

Election Rancor Flares Up In Ventura

ELECTION RANCOR AND MALICE IN OUR MIDST

It will be hard for anyone not to remember this election. The election rancor and display of malice that has bombarded us on a daily basis by many of the candidates, and those supporting or opposing ballot measures, has been destructive if not disgusting. The disrespect shown the American people will not be forgotten soon.

VENTURA IS NO EXCEPTION

We are disappointed to report that 40% of the “No on Measure O” street signs that were placed in the last month have been stolen and taken down. We do not know who but we know why.

Vandalism a part of election rancor

Election rancor strikes Ventura. 40% of opposition yard signs stolen or destroyed.

It is one thing for individuals or groups of individuals to disagree with ballot measures and to make every effort to convey their message to the voters. That is what our republic is about and that is why we enjoy the right of free speech; however, those who claim “their” free speech and then deny it to others just because they disagree deserve universal contempt.

The No on Measure “O” signs will be replaced.  Regardless of how you vote we ask that if you see anyone destroying or removing political signs for any candidate or any measure that you report it to us and/or the police department.  It is a crime in this state to remove or destroy a political campaign signs.

 

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Special Interests pig out on Measure O

Special Interests Line Up For Their Share Of Measure O

“IT ISN’T WHAT WE DON’T KNOW THAT GIVES US TROUBLE, IT’S WHAT WE KNOW THAT AIN’T SO”—Will Rodgers

FEEDING AT THE PUBLIC TROUGH

The Yes on Measure O Committee reported contributions of $30,000.  Of that, over $10,000 has been spent with a public relations firm to convince you to vote yes.  (This is in addition to the $144,000 the city has already spent on consultants and a 4-color brochure). They argument has been that everything is urgent and there will be money for everyone, for everything.

Follow the money with Measure O

Follow the money contributed to Measure O. You’ll find many companies and individuals that work for the city.

Very large donors included individuals in city government. The City Manager, Mark Watkins, makes $281,000 a year and the Chief of Police, Ken Corney, $313,000 a year.  Each contributed $1,000.

Mayor Nasarenko, a public prosecutor, who announced that this tax measure would be his political legacy, also contributed $2,000.  Others included Councilman and former police chief, Mike Tracy ($1,000), Ventura Water General Manager Shana Epstein ($500) and Interim Parks and Recreation Director Nancy O’Connor ($750) and Assistant City Manager, Dan Paranick ($1,000)

Contributions from government employees are not a surprise. Those who depend on tax money for their wonderful salaries and benefits, see this tax as protecting their salaries and benefits. To do that they need more tax money.

Contributions from private special interests should also be a red flag.  John Ashkar, a developer doing business as Pacific Heritage Communities ($5,000), Toro Industries, a pavement contractor ($10,000), Tri-Counties Labor Council PAC, a labor union organization ($5,000) and Service Employees International Union Local 721 ($2,500).  These are companies and unions that feed off our tax dollars for their own benefit. They have had their snouts in the public trough for so long they make no effort to hide their self-interest.

Toro Industries does street and repair work.   They have contributed $10,000. A formal report by Public Works, called the Pavement Maintenance Plan for fiscal years 2017-2021, concludes that 70% of our streets are in good to excellent condition.  The city also plans to spend $5,240,648 in 2016 and $6,372,869 in 2017 on street repairs.  That totals over $11 million dollars, without increased taxes. One of the major arguments for Measure O has been the “urgent” need more money for street and road repairs.  This gives, at best, the perception of a conflict of interest. At its worst, this looks like an attempt to buy an election.

There are also two labor unions contributing $7,500 toward a publicity campaign to convince you to vote yes.  What possible motive could they have in contributing $7,500 to the “Yes on O” campaign?

Citizens do not get a vote on benefits and contracts. We pretend that by voting for a City Council, we have a voice in such matters.  The reality is that we do not.  If you believe otherwise ask yourself, “Why would the City Council increase the Fire Departments retirement benefits by 50% and make it retroactive to the beginning of time?”  They could have made this action effective from that moment forward but they did not. By voting as the City Council did, it created an instant $80 million dollar unfunded debt foisted on the taxpayers.

COMMON SENSE

By the time you receive this letter you will have your Voter Pamphlet and, maybe, your ballot.  How you vote on all the tax measures that will impact your family?  We suggest common sense and what is in your best interest.

CONSIDER THE FACTS WHEN YOU GO TO THE POLLS

Consider carefully the arguments in the voter pamphlet and all of the facts before you decide and ask yourself if you have doubts.  We believe that MEASURE O IS A BAD LAW and urge a no vote. Here is why:

  • Measure O is for 25 years. This is a LIFETIME. It will never expire as promised.
  • THERE ARE NO RESTRICTIONS on how this money is spent. City Councils can and will change spending at any time. This is ripe for City Council’s broken promises and having funds redirected.
  • The guarantee of a Citizens Review Committee (CRC) is a lure for the gullible. The City Council appoints the CRC and any accounting reports will be after the city spends the money.  They will not have any budget control. They will not be order the Council to pay the money back. The City Council will retain the power to appoint and spend.
  • The City doesn’t need more taxes to operate our City. The Council has a balanced budget and has stated publicly that the current revenue is sufficient to operate. We have a balanced budget.
  • They even added funds to reserves and approved 4.50% raises and $1,500 bonuses for over 270 employees making over $100,000.
  • Pigs Gorging at Measure O

    Companies that do business with the city contributed heavily to pass Measure O.

    Ventura City Council now claims everything’s “urgent”. NOT TRUE. They want another $270,000,000 tax without prioritizing.

  • Over the last 2 years, the City of Ventura’s property taxes have increased by 4.0% and sales tax revenues have increased by 9.5%. The result is in 2017; the general fund revenue will be $104 million, the highest in Ventura’s history. Reserves have also increased to $12.5 million. Given the surfeit of new tax revenue repairing streets and public safety should already have first priority, not public art or low cost subsidized housing for everyone.
  • Polls implied that funds would be for rivers, beaches and veterans. Federal, state and bond budgets pay for rivers, beaches and veterans.
  • Recently increased WATER RATES of OVER 42% fund water and wastewater issues and cash reserves over $500,000 have accumulated. In fact the Water is planning to spend $17,000,000 to replace water meters with new digital meters.  We don’t need new taxes for water infrastructure.
  • The entire city is 150 is years old but the majority of the infrastructure business and homes were built after 1950. The suggestion that because the City is 150 years old and falling apart, is pure emotional campaign rhetoric.
  • In the Voter Information Pamphlet, the City Attorney, in his Impartial Analysis, states that Measure O has the provision that ‘Suspends the tax, after notice to the State, should the State divert this revenue for State purposes’. How many times have the supporters and Mayor said ‘By law, the State cannot touch Measure O funds’? Guess they lied to us again.

MEASURE O IS AN ASSAULT ON MIDDLE INCOME FAMILIES

Up and down the state, taxpayers are the targets of tax raisers.  On local ballots this November, voters face billions of dollars in new taxes and bond measures. There are 228 local tax measures representing a cumulative tax of $3 billion per year.  That is on top of what we already pay.   Measure “O” in the City of Ventura is one of those measures.  California has the highest sales taxes of any state in the union. Also on the ballot is a ½% Transportation tax, and Ventura Unified School Board property tax.

A sales tax is regressive and it has a substantial impact on everything a family buys – clothes, cars, toys, you name it. The lower your income, the greater percentage of that income you pay in taxes. The average income for a family in the Ventura is $66,485.

If your are working 40 to 60 hours per week or are a senior citizen on a fixed retirement income, think carefully about voting for a tax increase because it will be giving local government more of your money.    Remember also that those pushing for you to pay more taxes are in a government position. 503 full time City employees receive an average pay and benefits of $103,549.  Of that number, 70 employees (13%) make over $200,000 per year and another 167 make over $150,000 per year.

THE TRUST ISSUE AND PAST SPENDING

Trust of this government is a looming question.  Do you trust this City government to effectively use your tax dollars in a prudent manner?  They have a spending problem.

In deciding on how you will vote ask yourself, what is there about a promise of future prudence and strict accountability that gives you hope that the mistakes over the last 25 years will not be repeated in the next 25 years.   As a reminder here is a list of the losses just over the last 10 years.

  • $2.5m WAV project, never repaid. $1 million of that moved from water rate payer money to the General Fund in the name of “Art”.
  • $1.0m spent on a plan to narrow Victoria. Spent then abandoned.
  • $1.2m for 911 taxes. Money collected never refunded
  • $0m diverted at the expense of the internal service funds.
  • $10.0m lost investments with Lehman and WAMU, poor City Council oversight
  • $1.2m annually for 50% fire retirement increase
  • By making The fire departments retirement retroactive to the beginning of time, this immediately increased liability to the City another $80 million dollars overnight
  • $5.0m to promote as Art City Ventura
  • $1.2m twice sold parking spaces settlement in the downtown parking structure
  • Brooks Institute lease without due diligence, losing thousand and leaving contractor with $825,000 in unpaid liens

EDITORS COMMENT

Budget surpluses and tax revenues are growing. Ventura City Government, like citizens, must live within their means. This FOREVER tax is UNACCEPTABLE. There is no legitimate reason to tax us $270,000,000 more.

Editors:

B. Alviani, K. Corse, T. Cook,  B. Berry

J. Tingstrom, R. McCord, S. Doll B. Frank

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Brooks Institute Is Ventura's Latest Failure

Remember Brooks Institute when you vote for Measure O in November

“WHEN IN DOUBT, DON’T”
—Benjamin Franklin

WAVE GOODBYE TO BROOKS INSTITUTE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS

The news in the last few weeks has reported the closure of Brooks Institute.  Everyone lost from this closure.  The students hopefully will find other institutions to complete their education and their teachers may find other positions, but the Citizens of Ventura are again holding the proverbial bag.

On August 20, 2016, The Ventura Star published an editorial about the role of city government in this matter, and it sums the situations up fairly well – “The City Council and city government appear to have given preferential treatment to a small but vocal constituency – and failed the rest of Ventura”.  We cannot improve on their conclusions except that it was all avoidable.  We can provide you with specific facts and information that we have garnered thus far so that when the bureaucratic spinning and finger pointing starts, you will be able to see it for what it is.

In February the City announced with great elation and fanfare that Brooks was coming to town. Councilwoman Heitmann led the parade as well as the City Economic Development Manager, Leigh Eisen. They extolled the prospects of increased revenue for the city and that downtown business would flourish.  Same hype surrounded the WAV (See our August 2011 letter published at August 2011 Newsletter).

Brooks Institute Unfinished Office Space

Brooks Institute left unfinished classroom space when the deal unraveled.

There were three sites leased, two private owner locations downtown and one behind City Hall.  The largest was the two top floors of a 5-story city office building at 505 Poli just behind City Hall.   There may have been two other private owner locations but that as yet has not been established.

Hope and promise filled City government.   Staff rushed to execute leases for the 505 Poli property.   Brooks Institute entered into a contract with a major contractor to demolish and build tenant improvements on the two top floors of 505 Poli at a contract price of $1.2 million. Tenants of those two floors were evicted; the contractor was permitted to fast track demolition and tenant improvements started.  When hazardous materials were found on site Building & Safety again fast tracked the work, which was promptly completed by Venterra, a hazardous materials remediation company, at an additional cost of $80,000.  Demolition was completed and 2/3 of the tenant improvements were built.  Then Brooks closed its doors and the project imploded.

THE PROJECT UNRAVELS

Brooks Institute paid no money to the City for rent, no money for a security deposit and no performance bonds or guarantees were put in place.  Reportedly $70,000 in back rent is due. Future rents are lost. The tenant improvements have yet to be completed. The Assistant City Manager tells us that it will only cost our City $200,000 to complete those improvements.

Unsurprisingly, within a matter of days, the facts have proven otherwise.  The contractor has filed a lien against the City for $825,000 for the work they and the subcontractors performed on City property, including the $80,000 cost of the removal of the hazardous materials.  Add lost rent to date, future lost rents the evicted tenants would have paid, the estimated cost to complete the tenant improvements and the damages causing the losses to swell to over $1.2 million.  Then there will be the legal costs to collect these losses, if possible, and to avoid liability.

The private property owner who also signed Brooks’ leases and started the work of providing tenant improvements in the downtown area was more fortunate.  He wisely obtained guarantees to protect himself.  Brooks Institute, owned by a Chinese owned company named Gphomestay, has lawyered up with an expensive LA firm. The contractor has lawyered up too but no word yet on what lawyer will try to pull the City’s chestnuts out of the fire.

The citizens of Ventura deserve to know why the taxpayer has once again been “hornswoggled[1]“.  Dreams, hopes and ideas for healthy economic growth are wonderful, but such things must be tempered with economic reality and good business sense.  When those are ignored the phrase “a fool and his money are soon parted” is apropos.

DEMAND THE TRUTH

The City Council has a lot to explain.  They were quick to ask the citizens of Ventura to increase taxes (Measure “O”).  They spent $118,000 of our tax money to hire public relations firms to convince 51% of the voters to vote yes on that measure thereby giving them more of our money.  Will they be as quick to take responsibility for another $1 million plus dollar loss?

No Deposit on Brooks Institute

Citizens should ask, “Who approved the Brooks Institute lease without asking for rent payments upon execution?”

This Council, particularly the two candidates seeking reelection in November, Councilwomen Weir and Heitmann, need to answer questions about their ability to conduct business on our behalf.  We must have representatives that are experienced and understand business. We, as a community, cannot afford losses of this magnitude and we certainly should not be handing the City Council another $270,000,000 over the next 25 years if they are not qualified.  By this recent action, this City Council is not capable of managing our tax money.

Other than “what were they thinking” here are questions EVERY citizen should be asking?

  1. Who approved this lease without asking for rent payments upon execution?
  2. Who reviewed and approved the terms of the lease with Brooks?
  3. Who made the decision to permit construction on City property  without a guarantee or performance bond in the event of default of Brooks Institute?
  4. Who performed the due diligence and examined the financial condition of Brooks Institute to determine their ability to perform under the terms of the lease?
  5. Who recommended the approval of this lease and its terms to the city Council?
  6. Shouldn’t those who made the decisions in this matter resign or be fired?

City Government’s response thus far is that they will sue Brooks to get our money. City officials continue to say they are surprised, shocked and disappointed. They should not be any of these things. This was all foreseeable based upon the financial condition and history of Brooks Institute. 

VREG is continuing to investigate this transaction and will report our findings in subsequent issues as new facts are discovered.

EDITORS COMMENT

In the private sector, when a so-called “good deal” goes bad for lack of due diligence people lose their jobs. In the public sector, nobody is held accountable and elected officials either choose not to run again, or they run and look for a fall guy.  

Just keep the BROOKS project in mind when you are asked to vote for Measure “O” in November; and, when voting to fill the three City Council seats that are open ask yourself if they are truly qualified.

Editors:

B. Alviani       K. Corse          T. Cook         B. Frank

J. Tingstrom R. McCord       S. Doll          C. Kistner

 

[1]Hornswoggle”, slang circa 1829.  A word to describe one who has been bamboozled.  Synonyms: dupe, fake out, fool, hoodwink, deceive, humbug, juggle, misguide, misinform, mislead, snooker, snow, spoof, string along, sucker, suck in, take in, trick

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Ventura Wants More Taxes

Ventura City Council Asks For More Taxes. Why You Should Say No.

“THE ART OF TAXATION CONSISTS IN SO PLUCKINJG THE GOOSE AS TO GET THE MOST FEATHERS WITH THE LEAST HISSING”
—Jean Baptist Colbert

VENTURA CITY COUNCIL ASKS CITIZENS FOR MORE TAXES

On May 23, 2016, the Ventura City Council joined a parade of governments hoping to persuade voters to raise the sales tax, and last week, in a 6 to 1 decision, the Council voted to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to raise the Ventura sales tax by 1/2 %. Councilman James Monahan voted against the measure.

As adopted the increase would:(1) produce an additional $10.8 million per year; (2) sunset in 25 years; (2) be subject to an citizens oversight committee; (3) be subject to an annual audit, and (4) be used to ” maintain essential services”.  Over the 25 year period citizens would pay another $270,000,000 above what they are already paying.

Greedy pig with more taxes

Ventura jumps at the chance for more taxes.

In asking the Council to adopt the measure the City Manager, Mark Watkins commented that “we have recovered from the recession.  For the First time we have reserves which exceed those that we had prior to the recession”.  Notwithstanding the recovery he asked the Council to approve a ballot measure to ask voters to increase our sales tax by 1/2 cent.

Supervisor Bennett addressed the council, purportedly as a citizen and not as a member of the Board of Supervisors or the Ventura County Transportation Board.  He opposed this sales tax measure for the November election and asked the council not to put the matter on the ballot for another 2 years because it would be in competition with his County 1/2 cent transportation sales tax and the Ventura School District tax that will again be on the November ballot.  His concern is that the voters would be confused.

THE ILLUSION OF CITIZEN OVERSIGHT

In return for more taxes, Ventura offers a citizens’ oversight committee.

The City Manager and Mayor Nasarenko, in their effort to seek approval by the voters, are quick to point out that this new tax money will be subject to a citizen’s oversight committee.  The question for voters is whether this oversight committee idea is a substantive proposal or an illusory and hollow effort to inveigle as yes vote from 51% of our voters.

During the May 23rd meeting citizens Mr. Ron Baker and Ms. Allison Carlson expressed the sentiment many others feel about such a proposal.  Mr. Bakers said “Instead of promises and assurances on how this (tax) money is spent, I want to see evidence”.

Ms. Carlson voiced that such a tax should only be a last resort then came right to the question most people are asking.   She wanted to know just how the citizen’s oversight committee would be appointed and how it would work:

“who are these people, who are they going to be, who approves them and puts them on the committee. If it is the City Council I would suggest that they have a conflict of interest.  I want to know it will not be a rubber stamp committee, and want to make sure there are watchdogs on the committee and I want to know that the committee oversight happens before the money is spent.  It is not fair for the City to spend the money first and then say this is how we spent the money.”

At the end of the hearing the Councilman Morehouse asked the same the City Manager how the committee would be appointed and how it would work.  His response was that THE COUNCIL should appoint the people to the citizens committee, THE COUNCIL should decide how the money was to be spent and THE COUNCIL should not place any limitations on how THE COUNCIL proposes to spend the new tax money.

After a pregnant pause the council members said nothing then proceeded to vote in favor of the City Manager preparing a 1/2% sales tax measure for the November ballot.

IMPACT ON THE AVERAGE MIDDLE CLASS FAMILY

Prior to voting in favor of the new tax Councilman Morehouse, observed that “a sales tax is regressive and it does intend to impact those who are poorer and we have a lot of elderly people who have fixed incomes”.  He is correct.

More taxes hurt struggling families

More taxes on Ventura’s Middle Class hurts struggling families.

Such taxes are imposed on everything that a family will buy to maintain their standard of living except food and prescriptions at the market.  The lower your income the higher the percentage of that income the family must pay in tax. According to statistics published by the Federal Reserve 47% of Americans cannot scrape enough money together to pay for an unexpected $400 emergency. Statistically than means 53,221 of our citizens do not have that amount of money.

This City Council advertises that this new tax will only cost the average family an additional $170 per year.  To make that statement they must assume that the average family will spend $34,000 per year on all purchases such as clothes, mobile phones, restaurants and widgets. , which if taxed at the 7.25% , will cost $2,465 a year.  If the tax is increased by 1/2 % the new tax would be 7.75%.  That will cost a family $2,635. per year.

Now consider the gauntlet of other increased taxes and cost: (1) water rate increase of 18.5% in July; (2) Medicare deduction increase of 0.9% (3) payroll tax increase from 37.4% to 52.2%; (4) income tax increase of 4.6% (5) Ventura County Transportation ales tax of 1/2%, and (6) $59 annual tax from the Ventura School District.

Footnote: In 2012 Proposition 30 was passed increasing the sales tax by 1/4% to 7.5% for 4 years. This increase is scheduled to terminate in November, 2016.  There is now an initiative in progress to extend all of part of that tax measure. Unless extended the State tax rate will revert to 7.25%.

The voters in Ventura need to pay special attention when it comes time to vote in November and remember that every dollar a family has to pay in taxes to the government is less they will have to support their family.

IS THE TAX EVEN NEEDED?

Does our city government “need” the additional money from the sales tax increase to provide the essential functions of government?

Consider how Ventura’s General Fund compares to the General Funds of other cities in the County and how much of those funds
are spent for each citizen.  Ventura has the second highest per capita amount to spend on its citizens. Only Ojai is higher.

 

General Fund Population Per Citizen
Ventura  $93,926,316.00  106,443  $861.49
Ojai *  $8,668,900.00  7,461  $1,161.89
Port Hueneme  $16,125,866.00  21,723  $742.34
Thousand Oaks  $76,933,217.00  126,683  $607.29
Oxnard  $118,110,062.00  197,899  $596.82
Camarillo  $34,000,000.00  65,201  $521.46
Simi Valley  $63,646,200.00  124,237  $512.30
Moorpark  $17,329,940.00  34,421  $503.47
Fillmore  $7,261,045.00  15,002  $484.01
Santa Paula  $14,086,725.00  29,321  $480.43

 

*  City of Ojai receives a “significant” amount of its revenue from the TOT taxes paid by the Ojai Valley Inn.

Other cities in the county have less money to spend, in general, and significantly less money to spend per person than Ventura. Those cities provide for police, fire, streets and operational costs with the money they have. The Ventura City Council claims it does not have enough.  Councilwoman Weir’s comment is telling:

“We are able with our growing revenue to pay some of our costs but the big projects, like our promenade, our sidewalks and our shoreline that are multi-million dollar projects, we just don’t have the money”

If approved and the sales tax projections prove to be generally accurate the City of Ventura, for the first time in its history would have general revenue income of $103,926,000.  Each of the seven Council members have a different set of priorities but here is a summary and result  of the “group think” called City of Ventura Community Investment Spending Plan for the next 25 years, not including water/wastewater costs.

45% to programs and services              $167,160,000.
30% to infrastructure maintenance           111,440,000
25% to capital and infrastructure               92,867,000
Other estimated revenue for capital         190,773,000
Total                                               $562,240,000

VREG COMMITTEE MEMBERS COMMENTS

A Politician’s promise of how they will spend new tax money, given a 25 year history of their wasting millions in tax dollars on foolish projects and ventures, is just that – a hollow and meaningless promise.

Without a guarantee of the appointment of an independent citizen’s oversight committee on how this new tax money will be spent voters should not approve this tax measure in November.

VREG Committee:

R. Alviani,     K. Corse,   T. Cook, R. Berry,
J. Tingstrom, R. McCord, S. Doll, C. Kistner, W. Frank

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No Sales Tax Increase, Live Within Your Means

Pet Projects Cloud Ventura City Council’s Push For A Sales Tax Increase

Spending Problem

“We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” — Ronald Reagan

The Scenario

The Ventura City Council is determined to raise taxes again by putting a measure on the ballot in November to increase sales taxes by 0.5%-1%. Two previous attempts failed. As is customary, they are not completely forthcoming or transparent when they are trying to extract more money from the citizenry. On January 30, 2016, the City Council held a special meeting at the Ventura Police Department whose true purpose was to discuss raising the sales tax. The Council spent $118,000 to hire consultants to sell the voters on a tax increase. What they learned should have disappointed the Council.

These Councilmembers are pushing hard to put a sales tax increase on November’s ballot.

Confusing Messages From City Councilmen About The Sales Tax Increase

At the January 30th meeting, Deputy Mayor Andrews commented that we are currently in an economic downturn, which is exactly the right time when we as a City should be increasing capital spending.  His comment left many in the audience puzzled. If this is indeed an economic downturn, the last thing the average taxpayer wants to do is pay more taxes. More taxes reduce their ability to pay rent or their mortgage. It cuts into their food budget, their travel and vacation capability, their medical care and their own future retirement.

Mayor Nasarenko is campaigning on the premise that Ventura voters will support a locally kept and locally spent tax. He fails to understand, however, that $340 more out of a household budget is still $340, regardless of where and how it is spent. ($340 is City Council’s estimate of how much more each household will pay annually if the sales tax is increased 1%)

Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are ignoring nearby failures of sales tax increases, too. Neighboring Oxnard and Port Hueneme increased their sales taxes and they’re still having budget problems. Politicians in those cities failed to realize it is a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Now, Ventura’s politicians are blindly walking down the same path.

Let’s Not Forget Each Councilmember’s Pet Projects

Deputy Mayor Andrews was adamant at the January 30th meeting that Ventura needs more assistance and housing for the “homeless.” Who falls into this category was not defined which leaves it open to interpretation by city officials. It is a fair assumption, though, that one would be able to identify the beneficiaries of his largess by walking down the street. Nothing prevents spending these taxes on any special project such as this once the money goes into the General Fund.

Councilman Morehouse announced last year during a public session that a sales tax increase would just scratch the surface.  Both he and Councilwoman Weir consistently argue that an increase in the sales taxes is just a start, and that Ventura, like other cities, should also be seeking more taxes for:

  • Median maintenance tax
  • Lighting district tax
  • Fire district tax
  • Recreation district tax
  • Library tax

MORE TAXES – THE BIG PICTURE

[PENURY BY THE PENNY]

A sales tax increase is not an isolated event. To understand the full impact of the tax burden on Venturans, one must consider all the other tax increases facing voters.

The Ventura School District tax, approved in 2012, is up for renewal in 2016. Governor Brown’s “temporary” sales tax increase is also up for renewal. And, Ventura County Transportation Commission is considering a sales tax, countywide.

Then consider other recent tax increases:

Medicare tax went from 1.45% to 2.35%

Income Tax rate went from 35% to 39.6%

Payroll tax went from 37.4% to 52.2%

Capital gain tax went from 15% to 28%

Dividend tax went from 15% to 39.6%

Estate taxes went from 0% to 55%

Real Estate transaction tax of 3.5% was added

There’s An Alternative Plan The City Council Refuses To Consider

Our City government has $20 million more in real property taxes and sales taxes. Add to that the 34% water rate increase, imposed without your affirmative vote, to raise millions to fund and replace the water and wastewater infrastructure under our streets, it becomes clear that city government has enough money.

Our current City Council wants more tax money, calling for citizens to “invest” more of “your money.”  Ask yourself first how they have invested “your money” over the last 8 years, and the answer unequivocally — poorly.  How about showing us first how they manage the tax money they have before demanding more.

If you agree that Ventura should live within its existing budget, then write to your City Councilmembers to say so. Tell them not to tax Ventura citizens any more and to spend the money they have more wisely.

Click On A Councilmember’s Photo To Send Them An Email

Erik Nasarenko,
Mayor

Neal Andrews,
Deputy Mayor

Cheryl Heitmann

Jim Monahan

Carl Morehouse

Mike Tracy

Christy Weir

Editors:

R. Alviani,       K. Corse,     T. Cook,     R. Berry,
J. Tingstrom, R. McCord,  S. Doll,      C. Kistner,
W. Frank

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High Priced Consultants Selling Snake Oil

City Council Hires Consultants To “Sell” Voters On A Tax Hike

Spending Problem

“We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” — Ronald Reagan

The Scenario

The Ventura City Council is determined to raise taxes again by putting a measure on the ballot in November to increase sales taxes by 0.5%-1%. Two previous attempts failed. As is customary, they are not completely forthcoming or transparent when they are trying to extract more money from the citizenry. On January 30, 2016, the City Council held a special meeting at the Ventura Police Department whose true purpose was to discuss raising the sales tax. The Council spent $118,000 to hire consultants to sell the voters on a tax increase. What they learned should have disappointed the Council.

This City Council is pushing hard for a sales tax incease.

Council hired consultants to direct them on how to sell the voters on a tax increase

 [Only 36% say Yes]

At the January 30th meeting, one paid consultant provided his interpretation of the results of a general poll on citizen’s views asked of 630 citizens. The opinions were favorable in such areas as police, fire, beaches, water, paving streets, serving veterans, and protecting the environment.

When it came to answering two questions specifically focused on the need for a sales tax increase, however, the results were remarkably different.

Question:  Does the City need additional funds for City Services?

Great need = 22%

Some need = 38%

Little/no need = 30%

Question:   If on an initial ballot you were asked to increase sales taxes by one-percent or one-half percent how would you vote?

One-percent                                                one-half percent

Definitely yes = 36%                         Definitely yes = 33%

Probably yes – 12%                           Probably yes = 22%

No/probable no = 39%                     No/probable no = 31%

Interpreting the results, fewer than one in four citizens sees a great need for additional funds and only 36% would vote definitely yes for a 1% sales tax increase.

If 630 citizens surveyed believe the City is doing a favorable job with the funds they have and only 22% believe there’s a great need for additional funds, one might conclude the citizens are content with the current situation.  But, the City Council—strongly encouraged by the consultants—continued to push the sales tax increase forward.

The inference is that voters are not smart and need to be led around

expensive consultants

Ventura spends $118,000 on consultants to “sell” voters on sales tax increase

The pollster then advised the Council that they needed to do more to “educate” the people on why they should vote for a sales tax increase to receive approval.  Without education it was a close call.  His words were – “on the one-percent measure you might have a shot.” One council member commented that the “citizens just don’t understand.”

Next, the paid political consultant outlined that of the 109,000 Ventura residents only 24,000 vote and, of that number, 61% are over the age of 50. It was his view that an intense program was needed to “educate” voters because “they need to know what the city council is going to use the money for.”

In fact, that’s the crux of the issue. If the additional sales tax revenue goes into the General Fund, nobody will know for sure how the City Council will use the money.

MONEY FOR EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING

[The Ventura Essential Services Tax Measure]

At the conclusion of the presentation, Mayor Nasarenko announced, “I have made a sales tax measure a core goal for my year as the Mayor.  I have been joined by the Deputy Mayor [Neal Andrews].”

The discussion then moved to a staff report that listed “all of the needs.”  The list of needs total $1.368 billion. That is billion with a “B.” Excluding costs for Water and Wastewater totaling $661,120,000, which the citizens will pay through a 34% increase in water bills the City Council approved in 2015, which leaves $707,734,532 in needs for the General Fund.

Here are some examples of what’s on the City of Ventura government’s shopping list. It is obvious the city council wants to overwhelm the voters with the sizable need for more taxes.

Community Enhancement $199,360,000
Technology $7,420,000
Streets $298,999,747
Public Art $557,462
Parks $112,192,823
Facilities $42,087,500
Fire $3,400,000
Police $4,853,000

This wish list illustrates the consultants’ concern about Ventura citizens, “they need to know what the city council is going to use the money for.”   But, here’s the rub.

As a General Fund Tax Measure, it is impossible to promise or earmark the new tax revenue to any specific project. To earmark funds requires a two-thirds majority vote (67%) on the ballot. To vote in a General Fund Tax Measure requires a simple majority (>50%).

Given the low interest in approving a sales tax increase cited in the survey (36%, at best), reaching a two-thirds majority will be a struggle. A simple majority seems more likely, if the sales tax increase is to pass at all.

Once in the General Fund, the City Council can spend the sales tax revenue as they choose.

No oversight committee, appointed by the city, has ever challenged spending after it has been spent

Mayor Nasarenko isn’t telling voters that no guarantee exists for the City to spend the additional tax revenue on any of the City needs once the tax receipts go into the General Fund. This Council may intend to use the funds for the projects outlined above, but Councilmembers change, city priorities change and needs change with time. In 2007-08 the signs of an economic downturn were clear yet the City government forged ahead, spending money on experts and projects as if they were immune from economic reality. Who’s to say the City won’t syphon off money intended for street repair to pay for another WAV building, for instance?

Consultants oversight committee

Consultants suggest a citizen’s oversight committee

So, the mayor is creating a smoke screen in his “let’s increase taxes” pitch by promising a Citizen’s Oversight Committee intended to give voters the false sense that “how funds are spent” will be closely monitored.

To monitor the funds that closely, however, a Citizen’s Oversight Committee would have to approve any project expenditure before the City makes it—effectively neutering the Council. It’s unlikely the City Council would approve that. And, even if they did, why would we need a City Council at all if this committee controlled the purse strings?

The truth is no post audit Citizen’s Oversight Committee will track city spending that closely, let alone have the power to reverse any spending after the fact. Once the Sales Tax Increase passes, the fact is nobody will look at it again and nobody will reverse any expenditure.

If you believe a sales tax increase will be spent unwisely, raise your voice. Write to the City Council to share your opinion. In addition, insist Council Members Heitmann, Morehouse and Weir—all up for re-election in the November 2016—thoroughly explain their position on the sales tax increase.  After all, they have a balanced budget, they increased water rates by 34% and they have revenues up $20 million to pre-2008 levels.

Click On The Councilmember’s Photo Below To Send An Email

Erik Nasarenko,
Mayor

Neal Andrews,
Deputy Mayor

Cheryl Heitmann

Jim Monahan

Carl Morehouse

Mike Tracy

Christy Weir

Editors:

R. Alviani,       K. Corse,     T. Cook,     R. Berry,
J. Tingstrom, R. McCord,  S. Doll,      C. Kistner,
W. Frank

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False state of the city for Ventura 2016

The Real Story Behind Ventura’s Proposed Sales Tax Increase

Spending Problem

“We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”
—Ronald Reagan

THE CAMEL IS TRYING TO GET ITS NOSE INTO THE TENT    

Ventura City Council is looking for a permanent sales tax increase of 0.5%-1%.  It is a forever tax, despite any protestations to the contrary. Can this Council be trusted to spend the new money wisely to benefit the community, or will they waste it? Until this City Council answers this question voters should not pass the measure.

MISREPRESENTING A CITIZENS’ INVOLVEMENT MEETING

On January 30, 2016, the City Council held a special meeting at the Ventura Police Department. The announced purpose of the meeting, in the advanced notice required by the Brown Act was to conduct a working session to set the goals for the City Council for 2016.  Instead, the true purpose of the meeting was to discuss raising the sales tax.

WITH INCREASES IN SALES AND PROPERTY TAXES, THE CITY HAS RECOVERED FROM 2007

Those attending heard Ventura Chief Financial Officer, Gil Garcia, outline the current financial posture of the City. Garcia stated that the income of the City had recovered back to the level that existed prior to the 2008 recession.  In 2007, revenue totaled $93,926,316, but that dropped $20 million to $73,684,565 as the bottom fell out of the economy.

Increasing City income by $20 million dollars in a 4-year period is a positive step forward.  This 27% overall increase is comprised of a 4% increase in real property taxes and increase of 9.5% in sales tax revenue.

IF REVENUES ARE UP BY 27%, WHY TAX THE CITIZENS MORE?

At the conclusion of the presentation new Mayor Erik Nassarenko announced, ” I have made a sales tax measure a core goal for my year as the Mayor.  I have been joined by the Deputy Mayor [Neal Andrews]”.  Erik and the City Council are seeking a 0.5%-1% increase in the sales tax that would generate an additional $10.9 million dollars to $21.7 million respectively.

The mayor justifies the new tax increase because:

  • Ventura is 150 years old with a stunning “natural landscape that is costly to maintain”
  • “Ventura is an old city, our sewer systems, our water systems, our roads and sidewalks, and our buildings need costly attention”
  • “Like our historic pier, the City of Ventura has unique features that require maintenance, care and funding”
  • “Our fire stations must remain open to provide life saving paramedic response
  • We must protect our waterways from pollution”. (Source: The Breeze)

EVERY DOLLAR OF GOVERNMENT WASTE COMES DIRECTLY FROM YOUR POCKET

What was not discussed was the extent of the spending waste since 2007.

  • $2.5 million lost in funding the market condos and stores in the WAV projects.
  • $1 million spent in studying the narrowing of Victoria.
  • $5 million lost to the internal service funds because of general fund manipulation by the then City Manager Rick Cole.
  • Citizens are already paying for improvements to our water and sewer system through a 34% increase in water bills.

NO ONE WANTS IT

No one wants a sales tax increase. Outside experts hired by the City Council told them only 33-36% of the persons polled would vote in favor of a tax increase. [64%-67% of the respondents were against or ambivalent to the tax increase] Furthermore, they told the Council to achieve a majority the Council needs to wage an election person-to-person “education campaign” so that the people would understand why this money was needed.

State of the City

Propaganda Campaign To “Educate” Voters

IT’S NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM

President Reagan said, “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” The answer isn’t always to tax our people more, but to spend their money more wisely. If you believe a sales tax increase will be spent unwisely, make your voice heard. Write to the City Council to share your opinion. In addition, insist all the candidates in the November 2016 election thoroughly explain his/her position on the sales tax increase. Have him/her justify why we need a sales tax at all.

Erik Nasarenko,
Mayor

Neal Andrews,
Deputy Mayor

Cheryl Heitmann

Jim Monahan

Carl Morehouse

Mike Tracy

Christy Weir

There will be two more parts of this newsletter to follow in the next few weeks. 

Editors:

R. Alviani,     K. Corse,     T. Cook,     R. Berry,
J. Tingstrom, R. McCord,  S. Doll,      C. Kistner,
W. Frank

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Ventura City Hall

When Spending $118,000 On A Poll Costs You More Money

VENTURA CITY COUNCIL SPENDS $118,000 TO ASK VOTERS TO INCREASE TAXES – AGAIN

On April 14, 2015, the City Council directed the City Manager to conduct a “community survey” to gauge interest in future revenue options (government speak for  raise taxes) to support community services for a fee of $38,000.  They did that and spent your money for a poll.

high-priced consultants dupe voters

Ventura paid $38,000 to high-priced consultants to “sell” a sales tax increase to voters.

On September 28, 2015, the City Council listened to the expert concerning his interpretation of the answers in the poll, and whether the voters, in his paid opinion would support a sales tax increase of 1/2% or 1% over the present rate of 7.25%.

Given the nature of the questions in the poll (noted below) it was no surprise that he opined that six in ten “perceive the City has at least some need for additional funds for city services. However, only 22% recognized a ‘great need’ and only one-third would definitely vote yes.

One-third however does not get the Council to the required majority in an election, so the expert said that “educational statements lead to a 7% overall gain in support for the one-cent measure and an 8% overall gain in support for a one-half cent measure”. In other words, the voters need to be told (persuaded) what they need.

The paid consultant, of course, was available to provide the needed education to attract more voters at a cost of $80,000.   The Council again voted to spend your money because you need “education”.

The tax increase has not as yet been put on the ballot but the measure will be called – CITY OF VENTURA ESSENTIAL SERVICES PROTECTION MEASURE – if the Council follows the expert’s advice.

RELYING ON A BAD POLL, AGAIN

As is the case with most poorly worded surveys which include ambiguous questions or questions that are too general in their nature, our city council paid for a very misleading assessment. This poll implies that new taxes will go toward any and all of the suggested purposes in the survey, with no details or guarantees.

Interestingly enough, the poll that the City of Ventura commissioned, is quoted in the Ventura Star paper, as asking if the citizens would be willing to support a tax increase, if it provided:

  • protection of local water supplies
  • keep all fire stations open
  • protect local beaches, rivers and coastal waters from pollution
  • maintain and improve fire, police and paramedic emergency response
  • maintain essential city services
  • improve services for seniors, the disabled and veterans

Past City Councils have relied upon poor surveys before and have lost on elections both times in the past.

HOW DID WE GET STARTED DOWN THIS PATH AGAIN?

Ventura now has a new Mayor who has only been in Ventura just over 5 years, coming from Los Angeles. With him comes a desire to tax the citizens of Ventura partly because taxes are lower than Los Angeles and because the Ventura City Council can find more ways to spend more money. However, this desire to gather more tax money is once again being sold to Venturans under the disguise of “keep funds local”.

A SMOKE SCREEN

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, several of these items, such as water supply, rivers, beaches, seniors, disabled and veterans are already being paid for by county, state and federal agencies.

Our Mayor has started a dialog to have the citizens believe this tax will help our aging water system and our pier.

Blow smoke on taxes

The mayor and Ventura City Council blow smoke about Ventura’s need for more taxes after consultants deliver voter poll findings.

This is an effort to deceive the voters into believing that more taxes are needed for our water system. Ventura Water Department, independent of the city general fund, maintains our water system to the tune of a recent 34% increase in water rates over that last two years. After a 34% increase in water rates, Ventura has the funds for our aging water system.

With regard to the pier, there is over one million dollars in the “pier fund” to repair the pier. The community needs to understand that the pier is protected with an insurance policy that will have it repaired. The policy calls for a onetime occurrence insurance with a $100,000 deductible for each major occurrence. The $1.0 million in the fund, which is money that came from the community, not the city budget, is available to pay this $100,000 deductible each time it is needed. Therefore, no part of the sales tax dollars is needed for the pier.

MORE TAXES ARE NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER

The other argument most often used to increase Sales Tax rates is that Ventura is lower than other cities, implying that Ventura is falling behind. The only two cities in Ventura County with an 8% sales tax rate are Oxnard and Port Hueneme. Aren’t both of these cities struggling with budget deficits? Los Angeles is at 9.00% for their sales tax. We cannot compare our needs to Los Angeles.

REVENUES ARE ALREADY UP

So let’s first discuss the need for more funds. The truth is that over the last 2 years, the City of Ventura property taxes have increased by 4.0% ($18,479,513 to $19,235,000). Also over the same two years, the City of Ventura sales tax revenue has increased by 9.5% ($16,134,075 to $17, 674,715). Therefore, revenues for the City of Ventura have continued to rise and as our new Mayor has said “we are living within our means and we have a balanced budget”.

WE HAVE THE REVENUE. IT’S A SPENDING PROBLEM.

Now let’s point to the real reason more taxes are being suggested. In 2015/2016, even after the employees’ contributions have been made, the employers’ contributions for the SEIU and Public Safety employees have increased from $15,061,523 to $16,079,104 for a net increase of $1,017,581. And, it is going to get worse.

Therefore, it does not look like the amount that the employees are contributing is keeping up with the cost, investment and the demand by the current and future retirees. Therefore, the percentage of the total city budget is continually going towards increased retirement costs and not services. Employees need to contribute a higher percentage toward their own retirement.

SO WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM?

Using our Mayor’s own words from his 2013 campaign:

Mayor Erik Nasarenko commissioned the voter poll on taxes.

1) When asked how you plan to pay for to improve streets, public safety, water resources, attracting new business, parks, schools and city services his answer was: “By growing the economy… the city must attract and retain businesses that will increase its sales tax base.”

2) When asked what the role of the city is to attract a better economic vitality and his answer was: “The city can bring economic vitality to Ventura by keeping it safe and clean, creating a business-friendly culture at city hall, making sensible, cost-effective loans to businesses, and by promoting trade and tourism both locally and globally”. There is nothing said here about increasing taxes upon the citizens further.

3) When asked whom he would represent, his answer was: “City residents.  Without whom, there would be no tax base—property, sales or otherwise—to provide the core services necessary to support the city”. You shouldn’t be promoting to increasing taxes upon your existing tax base when you have not first tried to introduce your plan for attracting and retaining business that will increase its sales tax base.

4) Where is the action that he promised such as: “As Councilmember, I would like to make Focus Area 1 a top priority, bringing to the Auto Center area a destination retail establishment, like a Bass Pro Shop, and possibly a hotel to support the Players Club casino.”

In our new Mayor’s own words, economic vitality through increasing the business base is the top priority. He led voters to believe that his position was to expand the tax base as a better alternative than increasing the tax rate. We should keep him to his word.

Editors:

R. Alviani,     K. Corse,    T. Cook
J. Tingstrom, R. McCord, S. Doll

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Last Chance To Oppose Higher Water Rates

Ventura Water aims to increase water rates unless citizens protest.

Act Now To Prevent Higher Water Rates!

Monday June 8th is your last day to act if you want to oppose an increase in water rates.  Your protest must be filed with the City Clerk before 6 PM.

On this Monday,  Ventura City Council will decide on whether to adopt the Ventura Water report , written by the Ventura Water General Manger, Shana Epstein.  Click the Report Button to read the full report.

Water Rate Incease Report from Ventura Water

Click on the Report button to access the Water Rates Increase Report

She proposes to raise your water rates. If you use more that 6 HCF in any billing period you will pay more.  If you use over 21 HCF, which is the average residential use in Ventura then will pay a lot more.  This new rate is intended to coerce compliance.

Today we have enough water to meet the needs of our community. Nobody questions the need for all citizens to make an effort to conserve now against potential future water shortages but most however question the need for our City to adopt coercive and punitive measures.

This community will come together to meet this challenge, but never under the lash of government.  If you wish to protest click on the protest icon.

Water Rate Increase Protest Form

Click on the Protest Button to access the Water Rates Increase Form.

Editors:

R. Alviani,     K. Corse,    T. Cook
J. Tingstrom, R. McCord, S. Doll

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