THE FLEECING OF VENTURA
On July 26th the Ventura County Star published an article about the deplorable conditions of the public pension plans in Ventura. The Ventura Grand Jury labeled these city pension plans as headed for disaster — an out of control cost [They actually said “uncontrollable cost”]. To see how out of control the one in Ventura is see the October, 2008 issue of Res Publica, which provided an in depth analysis of just how much unfunded debt exists because of the lavish pension plans given to public employees by the City Council. We republish some of that article here as a reminder to our citizens when they go to the polls in November.
(c) THE FIREFIGHTER PENSION
In a vote of 4 to 3 the council approved the Memorandum of Agreement and the new pension contract with the firefighters of this city giving them a pension equal to 3% of their highest salary times the number of years in service plus all medical, dental, the same plan received by policemen. The yeas were Councilmen Fulton, Brennan, Summers and Monahan. The neighs were Mayor Weir, Councilmen Andrews and Morehouse who stated just before his “NO” vote — “I HAVE GRAVE CONCERNS TO COMMIT WHEN WE DON’T KNOW WHERE THE FUNDS WILL COME FROM”.
I have grave concerns to commit when we don’t know where the funds will come from.
In our August 2008 letter and postscript letter titled “IN THE SHADOW OF VALLEJO”. We posed a hypothetical retirement scenario — a fireman goes to work for the department at age 20, works 35 years and retires at the age of 55 earning a salary of $100,000 per year. The adopted increase now provides that he/she will receive 3% of their salary in their last year of employment multiplied by the number of years of service. So he/she will retire earning $105,000. [$100,000 x 3% = $3,000 x. 35 = $105,000].
Since that publication Councilman Summers, who is up for reelection in November, pointed out that we need to make some “minor corrections”. We quote from his letter:
In the example it indicates that an employee has the ability to retire and receive 105% of their annual salary. Regardless of the time of service and age at retirement, the program is capped at 90% of the eligible salary. The example also includes add-back for accrued sick leave and vacation. The City’s formula does not include any add backs, the formula uses only the base salary. It is the County’s formula that includes add backs…(in addition)…unfortunately the assumption of a 30-year future obligation per employee is incorrect, the average life expectancy of a public safety employee is 7 years from retirement”.
We do not know what source Councilman Summers uses for this remarkable revelation that firefighters retiring at age 55 are projected to live only 7 years. His assertion is nonsense and not supported by any credible source. Further, when he and the other profligate four argued that “the increase was only 1%, it in fact was an increase from 2% to 3%, which is a 33 1/3% increase in the retirement plan. So what is the reality? We have less money now than we did in October, 2008. This City Council has led us into a sea of red ink — $294,673,595 as of April, 2009, yet our Council and the public safety unions ask us to pretend that this not a problem. Instead they want more money in the form of new taxes. Here is an example of what we now have to pay just 15 retired folks yearly for the rest of their lives — $1,707,086.
|Mike Tracy*||$ 186,902|
|Jim Walker||$ 110,570|
|* Retired Chief of Police. Running for City Council|
More recently we learned that our present Chief of Police, Pat Miller and Fire Chief Mike Lavery would retire. Why did they push so hard for an increase in the retirement benefits in October, 2008 ? Well Duhh ! Thank you Councilmen Fulton, Brennan, Summers and Monahan.
More recently Councilman Fulton announced that the City was going to appoint a committee to examine the public pension plan. Let us hope against hope that they don’t pack it with FOCs like they did the Blue Ribbon Committee, and that they read the Res Publica analysis of April 2009, which concluded that the pension plan is headed on the same path as the City of Vallejo – Federal Bankruptcy.
Councilman Neal Andrews has advocated for a change. in this area, and has published a lengthy memo on the subject:
“Immediately abandon the compensation formula that essentially forces us to mimic the weakest and most incompetent policymakers in other communities. Today we promise to compensate our employees at approximately the average level of other communities, though we sometimes count the highest paid three times as heavily as others. This is an artificial and arbitrary benchmark. We should instead adopt a clear policy of compensating at a level adequate to provide a sufficient workforce with the high level of competence we want in them.
Adopt a two-tier retirement system that provides a guaranteed contribution to the retirement plan for all new employees, instead of the current guaranteed benefit program. This would not change a thing for current employees, but over time it would significantly reduce the volatility of our budgets by stabilizing a major element of our financial liability. This is the same type of retirement program offered today by most of the private sector.”
Councilmembers FULTON and MONAHAN deflect any criticism and defend the retirement plan by saying the decision to raise pension benefits was deferred. When questioned, they cannot recall when the motion or official action was made, do not recall who recommended delaying the firefighters retirement plan increase or just what happened. They act as if this is a non-issue. For your information councilmen, the pension increase which you approved in October 2008, has NOT been rescinded or modified.
B. Alviani S. Doll J. Tingstrom
K. Corse B. McCord T. Cook
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