Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pension and Budget woes in Santa Barbara were Corruption is King

If you follow the manure meter as I do in local Politics it is very easy to decode. If the actual numbers do not build there case of hysteria they use percentage's I.E. crime is up 242% on Laguna Street . Translation 7 crimes were committed last month as apposed to 3 the previous month. So about a month ago I started wondering about our County budget woes and the blanket excuse that the poor economy and stock market performance was at the root of our problem. Yet no fund or stock was every reviled. A Good excuse since the whole Country is using that one. So than by chance 3 weeks ago the local President of the Santa Barbara County Tax Payers Association wrote in the Santa Barbara news press. He shared his concerns with our poor local economy and the County’s obligation to the Pension fund, but he never said it was a 2 billion dollar issue! Now of the 39 Million dollar budget short fall which last March was projected to only be 19 Million, the additional 19 Million was blamed on poor returns from investments and the Counties obligation to meet the pension funding requirements. So it is a 2 billion dollar elephant in the room? And if I read the reports right we are already at a 400 million dollar deficit than what kind of band aid is 19 million? The Daily Sound kept it’s report close to the vest like the Grand Jury report, while the news press never passed on information and where to get the data. Now compare the Grand Jury report below

VS. the report made by the County, there are too many contradictions to swallow.

Below is the guidelines used by our Pension Board

Now yes P.E.R.S. report is very similar in layout by our Counties but that does not mean it is an accurate portrayal of facts that are being presented for review. For example say you review a Billion Dollar corporation pension plan like Pacific Scientific: exact share value past and current and changes to portfolios are present for every avenue of investment or assets. It's over my head but than why have I been researching this for almost 4 weeks? Real quickly how can a ten year return of a positive 2.7% create a 25 percent decline in Value? Now P.E.R.S. ten year average was 6.6. Ok so the County's report fails to link Investment performance with management responsability why is that?

Ok lets review further on these budget woes and our District Attorneys office. In a letter dated August 29 2009 there was already in place a 2 year budget reduction for the District Attorneys office of over 1 million dollars, now that savings can actually be over 1.5 million since none of the positions vacated by the early retirement (Golden Parachute) are going to be filled. Oh wait maybe the District Attorney and our Board of Supervisors forgot this savings was already completed? So where there added service years that got handed out spiked as well? Spiking is a way of over loading your yearly salary so as to have it effect in a positive way on your retirement entitlements. So more on the pension concerns, 95% retirement salary benefit and the Grand Jury estimates 45 cents to benefits for every dollar spent in salary can that be true, HELL YES!

Let’s review past budgets for the Probation department. Please remember this is not blaming or mocking the fine Job done by that department or it's employees.

Character of Expenditures from 06-07 thru 08-09

Operating Expenditures

Regular Salaries 06-07 $ 2 0,499,388 07-08 adopted $ 2 1,437,735 07-08 actual $ 2 1,327,065 08-09 recommended $ 2 2,591,850

Benefits 06-07 $ 9,754,319 07-08 adopted $ 10,878,670 07-08 actual $ 10,315,939 08-09 recommended 11,911,780

Salaries & Benefits Sub-Total 06-07 $ 31,870,777 07-08 adopted $ 33,630,932 actual 07-08 $33,318,637 08-09 recommended $35,625,000

So upon review

We paid 22,591,850/salaries

And paid 11,911,780 in benefits for 08-09

over 50% of every tax dollars not used in a service directly benefiting society. Now wait a minute than why is the Public Defenders and District Attorneys budget only reflecting a modest 10 to 12 % range salary to benefits cost. Do as I did and go to County’s web page and review these 3 departments. Mind you over time is kept track of in its own ledger. Did you also notice that benefits were increased at a higher percentage than salaries for the years covered?

Larry “Magic” Mendoza”

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