Exposing Contra Costa County’s Pension Myths

Contra Costa Con Fire pension, CCCERA, proposed parcel taxDuring the current debate over a proposed parcel tax for Contra Costa Fire Protection District, firefighters and their allies have claimed that firefighters pay most, if not all, of their pension costs.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Based upon approved Employer contribution rates by the Contra Costa County Employees’ Retirement Association (CCCERA) Board of Trustees on October 12, 2011, Con Fire’s employer contribution rate, which is paid by the taxpayers, will be 49.56% of salary while firefighters will pay 15.14% of salary for fiscal 2012-13.

Firefighters claim they pay 9% of the Employer’s share, and while this is a technically correct statement, they fail to disclose all the facts. In late 2002 the Board of Supervisors approved the 2% at 55 for General members (2% of salary for each year worked), and 3% at 50 for Safety members (3% of salary for each year worked) enhanced retirement benefits.

As part of the agreement, General members received pay raises of 2%-3% per year while Safety members were granted four annual pay raises of 5% less a 2.25% deduction for retirement benefits. In other words, the Board of Supervisors gave the firefighters the raise to pay for those enhanced retirement benefits (See Board Resolution 2002/608 dated October 1, 2002).

The upcoming Pension Obligation Bond payment of $11.5 million comes directly from taxpayers through Con Fire’s property tax allocation.

Looking at the big picture, in 2010 all of CCCERA’s employers paid a total of $183,950,930 as their contribution into the retirement system while employees paid $64,330,484. Employers, and ultimately the taxpayers, paid 74.09% of all contributions (See CCCERA’s 2010 Actuarial Valuation, pg 71).

Management has known about the implosion of Con Fire’s finances for over three years, yet nothing has been done to fix the pension and employee benefit debacle. Based on Con Fire’s own financial projections, the proposed parcel tax is only a short term solution. By fiscal 2015-16, Con Fire will be back in the red and will need more of your tax dollars to maintain current service levels.

Instead of a parcel tax, what is needed is a serious discussion on how we solve Con Fire’s financial crisis. Until that is done and the union completely agrees to benefit and wage concessions, including a new retirement tier for new employees, any short term funding solution only allows them and current Supervisors to kick the can down the road.

~ Bill Pollacek, served as Contra Costa County Treasurer-Tax Collector, and is retired.

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Comments

  1. Wendy Lack says

    Firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and other Contra Costa employees have filed suit to forestall implementation of the Governor’s pension reforms.

    Today’s Sacramento Bee story states:

    “A leading pension reform advocate, Dan Pellissier, said Tuesday the legal challenges by labor unions expose a thousand-cuts strategy intended to eviscerate the law. He said they are seeking to undermine the law via judges and union-backed politicians.

    “‘The unions have been throwing a bunch of weak arguments at the wall and seeing which ones stick, hoping to give sympathetic decision-makers something to latch on to,’ he said.”

    Read the full story here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/02/14/5189503/labor-unions-move-to-challenge.html#mi_rss=Top Stories#storylink=cpy

    Following a provocative delay, this week the Governor announced that he has directed state Attorney General Kamala Harris to defend the new law.

    Questions:
    - If Harris had to receive a direct order before she would do her job, what level of effort will she bring to the task?

    - As Contra Costa’s essential services continue to erode because growing pension costs take more than their fair share from the budget, what actions will elected officials take to avoid bankruptcy? (Or is bankruptcy actually the Plan A we’re going for? If so, the sooner the better — let’s cut to the chase.)

    - Who will be first to seize upon the business opportunity of a lifetime: Selling privatized fire protection and emergency medical response services to California communities no longer able to afford public employees?

  2. says

    When I sent Bill’s article out to CoCoTAX members, Vince Wells of the firefighters union wrote back: ”
    This is a out right[sic] lie Kris!” Bill Pollacek responded with “Kris: Go to page 41 of agenda item 5 of the Oct 12, 2011 Board meeting (Contribution Rates for the Period July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013). The Con Fire Safety total employer contribution is 49.56%.

    Go to page V of the 12/31/2011 valuation and look at cost group #8 which is the Contra Costa and East County Fire Protection District. The average employee rate is 15.14% (remember we use entry age normal to calculate the employee’s rate when the join the system).

    Mr. Wells is trying to claim the firefighters are paying 9% of the employer’s share which is technically true, a fact I stated in the op-ed piece.

    But if you read Board resolution 2002/608 you will see they Con Fire Safety Members were given four annual raises of 5% less a 2.25% for retirement while General Members were getting 2%-3% per year. In other words, the BOS gave the safety members an additional higher COLA to pay part of the District’s Employer contribution.

    I stand by what I wrote. No matter what Mr. Wells tries to claim, the 9% came out of the taxpayer’s wallet through raises over and above what everyone else received.

    Everything I wrote in the op-ed is factual with the source document identified. I stand behind it.

    Before Mr. Wells begins calling people liars, he should at least take the time to get himself educated. If he is willing to debate the issue at a mutual agreed upon public meeting with the press present, so am I.

    You have my permission to forward my email response to Mr. Wells.

    Bill”

  3. Kris Hunt, CoCoTAX says

    Fix Pensions First! We did not see the firefighters in East County step forward to try and save their district. In fact, they put negotiations on hold until November and now Measure S did not pass, we did not see a rush to negotiate. We have not seen the details of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District contract that has taken 2 years to negotiate and that Vince Wells of 1230 says addresses the problems. Fire has yet to address the major problem that pensions, retiree health, and the payment of pension bonds plus interest means for their district.

    Fix Pensions First before you ask the residents of these districts to pay more of their hard-earned money.

    • VoterandTaxpayer says

      Thanks Kris, We have to keep the pressure on and the people informed. So many voters are uninformed about the debt they already owe. They have no idea that the Board of Supervisors sold bonds to make pension payments.

      These new taxes will not fix anything but the reduction of the peoples bank accounts. Stop this madness of mortgaging our childrens future away. Lets repair the damage and reform the out of control system the politicians have created that we cannot afford. No more taxes please.

  4. Kris Hunt, Executive Director says

    The Contra Costa Times came out today with an editorial opposing the ballot measure for the same reasons CoCoTAX does. Bottom line: fix things first before you go to the taxpayers for more money.

    • John says

      The Times Editorial says it like it is. Don’t come to me asking for money with promises of change. Political promises are unreliable. That is a proven fact.

      Fix the problem first, then come back and ask. Your actions will reveal your sincerity.

      No Bonds, No Taxes, No Promises

      Today, there are 110 million people on some type of federal assistance. I’m not, but I thinking about it everytime I go to work for those people. New taxes are not the answer.

    • says

      Sounds like public safety can be added to the list of those living off taxpayer assistance when they think they ought to get as much welfare as a department in San Mateo. This is self fulfilling salary inflation that Counties could easily say no to. And one day, a smart county will say no and dare overpaid public safety employees to go ahead and walk and test the market for bloated salaries. Then POOF, the whole house of cards will crumble. Guys like Vince Wells whining to LAFCO overplay their hand when 3500 people are willing to apply for each job. For 20% less.

  5. Johnnie Ballgame says

    “Parcel Tax is just a cup of coffee per day”

    I already give those clowns more than $200,000 per year and some more than $300,000 per year. Thus, I’ve already given those clowns multiple coffee franchises per year. But, you’re right, they deserve another cup of coffee per day because they’re STARVING HEROES!

    Those clowns should give ME a cup of coffee per day. In fact, those clowns should give me a luxury SUV, luxurious home in a wealthy community, luxurious vacation home, money to fund multiple side businesses, and a pension that would make the Sultan of Brunei feel guilty.

    • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette says

      I met a very nice family of clowns last week. Don’t insult clowns. Clowns work long hours for a living. The nice clown family was worn out after a day’s work. Firefighters do the same things stay at home parents do. Shop, cook, eat, watch TV, but without the screaming kids.
      So please use the word parasite, when describing overpaid public workers.

  6. Tell the Truth says

    @EastCountyToday- Seriously? There is so much wrong with your posts…I don’t have time to comment on all your inaccuracies.

    1. It’s not CoCo Tax’s responsibility to create a plan to fix ConFire’s massive pension problem. However, it is their responsibility to perform due diligence over proposed tax measures to ascertain endorsement, and then to inform us of any tax issues. They have more than adequately fulfilled their responsibilities.

    2. Frankly, I don’t know how the public can make any precise recommendation considering ConFire’s poor financial statement presentation, lack of disclosure, and lack of detailed information. For anyone to make any real assessment, the Treasurer/Auditor Controller would have to provide detailed transaction records to verify transactions and to detect waste. (I’m sure no one independent of the ConFire has performed a forensic audit. I believe one is necessary to determine potential savings).

    3. Pension Reform is critical for ConFire and all around this state. Every parcel tax that is essentially paying for Pension Obligation Bonds and subsidizing retirement costs has everything to do with pension reform and the lack of pension reform is a very good reason for denying support.

    4. You seem to think there is no problem. So tell me, do you know the unfunded liability to date? CalPERs rate of return was a dismal 1% for the year ended June 30, 2012…so what was ConFire’s rate of return? There is no possible way that the increased contributions by fireman and the ConFire will bail anyone out. Drastic Measures are necessary to fix this situation.

    5. You say CoCo Tax has not provided reform ideas…well I have some. Eliminate Pensions completely for new fireman until the unfunded liability has been eliminated and the bonds paid off. As soon as the parcel tax fails…file bankruptcy and work out its debts.
    Layoff and close stations…yes close stations. Don’t worry…Chevron has their own fire department like all other oil refineries. To the extent there is a huge fire, ConFire can contract with CalFire, and neighboring Counties.

    6. CoCo Tax should not remove non union workers from the $100k club because all fire department employees, union or not, are PAID OUT OF THE SAME PENSION. Nonunion workers, typically have the higher salaries…the higher the salary the more they are sucking out of the Pension at rates that far exceed their contributed amounts.

    7. You can argue all you want about contributions 3%/50, 2% 55..it doesn’t really matter when those were implemented. The bottom line is there is a CASH BURN RATE for ConFIRE’s Pension. No matter what contributions are or were, no matter what salary benefits are or were decided, one day very soon the Pension will be depleted to ZERO.

  7. Bruce R. Peterson Lafayette says

    My neighbors with 9 bedroom, 9 bathroom homes, with acres of vegetation will be charged the same fire tax as a 1 bedroom 1 bathroom Condo with little or no vegetation. What is fair about that?
    Apartment rentals get taxed half price. Each unit.
    Obviously poor people can’t buy puppet politicians or their media parrots.
    Would you firefighters reading & commenting, please contact the City of Lafayette, about their fire hazards. The worst fire hazard is just north of Station 17. The City Manager ignores me. His e-mail is [email protected]
    Since all government agencies support each others tax hikes, I suspect this obvious fire hazard will be torched, for propaganda purposes, to show how fast the firefighters respond. A wreck torched this area in the past.

  8. Tough Love says

    Quoting …”Instead of a parcel tax, what is needed is a serious discussion on how we solve Con Fire’s financial crisis. Until that is done and the union completely agrees to benefit and wage concessions, including a new retirement tier for new employees, any short term funding solution only allows them and current Supervisors to kick the can down the road.”

    No. What is needed is a 50% reduction in the pension accrual rate for future service for CURRENT (yes CURRENT) workers.

  9. John says

    When your local government gives away the store and knows it, people become concerned. I have yet to hear of a blanket prorated reduction in pay or pensions through the county so everyone shares the budget burden equally. To see this information about the 129 million in debt attracts my attention because it affects the entire county’s ability to provide every day services. More importantly, to see the BOS sell bonds just for the fire district to make the pension payments is pretty scary. That’s just like a homeowner charging on a credit card to pay their house payment. As time goes forward the district will eventually have to take more from its operating budget to feed the pensions resulting in fewer services. This does not appear to be anything to do with a firefighter issue; it’s all about management and spending. The people have two choices. First they can keep digging in their bank accounts to pay for the overspending and charging or stop the spiraling debt by not providing more dollars to overspend with.
    Just the between ECCFP & Con Fire there is 160,000,000.00 million dollars owed for firefighters pensions. Both of those districts have spent their reserves too. Doesn’t this number concern the taxpayers? Something needs serious change and it’s not making the public pay more just to delay the inevitable. Maybe it’s time the unions rethink who they endorse before the pension fund collapses.

    • says

      When the fund goes belly up and defaults I don’t believe the voters will have any sympathy for fire union members who will lose jobs if only they actually compromised when they could instead of soaking the taxpayers. But that time could be past us now.

  10. Johnnie Ballgame says

    To everyone who says the BOS is the only guilty party,

    YOU’RE WRONG.

    All firefighters have become experts in government finance, salaries, benefits, and pensions. All firefighters have also become experts in propaganda.

    Firefighters KNEW that they were demanding salaries, benefits, and pensions that the county could NOT afford and were OBSCENE.

    Firefighters used political bullying and propaganda to get those UNAFFORDABLE AND OBSCENE salaries, benefits, and pensions.

    Firefighters KNEW that TAXPAYERS would be stuck with an astronomical debt for those UNAFFORDABLE AND OBSCENE salaries, benefits, and pensions.

    Just say NO to greedy, selfish, and childish firefighters.

  11. Vince Wells says

    I know this is one the most biased blogs in the county, but finally, I have taken the bait. I’m gonna get in and out though. At least I’ll try. You don’t run for my position if you don’t like or can’t handle a good debate. Be easy on me though, will ya.

    The pension cost have increased and I will not argue that at all. The stock market took a huge dive and that is the results. The great depression was called that due to the magnitude of the impact it had on the economy and the working American. Nobody should look at this without an expectation of seeing catastrophic impacts. Pension cost are part of that. The employer rates are based on the returns.
    Mr Pollacek brings up the deal made by Safety Employees to get the 3%@50 benefit . Yes he is right, raises were given to the employees with a portion of those raises going to the employee and to the retirement contribution. How long is that good for? Any one who does contract negotiations knows that the deal made in one year is only good for that year. If we never get another raise for the next 15 years, is saying that we got a raise to get a deal in 2002 still even relevant? Especially when you look at your pay compared to other like employees with the same or better benefits and you are way below the average. So in my opinion saying that we were given raises to get a benefit 10 years ago says nothing about the value of the benefit today. When at the bargaining table, deals made in the past are always forgotten, see contract impositions!
    Let me entertain that comment though. We took a 10% pay cut last year so now what?

    So, on to another common topic on this site. Do you need as many fire fighters or not? I say we are way short and that the community will suffer with less. I am not going to argue that with you though, you can decide. When you look at what has happened to the cities who have cut their police forces significantly, you can see the increase in crime. Nobody in this state has done this to their fire department yet, except for East County. The impacts are being realized as we speak.
    The efforts being brought forward to not fund your fire departments will turn this county into “burn town USA”. As fire fighters, we love the adrenalin, and most young firefighters love to run calls. We will still go, we will just get there later and they will be bigger. People make it seem like voting the tax down punishes the fire fighters or the fire district. How is that the case? If we lay off fire fighters, then yes we don’t like to see that happen, but realistically, there are plenty of fire departments that are hiring. Most communities realize the importance of having a staffed fire department, so despite the high media charge against us, most communities have not fallen to believing that fire services are not needed like many have in this county. Business and property owners expect to have the necessary protection when they consider moving to an area. Many who commute and who have children, or other family, rely on the 911 system to be there when they are out of town working. Again, Contra Costa County is taken a different approach. The pension battle grounds of San Diego and San Jose, or Stockton, have not taken the extreme measures that we have seen in East County “in the name of Pension Reform”. They have maintained their fire departments through their efforts.

    A yes or no vote will not address pension reform, it will only determine service level. The taxes currently collected for fire services will not go down if the tax measure fails, you will just be getting less for your money. We will do our best with the resources the district can afford, but the quality of life in the county will be significantly less. When you live in the hills of Walnut Creek or Martinez and you call 911 as that grass fire is moving up that hill toward your property, or if you have a loved one who is pronounced dead on scene, or you are tied up in traffic because it takes us forever to clear the roadway, or mitigate an emergency that interupts your day, you can consider what 75 dollars would have gotten you. After my heavy involvement with Measure S in East County, I know what it means when the people have spoken. Hopefully, they do speak, and they are well informed. It is ashame when life safety measures are cut off and people don’t realize it until it is too late. I hope we get over 70% of a voter turnout on such a critical issue.
    Again, a yes or no vote has no impact on pension reform.

    This is not our tax measure, but as a person on the front line, I highly recommend it!

    • Bruce R, Peterson, Lafayette says

      Thanks for all of the info Vince. I have fire extinguishers for inside my house & water hoses with nozzles outside. Now can you tell me how I can get the City of Lafayette to get rid of their fire hazards in my neighborhood? All I get back from them is lame excuses. The fire people give me a robot to talk to. The City keeps the grass perfect for their favorite special interest group. Most of he rest of their land is left untouched.
      I have found this site to be the only source of information that isn’t biased toward higher taxes.

    • Ken Hambrick says

      Vince,

      Since you only respond 3.3% of the time to fire calls, how can you say with a straight face, defeat of the tax “will turn this county into “burn town USA”. We need affordable fire coverage and we are not getting it. I will take a chance on a fire at my home with the closure of half the fire stations and the layoff of half the over compensated firefighters.

      If you would agree with a 20% reduction to salaries and pensions no stations would have to be closed and no one laid off. And your firefighter would still have salaries and pensions that are at least twice as hogh oft most private sector employees.

      I was in the County Grand Jury in 2002 when the 3@50 was granted. We went to the Board of Supervisors meeting and told them that they couldn’t afford to do it. They thumbed their noses at us just as you are on salary and pension reductions.

    • Tell the Truth says

      Vince, A “yes” and “no” vote will influence pension reform within ConFire. A yes vote will keep everyone in denial and delay pension reform. A no vote will cause ConFire to face reality and have no choice but to implement pension reform. The Community pays for fire services…we meet our end of the bargain by paying our taxes…now ConFire needs to meet its end of the bargain by providing adequate essential services. Otherwise, I see grounds for a lawsuit.

  12. Voter8024 says

    Let’s put the blame right where it belongs. Board of Supervisors , Contra Costa. Just the knowledge of this crisis without action is deemed as malice by the board. Their cozy game of tennis with the union is obscene and grotesque. A recall action or a vote of no confidence for the crooked bunch. Anyone who plays into the cry wolf by Mary Piepho and her self-serving moves needs to throw it right back at them to do the job with the people in mind and not themselves. East County Fire is about out and Con Fire is not far behind. We would be better off contracting out and end this fiasco. We need to make real changes before people unnecessarily die because of the special interest games. It will not be the voters fault either. Selling bonds to make future pension payments, that is so irresponsible. Then ask for a tax because you spent that, it will never end until the people stand up and stop the nonsense.

  13. Wendy Lack says

    This impassioned speech by a Colorado citizen equally applies to the ConFire Parcel Tax:

    Renters will pay this tax via higher rents, just as all consumers will pay it via higher prices.

    And, of course, homeowners will pay the tax twice: 1) Directly, via property tax bills; and 2) Via higher prices as the tax is passed along to consumers by retailers.

  14. Bruce R. Peterson Lafayette says

    You people here @ this site are really nice. The Lamo Patch suspends comments from anybody who disses them. Maybe East CountyToday wants more people to look at his stuff. Whatever that might be.

    • Wendy Lack says

      @EastCountyToday:

      “The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.” ~Ayn Rand

    • says

      There is my response Billy and Wendy… Wendy, please stop being a parrot to Kris Hunt. Think for yourself for once.

      Love Mike

      Its round two in the pension fight as the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association is attacking the firefighter’s pension using the same dirty tricks against CONFIRE as they used against our firefighters in ECCFPD. This time, the lies about their so-called $100k Pension Club have now caught up with them as this yearlong battle of lies has now been exposed by their own oversight.

      For starters, in a debate that should be about operational money to keep stations open, CoCo Tax and opponents of the $75 parcel tax continues to change the topic to pension reform. They used this same tactic in East County to try and force pension reform as the ultimate reason to vote no. Once the Measure S failed, we haven’t heard a peep out of CoCo Tax or have seen any proposal for pension reform—they disappeared while firefighters were laid off and three stations were closed.

      The only solution CoCo Tax had was closing three stations while saying no to a tax.

      Imagine the most recent Richmond fire at Chevron if that had happened in Martinez, Pittsburg or somewhere else, there would be 7-10 fewer stations to respond. When an incident overwhelms their internal resources, don’t they feel the surrounding communities should have the resources to back them up? CoCo Tax apparently doesn’t feel this is necessary.

      Like I stated above, these anti-tax folks not interested in your public safety or discussions about responses to disasters like Chevron, they are interested in pension reform because it’s the only thing that can and will defeat the Measure. With that said, Bill Pollacek and Ms. Hunt should have chatted before his piece yesterday because he mistakenly exposed her lies while trying to make his point about a pension problem.

      For the last year, Kris Hunt and CoCo Tax talked about pensions being the enemy and vilified the 3@50, however, yesterday via Halfway to Concord, they posted a piece written by Bill Pollacek which explained that 3@50 did not occur until 2002. If people pay attention to what he just wrote, it disproves Ms. Hunt’s “$100k Pension Club” was caused by 3@50 which only applies to rank and file–or simply put, firefighters driving around in engines.

      Mr. Pollacek writes

      In late 2002 the Board of Supervisors approved the 2% at 55 for General members (2% of salary for each year worked), and 3% at 50 for Safety members (3% of salary for each year worked) enhanced retirement benefits.

      As part of the agreement, General members received pay raises of 2%-3% per year while Safety members were granted four annual pay raises of 5% less a 2.25% deduction for retirement benefits. In other words, the Board of Supervisors gave the firefighters the raise to pay for those enhanced retirement benefits (See Board Resolution 2002/608 dated October 1, 2002).
      Mr. Pollacek thinks he is pretty clever here, but let me break this down what really happened. This 5% pay raise is misleading because they didn’t see half of their raise because it went directly into their retirement–this is on top of their 26% they already pay.

      More to the point, this deal was done 10 years ago which means 3@50 would not really even be effecting pensions at this time which is CoCo Tax big elephant in the room that can now be refuted as a non-conversation starter. Firefighters have already agreed to a 10% pay cut which also reduces the strain on this so called pension problem.

      You see, Kris Hunt and her supporters likes to bring up this so called “$100k Pension Club” for CONFIRE which is roughly 200 former employees as a way to force pension reform as the topic of discussion as opposed to operational budget to keep station open. She claims 3@50 is the problem, but when you break down her list, 3@50 did not apply to a majority of folks on this list—meaning 3@50 is not the problem!

      If the Taxpayers Association would like to be honest in their debate, they would remove anyone who is non-union from this list which would include Chiefs, Administration, and anyone who retired under the old pension rules. This would also mean they need to remove anyone who retired prior to 2002.

      By being honest and fully disclosing the truth, you have greatly reduced the $100k pension club under 3@50.

      Now take it a step closer and remove the employees (Chiefs) who work for other districts and have been depooled and have nothing to do with CONFIRE or the unions—essentially have no relationship to CONFIRE. This is Ms. Hunts and Mr. Borensteins of the Contra Costa Times dirty little secret they never care to share in their arguments.

      At this point, you now have a shallow pool to work from during a debate.

      So while CoCo tax loves to talk about pension reform, ultimately 3@50 in 2002 and moving people to that formula was a way to close the loopholes which folks were able to take advantage of the system. It closed the gaps in legal maneuvering, reduces pension spiking, overtime being calculated in pensions, highest paid year as part of the formula, they have been closed for the most part.

      The factors which largely contributed to the six-figure pensions that CoCo Tax are already gone through negotiations over the years. The union and the county already closed what they are complaining about—the loopholes are closed! While it’s not perfect, both sides have been working within the law to make further changes.

      Local 1230 already agreed to a 10% salary reduction and second tier for new hires—this will reduce the pension obligation in the future.

      Point blank, the pension spiking components and opportunity to maximize on those components have been removed for many years now, unfortunately, it takes years to see the results and many years for the critics to acknowledge these important steps.

      But what is stunning is while it has been explained numerous of times, CoCo Tax continues to play dumb and attack pensions. It’s almost as if they want the Board of Supervisors and Local 1230 to break the law based on a philosophical belief.

      For example, take what transpired at the last CCCFPD Meeting with the Board of Supervisors.

      Gioia:We need to be 100% accurate here (about pension reform). There is 1 of 2 ways for change.

      1. Negotiate with union and union agrees to having prospective service under lower pension tier. All it takes is 1 or 2 members who disagree and they can sue and it falls apart. Means union cant bargain change.
      2. In case of those members who want to change going forward (volunteer), we are prevented from doing that from IRS.

      Gioia: Vince can correct me, but I would bet firefighters would agree to that. But Federal Law prevents us from that. So its really important for the public to realize this is a change under State and Federal Law. We are trying to get the most we can get by working together.

      Anderson: Explained again how she has been exploring this with the IRS and a decision is coming that may address this problem

      Piepho: We have been waiting for that same IRS decision for 5 years. We keep waiting and waiting.
      The real goal of CoCo Tax appears not to be actual pension reform because they would already be hard at work in East County on this after Measure S, but rather the elimination of pension all together.

      So while CoCo tax uses pensions as the main tactic to defeat the $75 measure, they want to put little fires on pensions here and there as a distraction to voters to create emotional appear to vilify the firefighters. If they were serious about pension reform, they would have provided an actual plan within the last year of fighting local 1230!

      According to Kris Hunt during the last CCC Fire meeting, she is a financial guru, but has failed to provide any sort of financial plan, mock contract, a proposed service model adjustment, or a spreadsheet of how the District could save money. Heck, Supervisor Glover gave the Taxpayer Association homework which they failed to turn it in.

      Since none of these documents were ever submitted or discussed in public during Measure S, or over the last few months with CONFIRE, I stand by my observation she and her organization is not interested in actual pension reform, but the elimination of pensions all together.

      If there is no end goal to eliminate pensions by CoCo Tax., then I ask to see their plan once and for all and stop with the games because for a group who is backed by the oil companies, you would think they would want as much firefighters available to protect the oil supply during a fire.

      After all, should Chevron or refineries go up in flames, bye-bye profits and bye-bye CoCo Tax and their main source of funding is gone.

      Enough with this pension talk because its off-topic and nothing more than a distraction since its is not on the ballot. The only issue on the ballot is operational monies which ensures ten stations remain open and ensures services are not reduced.

    • says

      Although Mike and Vince wobbly paint any opposition to a $75 parcel tax as evil, jackbooted, anti-pension straw men crushing the necks of poor fireman, the true picture that is emerging is that the parcel tax will fail in November as the pubic has become increasingly aware of the failure of elected leadership to exercise ANY due diligence, correct bad ideas and policy, including financial decisions, and its increasing political cover for political allies, not to mention overly generous pay, benefits, and, of course pensions and retiree healthcare costs.

      The facts speak for themselves. The current rising parabolic cost arc for these services is unsustainable. County Supervisors have been kicking the can down the street for a decade. Calls for fiscal sanity meet bureaucratic “Can’t Do”, intractable union demands, a sense of entitlement, character assassination, and sneering outcry against citizens and taxpayers that question the increasingly unacceptable mission of government to serve its interests and allies against the people who pay the bills.

      Do we need efficient fire services, Yes.
      Do fireman deserve adequate pay, Yes.
      Do fireman deserve sensible pensions, Yes.
      Should fire service costs be better managed, Yes.
      Should current levels of benefits, salaries, and pensions be lowered, Yes.
      Were costs contained and services right-sized, spiraling debt under control, could a parcel tax be an option? Sure.

      Have Supervisors done nothing about the core issues in the past decade except to incur more debt? Yes.

      Thats what the parcel tax debate has become, and the merits on which it will be decided.

    • says

      Nice Billy… remove my link and simply copy and paste. Class act you are tweaking comments. Are you afraid people might leave this site in search of real fact and figures?

    • says

      Reciprocal links work both ways, rookie. Besides, simply from a good business standpoint, I don’t link to PR1 sites that nobody reads or links to. Maybe five years from now after you do some real work and get to a PR3. Good luck.


      PageRank

    • TaxDog says

      East County Today,
      You are an idiotic moron with your lame excuses and bla bla posts. You probably do not own a home therefore do not pay property taxes, you are unqualified to direct any conclusions about the pension debt, your site is a joke, and the more you chime in the more people see your information is baseless and only opinionated to glorify the peoples ass that you kiss. This only means you waste everyone’s time so you can get some kudos from the special interest influenced politicians like Frazier, Piepho, and the others that are self servant to themselves. Are you bored talking with yourself on your site that you have to come here to get educated?

  15. Johnnie Ballgame says

    Laughter is the best medicine.

    Firefighter: “You want answers?”

    Taxpayer: “I want the truth!”

    Firefighter: “You can’t handle the truth!”

    [pauses]

    Firefighter: “Taxpayer, we live in a world that has fires, and those fires have to be extinguished by men and women with hoses. Whose gonna do it? You? You, other Taxpayer? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for lower taxes, and you curse our chili cookouts. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That our obscene salaries, overtime, benefits, and pensions, while immoral, probably saved my vacation home in Lake Tahoe. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, provides jobs for those who clean my houses and wash my cars. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at unemployment and foreclosure support groups, you want to be, you need to be me, because you’re unemployed and your house is in foreclosure. We use words like overtime orgy, pension spiking, free taxpayer-paid gas for our personal vehicles. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending our obscene salaries, overtime, benefits, and pensions. You use them as a cry for mercy. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a taxpayer who rises and sleeps under the unaffordable illusion of public safety that I provide, and then questions the compensation I extort from you to provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a ladder, and rescue a kitten stuck in a storm drain. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

    Taxpayer: “Did you screw the taxpayers?”

    Firefighter: “I did the job I…”

    Taxpayer: “Did you screw the taxpayers?”

    Firefighter: “You’re Goddamned right I did!”

    • Guy Bjerke says

      Regardless of your position on this issue, you’ve got to admire the effort taken to adapt Aaron Sorkin’s script into this comment. Kudos!

  16. Tell the Truth says

    I would argue that Management knew of the ConFire implosion for more than 3 years since the reason for selling the Pension Obligation Bonds was to fund their $125 million+ unfunded liability as of December 31, 2004.

    It is incredibly disturbing that the Union has such a stronghold on the County to continue the absurd contributions of salary to the pension, especially since the taxpayers are left paying retirement costs and getting NOTHING in return.

    You mentioned we need to come up with solutions. Bankruptcy is what I would first recommend to work out its debts, contracts, and implement a RIF (reduction in force). Secondly, is it possible that we can rid of ConFIRE and instead contract with CALFIRE? (I’ve seen some cities in California rid of their fire department and instead rely on CalFire to provide services.)

    How about we start a volunteer fireman program? How about we have our cities step in and provide fire prevention education. How about we rid of the Pension completely for all new employees? I’m sure in this economy we can find some competent fireman willing to work for a decent wage and without a pension.

    • Kris Hunt, Executive Director says

      To Tell the Truth: it is painfully obvious what was happening and it was duly noted in the annual county budget. They lamenting the impact of not replacing vehicles, the Chief called the pensions unsustainable, etc.

      ConFire spent more than they took in in FY2007-08 when they had their highest revenue year! ConFire created its own fiscal emergency by continuing to spend down its reserves. Bad government practices should not be rewarded with your vote.

  17. Jack Tachspeyr says

    The solution starts by going back, retroactively, to the pre-2002, pre “enhanced” pension benefits. Then the solution continues by requiring firefighters to pay at least 50% of the costs for their pensions. Finally, firefighters should never have been allowed to unionize. Public sector unions, especially for public safety employees, should be outlawed.

    Once firefighters return their allegiance to the citizens, instead of to their labor unions, and once their pay and benefits are reduced to fair and affordable levels, they can go back to being the heroes they once were.

  18. says

    I am deeply concerned that fire departments are responding to non-fires. Please check the stats. The answer is clear or it should be. We need more paramedics to be trained and an increase in trained paramedic units. Stop the fire officers from responding to non-fires.
    That is so simple and obvious.
    Please review this wasteful practice of fire officers responding to non-fires. It is ridiculously wasteful and has already created a slippery slope of failure.

    • Ken Hambrick says

      Only 3.3% 9f ConFire’s responses are for fire. They should not go on the 70% that have no realation to fire, auto accidents, etc. We could close half the stations and lay off half the firefighters and have plenty of money even with the atrocious salaries and pensions ConFire has.

      I read in the Times today that with the closing of the stations in East County fire the response time has jumped by half a minute. Well jeepers creepers!

    • says

      Well Kenny K…

      if the CC Times would do their job for a change, you would know the Chief did not provide all the calls into his report (apparently some of the data is not yet available). Calls that were low priority/non-responsive were not included for whatever reason. Look for response times to jump another minute or so.

      I wrote about the meeting in greater detail than the Times… but Billy G will probably delete the link and copy and paste so look me up, I am not that hard to find considering my name on here.