Letters (Dec 17, 2014)

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FOLLOW THE LAW, PA

Dear Dr. Superintendent Tichinin,

I am also emailing this to Mr. Galletti because I would like him to be in the loop when he steps up to the plate to take over the reins since this has been an extremely controversial subject.

On the December 10th Board of Trustees Meeting of the Point Arena School District Board: I believed and continue to believe the board has misinterpreted your memo to them because they are not reading Resolution 03-102 properly.

After listening to the board minutes on tape I know the board is not clear on exactly how this resolution should be implemented and I believe you need to assure they are following the resolution and the California Education Code as it was proposed in 2004.

Everything I attach below comes exactly from the resolution. Some of which, as stated, they have not complied with and it does not have to do with special reserve (as President Miles misinterpreted at the meeting in thinking this is what I was stating) because they currently do not have a special reserve.

Also, Dr. Cross stated at the meeting “the revenues are kept separate but the expenses are out of one budget.” However, under the Resolution and Education Code it specifically and clearly states, “the districts shall meet the requirements of Education Code 35111(d) including but not limited to, the adoption of resolution authorizing the specific transfers and publication of general fund income and expenses of each district and the amount transferred between each district.”

Her statement is incorrect. I have discussed this with the retired clerk of the board who was present when this resolution was drafted. She specifically stated that when a district needs funds they had to draw up a resolution showing just cause to transfer the funds and the amount. She went on to state, “if it were not done this way it would be a unified school which was not in the resolution and would have to go to a vote.”

Again, I hope you will take action in assuring that Resolution No 03-102 is complied with by Superintendent Cross and this board.

Respectfully,

Suzanne L. Rush

Attached: Superintendent Paul Tichinin's memo to the Board of Trustees states, “It is my clear and official opinion, that since July 1, 2004, the Arena Union Elementary School District and the Point Arena Union High School District are, by Resolution #03-102 and under California Education Code 35110, a single district which maintains a single budget, by law. The single district number is 23-76349.”

I believe his statement is somewhat misleading. The resolution in 2004 (which did not have to go before the voters) stated, “…the elementary and the high school shall continue to be treated as separate school districts for purposes of computing state apportionments and allowances and for allocations of property tax revenues'. Unification did not take place with the above resolution.

However, I wonder why Superintendents Tichinin, Cross or the board were not aware of this resolution? There are a few members of the board who served under Superintendent Iacuaniello whom should have been aware of this. I made a call to the State Department of Education and was informed the waiver to combine budgets took place in 2004. It took me five minutes to find this information in August.

According to the above mentioned Education Code it also states: “When a governing board has adopted a resolution pursuant to Section 35110, the school districts under its jurisdiction shall publish annually, in a newspaper of local circulation the general fund income and expenses of both districts.” This has not occurred since I have been coming to board meetings so this district is currently not in compliance with the California Education Code.

Although the budgets were joined it was limited because under this resolution there was the need to keep revenues and expenses separately identified in the budget and general ledger. Under the California Education Code it is also necessary for the governing board to adopt a resolution authorizing specific transfers between the schools. In other words if the elementary should require funds the board would have to approve a resolution showing just cause to transfer the funds.

The expense by the district office staff, district's legal counsel, the ICO's expense to have a reporter present to report on the district's useless information not to mention the communities time of approximately five to six hours to deliberate on this was completely unnecessary for a district who can ill afford to spend this money when it should have been put to better use — in the classrooms!

Suzanne Rush

Manchester

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DEFERRED COMPENSATION

To the Editor:

Regarding Mendocino County Board of Supervisors agenda item (5c) for their meeting on December 9 — the discussion and possible action on deferred compensation — the public should know the following: Deferred compensation plans do little to benefit the county’s rank and file workers. They spend their paychecks. Few workers save. They can't save. They don't get paid much.

Regardless, Mendocino County does not match an employee's contributions for the vast majority of its workforce who are rank and file.

But, hey. Wait a minute. That part about the county not matching an employee's contributions to a deferred compensation plan isn't true for the county's managers, department heads, and attorneys. Right?

Right!

In the MOUs that the bargaining units for managers, department heads, and attorneys respectively negotiated with Mendocino County, managers get up to 3% of their salary matched dollar for dollar by the county, department heads get 4% matched dollar for dollar by the county, and attorneys get 4% matched dollar for dollar by the county.

The point is the county's workers, who are not managers, department heads, or attorneys, get no match. No match for rank and file.

Nothing. Zilch.

And these matches aren't chump change. For 2014, the law allowed employees to contribute pre-tax dollars up to $17,500 per plan year with an additional amount of $5,500 for employees age 50 and over. For 2015, Employees may contribute pre-tax dollars up to $18,000 per plan year with an additional amount of $6,000 for employees age 50 and over. There is also a pre-retirement catch-up plan.

Add it all together and the contributions in the county's deferred compensation plans total $28 million.

Not chump change. And a nice perk for the county's managers, department heads, and attorneys.

The public should know that Mendocino County currently offers three “457” deferred compensation plans to its employees. The current vendors are Mass Mutual, Nationwide, and Valic. As of June 30, a total of 281 employees currently contribute. And again, the asset balance for all three plans is more than $28 million. The three vendors take about 1.5% a year for their trouble, which is probably why Supervisor Dan Gjerde brought agenda item 5(c) to the December 9th meeting. Maybe having CalPERS managing this money would be better and cheaper. Higher investment returns. Lower fees.

What else do we know about deferred compensation plans?

We know that records for Bay Area counties show that Alameda County grossly abuses deferred compensation plans. They're in a league all by themselves. Shame on them. We’ll get to Alameda County in a second.

Regarding other Bay Area counties, except for San Francisco, which refused to release deferred compensation and pension data, the other Bay Area counties show they paid considerably less in deferred compensation than Alameda County. Four counties — San Mateo, Marin, Solano and Santa Cruz — made no such payments. Others, including Contra Costa and Sonoma, offered deferred compensation to rank-and-file employees in amounts ranging from $130 to $1,020.

It is unclear how many county governments statewide pay deferred compensation to top office holders. More than half of California’s counties have yet to respond to public records requests for the data. The State of California’s Association of Counties doesn’t track such payments.

Deferred compensation, when abused, means that a county’s insiders are quietly reaping a rare and lucrative government benefit: taxpayer-funded contributions into special “deferred compensation” accounts that give the county's managers, department heads, and attorneys another public pension.

Deferred compensation, when abused, can be a highly unusual arrangement that allow county executives to retire on hefty pensions plus hundreds of thousands of dollars more in investment accounts…all paid for by the county. Worst of all, the additional accounts could allow a county to boost the retirement pay of a select few, while not increasing pension benefits for rank-and-file employees.

That’s a slap in the face for rank and file. An insult.

To review, Mendocino County sets its pensions through a formula and tiers — similar to that used by other counties — that caps benefits at between 2% and 3% of top salary multiplied by the number of years of service. The major advantage to having deferred compensation plans is that you get tax-deferred status on more money. It’s another way of getting compensation, a tax-efficient way of getting compensation.

But pension reform advocates said the plans may need to be limited by law to rein in expenses. Any type of supplemental pension should be the subject of restrictions. And they should require contributions by elected officials and top managers.

Back to Alameda County.

Alameda County pays the entire “deferred compensation” contribution itself, rather than requiring an employee contribution, as most other counties do. For some top employees, Alameda County’s contributions are so large that it maxed out what is allowed under federal tax laws. In all, in its first year of having a deferred compensation plan (2010-2011), Alameda County paid $828,285 into deferred compensation accounts for 23 elected officials and top managers in 2010-2011, according to records. No other Alameda County employees received deferred payments in 2010-2011, records show.

These deferred compensation payments border on looting the public treasury. Apparently, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors didn’t look at what county leaders do as public service. Instead, they looked at county employment as an opportunity for self-enrichment. But did this new form of looting the county really hit the outrage factor in Alameda County? No. Why? Because nobody was paying attention.

SEIU, Local 1021, and the county’s other collective bargaining units for rank and file, must pay attention to perks like county matches to deferred compensation plans for managers, department heads, and attorneys..

The question is: Are they paying attention?

The more fundamental question is: Why don't all employees get matches?

John Sakowicz

Ukiah

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ESSENTIAL HOSPICE

To the Editor:

Free To Live Or Die: That's my idea of a slogan for Hospice of Ukiah. I have been a Hospice of Ukiah client for seven years; first as I was about to die from two incurable cancers and then, when for reasons known only the Creator, I didn't.

I was surprised how many people, including medical professionals, don't know we have superior hospice services right here in Ukiah.

Face it. We is all gonna die!

Hospice helps us and our families do it with dignity while taking tremendous burdens off our loved ones and costs absolutely zilch forever. And if you're lucky like me, you switch from dying status to palliative care; fancy words for the nurse coming regularly to your home to see if you're eating your Wheaties, getting proper care and meds and shoot the breeze on how her piglets and posies are doing. So listen up. Call or email. 462-4038; hopsiceofukiah@pacific.net, visit the thrift shop at 401 S. State or www.hospiceofukiah.com. Kicking in a few bucks wouldn't hurt either.

M Lee Wachs

Talmage

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PROTEST INTERVENTION

Editor,

It’s urgent that we attempt community intervention about how to protest powerfully and peacefully. Protesters tried to set fire to my apartment building last night, white people in masks who were stopped by my young Latino neighbors. They brought a tank of gas with them to the march. I had to rescue our recycling bin, which they wanted to use as a barricade or perhaps burn. All this does is hemorrhage overtime pay into police pockets while the children in our building get frightened.

Carol Denney,

Berkeley

One Response to "Letters (Dec 17, 2014)"

  1. Mike Kalantarian   December 18, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Impressive triple cliche in the first letter:

    “…I would like him to be in the loop when he steps up to the plate to take over the reins…”

    Reply

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