Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why trust them with more money?


From page A8 | March 05, 2014 |

Before you vote, yes or no, on the City Council’s proposal to increase the sales tax in Davis another half-cent — from 8 percent to 8.5 percent — you should know where your money is going.

The city figures the larger levy will generate $3.61 million per year. Most of that will go to higher compensation for its current employees and to cover unfunded expenses for retirees.

The tax increase is first needed to pay for fatter salaries given away by the current City Council. The increase also will cover the growing costs of pensions, including the underfunded amounts going to those who’ve already retired. The increase will help the city afford Cadillac medical plans given to employees and their families; more of your money will be spent to fund the post-retirement medical premiums of current employees and their families; and the added tax will maintain the city’s commitment to pay the unfunded medical expenses of retirees and their families.

The salary hikes built into the current labor deals are small compared with the big increases Davis gave its employees from 2000 to 2010. The firefighters, for example, got a 36 percent pay hike from 2005 to 2009. That was only four years after a massive salary jump and the giveaway of a new, unaffordable pension plan worth millions of dollars more for every public safety employee.

Yet small as they were, the recent raises were irresponsible and unnecessary. Davis did not have the money for them, no other cities were bidding away our workforce and the salary spikes have made the fiscal crisis of the city even worse.

Take, for example, the sworn police officer who was paid $100,000 in 2012. He got a 2 percent raise the first day of the year in 2013. (Non-sworn police employees were given an extra 3 percent.) That cop was given another 2 percent raise on Jan. 1 of this year. And he will get a 1 percent raise come New Year’s Day, 2015.

Added together, the city will pay him an extra $11,120 and it will cost an additional $2,855 to fund his lavish pension. (It would be more, but cops in Davis cover 3 percent of employer funding in addition to the 9 percent taken from them for the employee share.)

An extra $13,975 over three years does not sound like much. But if you multiply that by 62 sworn police officers (including the chief and other brass), we are talking about a giveaway that will cost the taxpayers approximately $866,450 over the term of the contract. And that is just for sworn cops. Every signed labor agreement includes bumps in pay and new pension expenses we cannot afford.

A bigger hit to the city than increased salaries is the growing expense for retiree medical benefits (known as OPEB). Before the 2009-10 fiscal year, the city never funded this expense. Now, once a person retires from the city of Davis, the city will write a check each month to CalPERS to cover whatever it costs for medical insurance for the retiree, his spouse and his child. If he lives deep into old age, taxpayers in Davis will be on the hook for decades.

For the past five years, Davis has been pre-funding its OPEB expense for future retirees. This fiscal year, the funded amount will be $3.74 million. The city owes $2. 22 million for the OPEB of its current retirees. Our full bill for 2013-14 is $5.97 million.

The city is projecting a small increase in 2014-15 to $6.16 million. It’s a mystery to me why, when the city’s medical expenses are rising 10.9 percent per year, anyone would project just a 3.25 percent annual increase. But that is the number they gave me.

Pension funding costs for the city this year will be $6.6 million. For 2014-15, the projected expense is $7.08 million, a $480,000 (7.3 percent) increase.

As large as that sounds, it’s worth noting that in 2011-12, Davis paid $7.38 million to fund its employees’ pensions. One difference is that employees are now paying $659,000 more than they were three years ago. The other difference is that over the past six years, the city has steadily decreased its workforce by 103 full-time employees.

The great crisis in pension costs is ahead of us. Employer rates  in 2020 will be double what they are today. If nothing changes, the residents of Davis will pay $13.2 million per year to let city employees retire young and flush with cash.

I am not ready yet to endorse a yes or a no vote on the sales tax increase. I am aware that, if it is voted down, services in Davis (including police, fire and parks) will be severely cut back. Our town will be a less pleasant place to live.

What I would like, if they want a yes vote, is for the people on the Davis City Council to explain two things: Tell us what mistakes they and past councils made that got us in this predicament, and what exactly they will do to fix the problem they have identified.

If they don’t understand what they did to put us in this crisis and they don’t know how to prevent it from recurring or getting worse, why should we trust them with even more tax money?

Until the City Council comes clean, I cannot endorse a yes vote.

— Rich Rifkin is a Davis resident; his column is published every other week. Reach him at



  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Davis audience hears from civil-rights hero

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Legislators wrap up with water, ethics, guns bills

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Five U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State fighters

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Robbery, pursuit in Central Davis lead to one arrest

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

    Rotary clubs offer Davis High students some life lessons

    By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Yolo Federal to hold photo contest

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Katehi will speak at Chamber’s community luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Bean Feed supports for Yolo Democrats’ activities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Bauer garden marks one year

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Dinner will raise funds to help farmers in Burkina Faso

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Beamer Park featured at Stroll Through History

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Tuleyome Tales: Be safe on wilderness trails

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Small wineries suffer big losses in quake

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    Grande site has been a convoluted saga

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

    Say goodbye to summer with a ‘Final Blast’ at Explorit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Bay Bridge project’s rainy-day money is nearly gone

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A15 | Gallery



    Already made herself at home

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    How to make a good living

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Nate Beeler cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    Changing local election dates benefits Democrats

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

    Ad-free email? You can still find it at Davis Community Network

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Keep our green waste piles

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    City panel working to tighten scrutiny of taxpayer dollars

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    Try round-robin storytelling at crafts fair

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    This epidemic should scare us

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

    Health problems mean he’s checked out

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

    Marriage doesn’t mean we agree on everything

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A14



    Coach likes what she sees from Devil field hockey squad

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD notebook: Coaches positive about FCS schools ‘playing up’

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils open with an impressive volleyball victory

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Stanford scores early, often in opener versus UCD

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    New coach, new tougher league for DHS football

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Sports briefs: Aggie harriers secure season-opening sweep

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Baseball roundup: Cats win late to pull even with Aces

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8







    Comings and Goings: Is fro-yo craze melting?

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

    Sutter Davis Hospital honored again as a ‘best place to work’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

    Engage3 attracts investment for shopping app

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

    California growers can use MBI’s new bioinsecticide

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

    Sudwerk, Davis Food Co-op join for ‘co-hop-eration’ brew

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20 | Gallery

    Community pools its purchasing power to reduce the cost of solar

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20



    Wanda P. Daley

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4



    Comics: Sunday, August 31, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8