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    Oxnard City Staff Issues Misleading Cost Data for New Benefit Contributions

    By Raymond Blattel

    On 27 July, 2022, at the Oxnard City Council meeting, again, as was the case three years ago, the Oxnard city staff misled the city council and the public with erroneous cost data for the city’s employee benefit contribution increases.

    Human Resources (HR) stated that for the Exec, IOUE, OPOA, and SEIU labor bargaining units, the total estimated costs for the new three-year term (FY22/23, FY23/24, and FY24/25) would be $12,738,520 with a General Fund (GF) impact of $8,087,342.

    This total was derived by adding all of the ‘delta’ cost increases for the three years.  If math isn’t your favorite thing, that just means the city staff pretended the total cost in the second year was only the difference between the first year cost and the second year cost…as if the first year’s increase never happened, and the third year cost was only the difference between the second year cost and the third year cost.

    This is a deceptive method of describing the total cumulative cost impact to the taxpayer, but it is a sadly common technique bureaucrats use to hide the total cost.    Oxnard city staff did the same thing three years ago, at which time the public demonstrated the correct calculation to the former Chief Financial Officer, three council members, and even the city manager.  Yet, again this year, with these new agreements, the city staff still ignores the correct methodology and misleads the council and the public with incorrect information.

    An example may help here.  Let’s assume gasoline now costs $3 per gallon (we wish), and the cost will increase $1 per gallon for each of the next two years.  In addition, assume one buys exactly 100 gallons of gasoline each year.  After currently paying $300 for gas for the first year, next year it will cost $400, and the year after it will cost $500.  Thus, the total cumulative cost paid for gasoline over the three-year period will be $1200.  But, using the city’s methodology, the total cost would be $300 for the first year, $100 for the second year ($1 per gallon cost increase – $1 per gallon being the cost delta between year 1 and year 2 – times 100 gallons), and $100 for the third year (again $1 per gallon cost increase times 100 gallons). Thus, the city’s total would be $500 over the same three-year period.  $1200 vs. $500, this is a HUGE difference.

    Thus, the true total cumulative cost impact for the four aforementioned labor bargaining units is $24,462,909, NOT $12,738,520 as stated by HR.

    Additionally, for the OMMA labor bargaining unit, the city’s HR told the city council and the public that the total estimated cost for the same three year term would be $2,899,064.  However, the actual total cumulative cost, using the correct math, is $5,991,764.  The total cumulative costs for these benefit increases is nearly DOUBLE what HR presented to the city council and the Oxnard taxpayers.

    Yes, it appears the Oxnard City Council will approve almost anything offered by the city staff with a unanimous vote most of the time.  And yes, it is appropriate that the city employees receive benefit contribution increases to help combat inflation which at this time is the highest in history.

    However, what is NOT appropriate is the city staff misrepresenting the true and actual total cumulative cost for these benefit increases.  Although it is a given that the Council will approve an agenda item, one would think that at least the City Council would insist that accurate cost data be included for their consideration.

    The Oxnard City Council needs to be presented with accurate cost data in order to make informative decisions and the Oxnard taxpayers not only need to know but deserve to know the truth and how much this will impact their personal finances.

     

    The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Citizens Journal


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    Douglas D Partello
    Douglas D Partello
    1 month ago

    I wrote an article on this issue over two years ago, and commented before the Oxnard City Council, with questions, that were never answered. The “Delta methodology” is just a means to not disclose to the public the ACTUAL costs, which they have a right to know. We often wonder why Oxnard is always broke, basic services are not done, or done well, and we face a $323 million debt to the state CalPers pension fund. See Camarillo CJ article on that point; https://www.citizensjournal.us/three-ventura-county-area-cities-face-moderate-high-financial-risk/
    Oxnard now has the dubious distinction of one of only THREE incorporated cities in CA with 3% city portion of sales tax, of 482 cities. That gives them an additional $52 million/year to play with. Their recent budget forecast for the next seven years fails to even mention the pension debt, only that Measure O will sunset, hinting at yet another tax hike on the horizon. Instead of a plan to pay down this HUGE debt, our City Manager wants to bond it out, so our grandkids can be paying on it for most of their adult lives. Instead of addressing serious infrastructure issues, they are planning a $40 million Aquatic Center, and $40 million “Solution Center” for the homeless, which the homeless do not want. There is not a single person on Oxnard City Council with a financial background, and it shows. The one thing they are very good at is kicking the can down the road. At the end of that road is a financial cliff. If voters don’t wizen up, and get representatives on the dais that can handle the looming crisis, they will take our beloved city, and us with them over it into bankruptcy.

    Last edited 1 month ago by Doug Partello

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