Letter to the Editor:
Submitted 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. 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.
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