Ventura County Taxpayers Association: Lunch with Mike Powers, County CEO

 By Sheryl Hamlin

Dick Thomson, eight year president of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association (VCTA) passed the presidential gavel to Robert Alviani on July 27, 2017 during the summer meeting in Oxnard with about 50 in attendance including several elected officials.

Mr. Alviani, a retired banker, said he was “looking out for taxpayers” and how the monies were spent. By coming together to make decisions and creating solutions, groups like the VCTA are essential. During his tenure he plans to increase the footprint of the VCTA. He then introduced Ventura County CEO Mike Powers, who presented the state of the County 2017 from a dense, fact filled, high energy presentation.

President Alviani introduces CEO Powers, photo credit Charles McLaughlin

VCTA Luncheon Meeting July 27, 2017, photo credit Charles McLaughlin

Mr. Powers, who studied economics and business at UCLA and law at Loyola, formerly headed the Ventura County Health Care Agency (VCHCA). His presentation took the audience through many recent county wide achievements, some of which are listed here:

  • The county’s $2.24 billion budget and 9,000 employees make it the second largest employer in the county. There was a slight reduction in FTE (full time employment) during the year.
  • The County Sheriff reported the first human traffic electronic intercept case and are planning a 60-bed mental health expansion at Todd Road jail that will release beds for other purposes elsewhere.
  • The District Attorney reported 100% conviction rate pre-trial.
  • The Area Agency on Aging became “dementia friendly”.
  • The Child Support Agency collected $57 million toward its work.
  • The County Fire centralized its dispatch to include Oxnard and soon Santa Paula to provide uniform dispatch across the county.
  • Public Works reported 25% reduction in flood insurance.
  • A new Medical Examiner was hired.
  • $5 million was sent to the rainy day fund bring it to $14.1 million total. $3 million was sent to the assigned reserves making this fund $31 million.
  • The Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC) only gets 3% of its monies from the General Fund. All other monies result from collections for services. VCMC is the largest of the county Enterprise Funds and makes Ventura County unique in its operation of this “Kaiser-like” operation.
  • 60% of the General Fund is allotted to Public Safety.
  • The budget is “structurally balanced”. They DO NOT use one-time funds for recurring expenses, although there is a small negative projection in FY 18, FY19 and FY20.
  • Workers Compensation and Liability insurance are 100% funded.
  • In the past three years via the ACA (Affordable Care Act), Medicaid patients have doubled in the county.
  • The county offers a health plan through Anthem called the Ventura County Health Care Plan.
  • All labor projections are taken out five years during the budgeting process to forecast the fully loaded cost of employees.
  • The county has embraced “Lean 6” or “continuous improvement”, which is “a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation”. (Source) The county has certified improvements of $28.6 million over an eight year period.
  • Because the county is a service provider, when it lowers its internal costs, these benefits percolate to the fee paying users. Information Technology is one area showing significant savings, he said.
  • Both Moody’s and Standard and Poors have given Ventura County the highest bond rating for the long bond rate, which requires a much more detailed analysis than the short term bond lending standard. The recent bond sale of $100 million was oversubscribed.
  • Property taxes are stable.
  • County Fire bought used Blackhawk helicopters for $3 million, a fraction of the cost of a new one.
  • The General Plan Update contains an Economic Development Component for the first time as well as a marijuana component.
  • Recidivism rate is dropping as well as probation count.
  • The county Pavement Condition Index averages 75, which is good.
  • The county expects $16 million from SB1 when it is fully implemented and $4.4 million in FY 17-18
  • SGMA (Strategic Groundwater Management Act) has significantly changed water management in the county with Fox Canyon a model GSA for the state.
  • The county is creating a “measurable” strategic plan.
  • A new concept called “Advanced Board Agenda” means that 10 to 15 days in advance of a County Supervisors Meeting, items on the agenda will start to appear giving citizens advanced notice.
  • 650 people attended the recent job fair for county positions.
  • County is focusing on a coordinated approach for homelessness rather than numerous redundant programs.
  • A first ever “Economic Vitality Plan” for the county is underway emphasizing IT, Healthcare and agricultural technology.


Pension Costs

Pension costs change with performance in investments, he said. Ventura County is 84% PERS funded. The county uses a 15 year amortization period for the pension payments, thus reducing the interest owned to PERS. They also pay ahead in a lump sum for a reduction. The PEPRA law of 2013 changes how pensions are funded with new employees paying more of their own retirement. As of now, 28% of employees fall under the PEPRA calculation, thus saving the county money and this is expected to grown as employees turn over.

VCMC Ranked # 1

VCMC is ranked number 1 in county and is very Kaiser-like in its services and organizations. The new VCMC wing was completed under budget with fewer beds and more outpatient services. The county is planning a 50,000 square foot “under one roof” medical, mental health and other services at East Area One. See tract map here for location.

Ventura #3 Digital County

The county has embraced technology where ever possible from using software to remote groundwater monitoring. The HSA (Human Services Agency) is completely paperless. Using digital dashboards, the county has created metrics to measure the effectiveness of its services.

Union Backed AB 1250

According to CEO Powers, AB 1250 will hurt the county’s ability to deliver the best services by making it almost impossible to hire contractors. The league of California Cities and league of California Counties are opposing this bill. Imagine, he said, in Information Technology where the services of anti-hacker network analysts were needed. Such people are on-demand consultants. AB 1250 would limit the county’s ability to hire such technicians. All areas would be affected, as described in this editorial.

Questions and Answsers

Regarding SP 54 “Sanctuary State”, is there a financial impact for the county? Mr. Posers said yes, but that we want people to feel safe.

Is there a plan for the Ventura County Museum if it fails? Mr. Powers said the county analyzed how the museum got into its current position and there will be a focus on the collection for future purposes.

What is the El Rio juvenile justice utilization? Response: between 75% to 90%. There is a Boys and Girls Club at the facility and a Girls, Inc. giving positive role models to kids who have never been exposed to such.

For a summary of the State of the County, click here.

Demographics: The Elephant in the Room Not Discussed

Not discussed was the county’s growth rate and the age of its population. David Maron of the Ventura County Civic Alliance provided a stack of printed versions of the 2017 State of the Region Report. On page 6 of this report, the population chart shows a total county population of 753,197 in 2000 and 840,833 in 2015, which amounts to a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of .73647% , which is less than one percent annually, an amount considered dangerous by demographers. The second chart shows the median age in 2015 of 37.1 and the median age in 2000 of 34.2. An aging population with slow growth is a recipe for future problems because people consume less as they age and require more services. To download the entire report, click here.

The meeting was sponsored by Edison, NRG and Colab. The next meeting will be in October.


For more information about the author visit Sheryl Hamlin dot com.

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Note: just got an email saying the attendance was over 80.