The facts behind pension reform and Ventura's sales measure

By Christy Weir 08/20/2009

Ventura is a community that isn’t afraid to lead. On many issues, from protecting agricultural land to green practices to focusing on urban infill development, we have taken a leadership role in the state of California. Last year, we were one of the first municipalities to critically examine every city expense and cut the $11 million dollars necessary to balance our city budget as a result of the economic downturn. Our top-level managers agreed to a 10 percent reduction in pay. Forty city jobs were eliminated. One of the most controversial steps we took was to negotiate with all of our employee unions to take at least a 5 percent cut in compensation for 15 months. For the firefighters, this meant postponing the enhanced retirement benefits that had been approved for future implementation by our City Council on a 4-3 vote prior to the recession. The cooperation of Ventura’s city employees sets a positive example for the entire state of California.

Public safety is one of the basic responsibilities of government, and we take that role seriously. We value our police and fire personnel and the vital part they play in keeping our community safe and prosperous. We believe that Ventura deserves outstanding police officers and firefighter/paramedics providing protection around the clock. To retain and attract outstanding individuals requires us to be competitive with other agencies. However, the statewide pension system for state, county, school district and local governments is not financially sustainable. I believe Ventura can be a leader in pension reform.

That likely means moving from “defined benefit” plans (which guarantee a certain retirement income and are increasingly costly to taxpayers) to “defined contribution” plans (which are more fiscally sustainable) for new employees. Defined benefit systems were once the standard in private corporations, but almost all have moved toward defined contribution approaches. Government will need to make the same transition for new hires.

On July 20, the Ventura City Council voted unanimously to work toward the goal of pension reform by appointing a compensation task force made up of City Council members, city staff and community members. Its charge is to look closely at this issue and make recommendations to the council this fall.

Another element of Ventura’s economic stability plan will be up to the voters in November. The Council recently approved putting a half-cent local sales tax measure on the ballot to give the taxpayers a choice about city government funding and services. Currently, only 16 percent of the sales and property taxes you pay stays in Ventura. The rest goes for state programs, county services and local school districts. Now the state is taking millions of dollars more of our city’s shrinking revenues to make up for its own budget crisis.

Ventura has a balanced budget — the City Council has made cuts to live within our means. But with these cuts, the high quality of services that our community deserves, such as repaving our deteriorating streets, repairing our sidewalks, keeping Wright library open and maintaining our public safety at current levels, is at risk. This local, temporary half-cent sales tax increase would generate more than $8 million each year to pay for vital services right here in Ventura.

Because this is a city tax, not a state tax, 100 percent of the money will stay in our community — the state cannot touch it. It is a protected, local source of income that is not subject to the state’s fiscal irresponsibility.

The average cost for each resident will be less than $75 per year because out-of-town visitors account for much of our sales tax revenue. The tax will automatically end in four years.

The City Council-adopted spending plan for the new revenue will allocate funds for services that matter most to our residents:

Repair streets and maintain parks.

Keep Wright Library open and improve library services.

Restore and improve our emergency response times through full use of Medic Engine 10.

Supplement our police gang prevention unit.

Increase the Downtown foot patrols.

Keep our beaches clean and safe.

The spending plan does not include increases in compensation.

If you’d like to set up a neighborhood meeting to speak with me about these issues, please contact me at cweir@ci.ventura.ca.us or 654-7827.   

Christy Weir is the mayor of Ventura.

DIGG | del.icio.us | REDDIT

Other Stories by Christy Weir

Related Articles

Comments

"Ventura is a community that isn’t afraid to lead. On many issues, from protecting agricultural land to green practices to focusing on urban infill development, we have taken a leadership role in the state of California"

OK, first let's examine the Mayor's statement above.
The city council recently approved a MASSIVE housing development on land that is used for FARMING on the east end. How is that "protecting agricultural land"?
The city council denied a mid-town business owner's request to turn an abandoned gas station into a quick lube business. How is that "focusing on urban infill development"?

She goes on to say:
"Ventura has a balanced budget" and yet the city council wants us to approve a half centtax increase. We are 'assured' that the money would be for:
"Repair streets and maintain parks.
Keep Wright Library open and improve library services.
Restore and improve our emergency response times through full use of Medic Engine 10.
Supplement our police gang prevention unit.
Increase the Downtown foot patrols.
Keep our beaches clean and safe"
And she even goes so far as to say that there is a "City Council-adopted spending plan for the new revenue". Guess what people, no matter what the mayor or city council tells you, once the money is in the general fund, the powers that be can spend that money on whatever pet project they care to. There are not LEGALLY bound to spend a dime on what they tell you in their campaigning.

It never ceases to amaze me that the local politicians of this city think we are all stupid. They claim to 'listen to the people', but when all is said and done the city council will do whatever the city council wants to do.

Time for CHANGE!

posted by fredBarnz on 8/20/09 @ 02:33 p.m.

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments above. Christy Weir must have been chosen as the sacrificial lamb for the sales tax measure, since she's not up for reelection.

None of the 4 incumbents that are running for reelection in November (Jim Monahan, Neal Andrews, Brian Brennan, or Ed Summers) would dare stick their necks out on the sales tax. They would be toast if they did.

Time for change indeed!!!

posted by politico on 8/22/09 @ 06:49 p.m.

By the way, all 4 of these bozos voted to put the sales tax measure on the ballot, with public sentiment running extremely high against new taxes right now.

They just don't seem to get it. VOTE FOR CHANGE ON NOVEMBER 3RD!

posted by politico on 8/22/09 @ 06:51 p.m.

How can I fund my own "defined contribution" retirement plan when my taxes keep rising?

posted by morrison.barry@sbcglobal.net on 8/24/09 @ 08:25 a.m.

Exactly. This City Council doesn't have one clue about the consequences of their actions, as exemplified by the Mayor's misleading and misinformed letter.

She is living in a fantasy world if she thinks boosting the sales tax rate in the City is going to result in $8 million a year in new revenue. What will really happen is people will begin to shop elsewhere or cut back on their spending, especially on high-priced products like automobiles, computer equipment, household appliances, furniture, big-screen TV's, and the like.

This will not only hurt businesses in town, but it will reduce the amount of overall sales tax that is collected in the City. Just look at what happened when the State raised the statewide sales tax rate -- revenues plummeted. The same thing will happen in Ventura. And those who cannot afford to travel elsewhere to shop will get hit the hardest.

posted by politico on 8/24/09 @ 08:29 p.m.
Post A Comment

Requires free registration.

(Forgotten your password?")