Citizen Reformers Set to Transform Oxnard’s Politics

Oxnard has got a problem. The city’s contributions to CalPERS, which totaled $23 million in their fiscal year 2016-17, are going to increase to $45 million by 2024-25.

Where is this money going to come from? As reported last week, the “skyrocketing pension costs” have already led Oxnard’s Mayor to call for “painful cuts.” But if pension payments are set to double in just the next six years, where will all these cuts come from?

Meanwhile, in Oxnard, a small group of local activists, led by Aaron Starr, a local executive with a financial background including a CPA, are working to qualify five reform initiatives. If they gather the signatures required for each initiative, residents of the City of Oxnard will vote on them in November 2020.

The process of filing a citizens initiative is relatively straightforward. One reference is Ballotpedia, which provides a good summary of laws governing the local ballot measures in California.

In Oxnard, for example, there are 82,000 registered voters, and in order to place a local initiative onto the ballot, ten percent of registered voters have to sign a petition. In practice, it is advisable to collect 40-50 percent more signatures than the minimum necessary to qualify. For Oxnard, that would mean 12,000 gross signatures are necessary to qualify each ballot measure.

Citizen sponsored ballot measures to repeal local taxes or implement other reforms are common, but not as common as proposals and counter-proposals initiated by local city councils, school boards, and county […] Read More

City of Oxnard Pension Contributions Set to Double by 2024

As reported by the Ventura County Star, the City of Oxnard faces budget headwinds. Quoted in the article, Mayor Tim Flynn had this to say:

“We’re making decisions that should have been made 10, 20 years ago to put the city on a sustainable path,” Flynn said. “These are very painful cuts, but we have to live within our means. The city historically has not lived within our means.”

City Manager Alex Nguyen was more specific:

“Skyrocketing pension costs and spikes in health care are some of the reasons for the budget shortfall. With projected expenditures approximately $10 million more than anticipated revenue, there is no choice but to recommend programmatic cuts to the City Council.”

Skyrocketing pension costs. You can say that again. Depicted on the chart below is a summary of what’s happening to Oxnard, thanks to “skyrocketing pension costs.” The biggest takeaway from this chart is the fact that Oxnard’s pensions have just begun to “skyrocket.” If you want to skip the details and cut to the chase, view the yellow highlighted figures in the middle and at the bottom of the right column.

The first highlighted numbers show how much Oxnard had to pay CalPERS (not including employee contributions through withholding) back in 2017. Back then, it cost them $23 million. Now look to the bottom of the chart, to see what these pensions are going to cost the city in 2024 – nearly twice as much at over $45 million.

The numbers on […] Read More