Alameda County – The World Has Gone Mad

I just finished doing our taxes. This morning with coffee – thinking about how we can cut back on a few things for a couple months to off-set the unexpected more than 3 times increase in U.S. Federal taxes we owe.

It is manageable. At the same time I wondered how this can be being that we have not even set foot in that country for 2 years – obviously the meter is still running and of course this is an overview with a few explanations – but still….

Our son is living in California. That state is in a lot of financial trouble. One county in the wealthy San Francisco Bay area is in particular financial woes. Alameda County is facing budget deficits where residents have a per capita income of approximately $35,000 (according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau).

This was in the news this morning (warning this is hard to watch):

Private-sector salary for public employee

Working for the public good has also worked well for one California county administrator’s bank account.

According to reports by several newspapers, Alameda County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, is paying its County Administrator Susan Muranishi, north of $400,000—for life. This includes a generous base salary of $301,000, plus taxpayer-funded deferred pension plans paid for by the county.

The pension accounts are set by a formula that multiplies years of service by 2 to 3 percent of the top salary to calculate the benefit, the San Jose Mercury News reports. With 38 years of service under her belt, the top Alameda official, along with two top county executives, benefit lavishly.

The publication notes, “Muranishi, for example, was the highest-paid county administrator in the Bay Area, with $422,268 in salary last year. In addition, she received $137,196 toward her pension and another $46,500 dumped into a pair of deferred compensation accounts.” Most pension plans require the employee to pay in—but not in this case.

Even without the extra pension plans, Muranishi’s base salary alone stands out. Her salary is more than the rate for similar positions in San Francisco ($153,000), Chicago ($128,000) and New York City ($152,000).

President Barack Obama’s base salary, by the way, is $400,000.

Pensions are determined by the board of supervisors, but officials sign up for the special accounts.

A column from the San Francisco Chronicle asserts that Muranishi’s salary includes “$24,000, plus change, in ‘equity pay’ to guarantee that she makes at least 10 percent more than anyone else in the county. About $54,000 a year in ‘longevity’ pay for having stayed with the county for more than 30 years; an annual performance bonus of $24,000; and another $9,000 a year for serving on the county’s three-member Surplus Property Authority, an ad hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors that oversees the sale of excess land.” She also gets a $8,292 yearly car allowance.

It’s not bad, considering that Alameda County is facing budget deficits and residents have a per capita income of $34,937, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a government watchdog group, told the Mercury News the compensation plan is too much. “It borders on looting the public treasury. They don’t look at what they do as public service. They look at it as an opportunity for self-enrichment. This really hits the outrage factor.”

The state recently weathered a scandal in the low-income town of Bell (pop. 37,000) in Southern California. Bell was exposed by the Los Angeles Times as paying its city manager close to $800,000 a year—twice the salary of the Los Angeles police chief and the New York City police commissioner.

I decided to check out the Alameda County web site:

CHECKOUT their “VALUES” statement – OMG!

How does this happen? I perused the budget for fiscal 2012-2013 – There are cutbacks in services in many areas of that county.  A couple things caught my eye. If you are wondering who is watching over the  county’s spending – I found this tid-bit:

AUDITOR‐CONTROLLER/CLERK‐RECORDER

• Earned the “Award for Achieving Excellence in Financial Reporting” from the State Controller’s Office for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010.

• Earned the “Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting” for the 27th consecutive year from the Government Finance Officers Association for our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2010.

Is it any wonder that one of the current major efforts of the U.S. government is to disarm the public?

Has the world gone completely mad?

Stay Tuned!

  • Kim G

    The answer to your question is indeed a resounding, “YES!!!!” The world has gone mad. This, by the way, is the story around the country. While the rest of us were battling competition in the open marketplace, public-sector unions have quietly bought themselves a fantastic deal from government agencies that were run by people who wanted to avoid conflict above all else. As a result, the long-tail costs of pensions are hitting government agencies around the country. While you can avoid these costs by moving, the federal government has been similarly generous with its employees, and for those costs, we are all definitely on the hook.

    As a little side note, at my own job, we have 401Ks and get a 3% match if we are lucky. No post-retirement benefits of any kind. And this is a pretty plush job.

    It’s high time the public sector be compensated equally with the private sector.

    Kim G
    DF, México
    Where we are planning a trip around the highlands including San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, and Aguascalientes.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Insane actually – did you ever read about my retirement package at Capitol Records? Granted only ten years but it amounted to about $20 a month and that for some years not necessarily a life time – but perhaps after I read the thing!

    http://www.vivaveracruz.com/blog/?p=3175

  • Dana Jennings

    Outragous! And it’s that way in every major city or county across the Union.
    Outrage can change things…..keep it up.
    In the meantime, might be time to turn in the old citizenship papers for NOB. Why do you need them, really?
    You guys are so happy in your new home.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Dana – If I am reading the article correctly this particular incident is extraordinary – but perhaps not? I mean this woman makes more than the base pay of the President of the United States! I would be interested in knowing just how many times the average wage earner of that county the administrator was being paid when they set all this up; and what excatly is a day or two in the working llife of such an individual. I saw a photo of Ms. Muranishi exchanging business cards at some gathering for example – trading secrets on how to better ones golden parachute no doubt.

    The people of Alameda truly have no one to blame but themselves – how did all this get to this point?

    There is no reason for us to turn in our citizenship rights in the U.S. – They essentially are a few rights we should have as citizens of the planet regardless – and we have no intentions of giving up any rights – rather we demand more.

  • http://www.cidpusa.org Dr Imran Khan

    Forget the Taliban there are several blood sucking leeches attached to Homeland

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    The irony of all this is this is not new news! I was surprised to find this link when researching this issue:

    http://sancarlos.patch.com/articles/county-manager-salaries

    In this article from 2011 her 2009 salary was shown as $454,062.00; and including this notice: The reported figures do not include health insurance or employer payments to defined benefit retirement programs.

    One has to wonder WHERE HAS THE OUTRAGE BEEN HIDING?

  • Kim G

    Yes, I recall reading it. I think you were probably victim of inflation (like everyone else, except debtors of course, for whom the entire US fiscal policy is designed). But I’d imagine that public-sector pensions are probably indexed for inflation too.

    Sadly, the private sector figured out that young people don’t believe that they will ever retire or die, and so don’t value retirement benefits. As such, they could get away with not really offering them. Meanwhile, the professionals hired by the unions are well aware of the value of pensions, and fight hard for them.

    Stay tuned on this issue. Right now, due to ridiculously low interest rates, just about every pension plan extant is grossly underfunded. And the amount of underfunding is highly understated due to assumptions that future interest rates will be much higher. This is one of the many big fiscal problems looming over the USA.

  • Andean

    Young people in their twenties, that have jobs, after a good college graduation, are in the same ruckus as we all are, they are aware of 401Ks, retirement programs, and the benefits of having good health insurance in the US of A. It’s not a secret to any working class here. They are intelligent kids. Some will get (as of recent, anyway), post-retirement benefits still, though not as plush as in the yonder years and work tons more hours for them….the crazy of reality….

    Some will see the light, and some will move on to a better system…I think so.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    I never imagined interest would be so low in my lifetime – really put a cramp on the savings plan ;-0 Mean while these current huge benefit/retirement packages will bring cities to their knees. It is going to get interesting.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    The problem here is unbridled greed. How can this woman sleep at night cutting back on services to the poor and children while she commands so much money. How can she call herself a public SERVANT? People just seem to lack outrage – very sad.

  • Andean

    Unfortunately, greed will survive all of us, and that’s not saying anything new–very sad it is.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    “I am confident our children will supercede. But that’s me….”

    Agreed! However some people’s children will not – we cannot resign ourselves to failure – we need to be outraged here – and I do not even live in the country – I am just FROM there. I rooted for Mexico in tonight’s futbol game – that said I am very sad and outraged that this financial debauchery is common place in the United States of America.

  • Andean

    As long as they are our children, we cannot be compliant. Education is key and don’t underestimate personal experience as part—goes a long way.

    But it does not only take place in the U.S.of A. We all are aware of that–for another time,… maybe.

  • Tancho

    This unfortunately is the tip of the iceberg. When you consider how public employees especially police and fire departments manipulate over time, and last years retirement levels, no one seems to care. The problem is that the voters were too busy watching Lindsey Lohan and not watching the nightly news or city council meetings. It is not only in California but almost everywhere except a few states like Oklahoma and Montana to name a few. If you remember, the city of Bell, had the same issue about 2 years ago where the city council paid themselves about 400K a year. I wonder how a person can spend 35K a month to live on?

    And meanwhile our soldiers get crap after coming home and often starve because they can’t get any help.