2011 16th Annual Goldens
GRAND GOLDEN WATCHDOG AWARD:
North County Transit District: Privatization Rolling Right Along
In response to drastically reduced revenues as a result of the recession and declines in state legislature funding, North County Transit District entered into an agreement with First Transit to outsource its bus operations and maintenance, and with American Logistics Company to restructure its paratransit services. These contracts use innovative and efficient service delivery methods to preserve customer service while producing significant cost savings for taxpayers. NCTD's internal workforce will be reduced from more than 500 positions in FY 2010 to fewer than 100 positions for FY 2012, reducing internal labor costs from 41% to only 12% of NCTD’s budget. The contract with First Transit was signed in July 2010 and is projected to save $45 million in operating costs over the next seven years. The contract with American Logistics Company, which was signed in February 2011, is projected to save $8 million over the next six years. As a direct result of these cost-saving measures, NCTD was able to balance its budget for FY 2011 with no reduction in services or increase in fares for the public.
REGIONAL WATCHDOG AWARD:
San Diego County Regional Airport Authority: Green Light for the Green Build
A sale of $573 million in bonds to fund the Green Build was done at a borrowing cost of 4.38%, which is the lowest in the nation for an airport-related long-term bond sale. The Airport Authority estimates savings of $40 million over the life of the bond. These savings would not have been possible but for the swift actions of the Airport Authority in taking advantage of Build America Bonds and the Alternative Minimum Tax Waiver before they expired. "Government" and "swift" in the same sentence? Impressive!
REGIONAL GOLDEN WATCHDOG AWARD:
Del Mar, Encinitas, and Solana Beach Fire Departments and the Rancho Sante Fe Fire Protection District: North County Fire Departments' Cooperative Efforts
In October 2009, the cities of Del Mar, Encinitas, Solana Beach and the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District entered into a two-year cooperative agreement to share the cost of fire personnel as a means to reduce costs and create operational efficiencies.In 2010, the participating agencies amended the agreement to further reduce costs by more effectively sharing fire management services and personnel between each agency.The numbers of firefighters and stations have not changed as a result of the agreement, but could in fact pave the way for a joint powers authority or possible consolidation in the future.The agreement generated over $1 million in taxpayer savings in its first year, and could continue to save taxpayer dollars if further consolidation occurs.
METRO WATCHDOG AWARD:
City of San Diego: Re-Bid of City Help Desk Contract
In April 2010, the San Diego City Council voted 7-1 in favor of a $1.2 million contract to outsource the city’s desktop computer support services to Gardena-based En Pointe Technologies. The one-year deal includes a pair of two-year extensions that must be approved by the Council. These services had previously been provided by the San Diego Data Processing Corporation, a nonprofit city agency, for three decades at a $2.3 million price tag. The Council’s decision is anticipated to save the city over $1 million each year between FY 2011 and FY 2013.
PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP AWARD:
Coalition to Keep Comic-Con in San Diego: Economic Superheroes
Last year San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, San Diego Convention Center Corporation officials, local hoteliers, and business and community leaders launched an intensive effort to keep the Comic-Con convention in San Diego.Thanks to their efforts, Comic-Con will stay in San Diego through 2015, generating over $150 million in regional economic impact annually as well as nearly $150,000 in yearly sales tax revenue.
IT'S ABOUT TIME AWARD:
County of San Diego - Electricity Procurement Strategy
Since 2008, the County has reduced electricity costs by more than $3 million by locking in current market pricing rather than using fixed rates for energy. This strategy is possible due to energy market deregulation that happened in the mid-90’s, and is utilized by numerous private businesses.Though this procurement strategy has admittedly been long-available, the County’s swift movements to adopt it in response to sharp increases in natural gas prices in 2008 ultimately saved taxpayers millions.
MEDIA WATCHDOG AWARD WINNERS:
Christopher Cadelago,San Diego Union-Tribune
"County Pays Out Unused Sick Time - Most Don't"
"State Court Costs Overlooked Due to Loophole"
Gene Cubbison,NBC San Diego
"Stay Classy, San Diego" Award Recipient
GRAND GOLDEN FLEECE AWARD:
Sweetwater Union High School District: Let the Taxpayers Eat Wedding Cake
In the midst of a major budget crisis just a few weeks shy of the November 2010 election, the District paid for mailers, phone calls to parents and full-page advertisements in the San Diego Union-Tribune which conveniently spotlighted the board president, coincidentally up for re-election. Superintendent Jesus Gandara also invited contractors and district employees to his daughter’s bridal shower – an event that featured a "money tree" where guests could contribute cash to the newlyweds. Then it was revealed that the Superintendent charged $11,000 on the District's credit card to pay for meals and travel – above and beyond his $800 monthlystipend already allocated for such expenses.
REPEAT OFFENDER AWARD:
City of Carlsbad: Tripping Up with a Triple Bogey
The City of Carlsbad earned a Golden Fleece for its woefully mismanaged golf course in 2008, and was nominated for the same project in 2010. Here we go again. The Carlsbad City Council unanimously agreed to subsidize the city’s cash-strapped golf course by another $1.7 million for FY 2011. The Crossings at Carlsbad has operated in the red since it opened in 2007, costing taxpayers over $3 million. The subsidy is in large part due to debt payments and costs for habitat preservation, which will cost the city a combined $1.4 million next year alone.
REGIONAL FLEECE Award:
San Diego SAFE: SAFE Cracking
In 1986, State Senator Bill Craven passed a bill that allowed local governments to add a $1 fee on vehicle registrations to create call boxes on freeways and highways. San Diego SAFE is the local agency that collects and uses these funds for purchasing, installing, operating, and maintaining this motorist aid system. The intent was to ensure the safety of stranded motorists.With most drivers having access to mobile phones now, the ongoing need for call box development is antiquated at best. Instead of eliminating the fee and relying on revenue from the $10 million reserve fund to maintain the SAFE system, other government officials cracked the SAFE budget and continued collecting revenue for other needs that were not specified by the original legislation.
METRO FLEECE AWARD:
Cities of Oceanside and Chula Vista: Playing the Pension Shell Game
The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) allows participating cities to report their subsidy of an employee’s pension contribution as additional compensation when calculating the final pension payment.In other words, a city’s subsidy of the employee’s share of the retirement benefits is added on to their final compensation, leading to a “bump” in the employee’s annual pension payment.Cities have started to eliminate this benefit as a part of pension reform efforts. However, due to an accounting gimmick that allows employees to pay the employer’s share of retirement benefits and vice versa, employees can still claim that the city is paying for their share of retirement benefits and keep the “bump” in their pension payments. City of Oceanside firefighters and police officers recently approved new labor contracts that enable this pension contribution arrangement.All of the new labor contracts for the City of Chula Vista now include this pension contribution arrangement as well. Quite the switcheroo.