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City Manager's Blog

If you have questions or suggestions regarding this blog post, ideas for future blog posts, or any matter of City business, feel free to contact City Manager Tabatha Miller at (707)961-2829.    

Nov 09

Election Anticipation

Posted on November 9, 2018 at 10:58 AM by June Lemos

Fort Bragg seal small

November 9 2018

Yesterday, I completed a survey for the League of California Cities on Legislative Priorities for the next year. The survey asked me to consider whether certain issues were not a priority, a low priority, medium priority, high priority, or unknown for Fort Bragg. Not surprisingly, I ranked most of the issues presented as a high priority. Those issues included increasing costs, affordable housing needs across all income levels, homelessness, climate and environmental quality, funding for various city services and infrastructure, adequate water supply, responding to disasters and specifically reducing wild fire risk, economic development, access to high-speed internet, reforming the district-based election system, loss of sales tax to online sales and increasing pension and post-employment benefits costs. 

The only issue, I believe I didn’t mark as a high priority was regulating drones. The process of completing the survey reminded me of the many challenges our community will face in the next few years. It also provided some comfort to know that most other cities in California and even elsewhere in our nation, are facing many of the same challenges and seeking solutions that may provide us guidance on how we deal with these issues.

In the days after the preliminary election results for our City have been posted, I speculate whether or not Measure H, the City’s proposed 3/8th of a cent sales tax increase, will gain votes as the final ballots are counted. The hospital’s parcel tax picked up enough yes votes in the post-election day counts to narrowly pass. It was down by about the same percent as Measure H – with 1,159 City ballots counted, 46.9% of the votes are in favor of the tax and 53.1% opposed. I heard this morning that there are still approximately 1,300 ballots to count for Fort Bragg, so there is certainly opportunity for the final outcome to shift. The funds from that sales tax would allow the City to meet the rising pension cost challenge and make it easier to respond to the other competing priorities and challenges that face our community over the next few years. 

Although I am certain that the seven City Council Candidates are also anxious to get the final results from the election, I am not worried about those results. The candidate pool was strong. The current frontrunners will certainly serve the City well as would the other candidates, if the outcome flips in the final election certification. Nevertheless, I am anxious to get the final results, so that the new City Council and staff can start working on the issues that will challenge us in the next few years. Whether we have the financial resources from Measure H or not, working with the community, we will create solutions to our challenges. I am hopeful.
Oct 07

The Rising Cost of Pensions

Posted on October 7, 2018 at 11:35 PM by Mateo Ortiz

September 6, 2018

During my interview with City Council for the City Manager position, I asked what each Councilmember thought were the most pressing issues for the City of Fort Bragg. The answers included maintaining infrastructure, housing, economic development, the Mill Site redevelopment and the rising cost of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the City employees’ pension program.

CalPERS is the nation’s largest pension fund with over $360 billion dollars in assets and over 1.9 million members from 2,945 employers. The rising cost of pension contributions is not unique to Fort Bragg or the State of California. After losses in 2008 and 2009, most U.S. state pension plans have not recovered to the funded levels seen in the early 2000s. For example, in Arizona, the overall Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) is only 46.6% funded. In comparison, CalPERS overall funding rate is 71%, up from 68% the prior year. That is good news.

The funded status is the value of assets held today divided by the estimated future pension cost. In other words, for every dollar needed to pay CalPERS retirement benefits, there is $.71 cents available to pay it. Fort Bragg’s funds are a little better off. Together the City’s five funds have a funded ratio of 73.7%, so we have almost $.74 cents for every dollar owed. 

CalPERS Chart

Fort Bragg had an unfunded accrued liability (the other $.26 cents) of $8.9 million, as of June 30, 2017 (the most current Actuarial reports from CalPERS). Every year for the next 30 years, the City will pay an amortized portion of that liability. This and a reduced discount rate (expected rate of return), is what is driving the double digit increases in pension costs for the next five years and the reason that Fort Bragg’s pension expense is expected to nearly double from just under $1 million this year to close to $2 million in FY 2024-25.

Similar to a 30-year mortgage or other long-term debt, the best way to cut the cost of debt is to pay it off early. If the City commits to a 15-year amortization, it will save an estimated $3.5 to $4 million dollars. Measure H will ask the City voters in November to approve a 3/8th of a cent sales tax (.375%) which would provide the City funds it can use to pay this debt early. Measure H, if approved, would sunset after 15 years to match that repayment cycle. This is debt the City will have to pay, regardless of the funding source, and the longer we take to pay it off the more it costs.

Aug 09

By-District Election Process

Posted on August 9, 2018 at 4:17 PM by June Lemos

Fort Bragg seal small

August 9, 2018

The second public hearing to receive input from the Community on how the districting map of Fort Bragg should be drawn is scheduled for Monday, August 13th during the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

The purpose of this public hearing and the one conducted on July 23rd is to provide City leaders with direction on what is important to the Community in establishing the districts. 

The basic criterion is that each of the five districts should have approximately equal population or 1,455 people per district. If the City Council adopts a by-district election system, the boundaries of a district will determine who will run within that district. This impacts which City Councilmember candidates you will be able to vote for in the City. The boundaries also determine who else will be voting in your district. The interest and background of the other voters in your district will influence who is elected to City Council to represent your district.

The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) was enacted to guarantee minorities, based on race, color or language, equal protection and the right to vote under the California Constitution. Because of this, we have focused on the number and distribution of Hispanic/Latino (protected class) voters in Fort Bragg. It is important to remember the City is made up of people of all ages, backgrounds, education levels, affiliations, political parties and interest. Hispanic/Latino voters are currently less than 15% of the City’s registered voters. 

Based on the American Communities Survey information, of the 2,788 households in Fort Bragg, 33% earn less than $25,000 and 20% earn more than $75,000. Only 39% of those households own their homes and 61% rent. Of the total 3,198 housing units in the City, 25% are multi-family and 75% are single-family units.
There are 4,946 residents age 25 years or older. Of those, 17% do not have a High School degree, 61% have only a High School degree, 16% have a bachelor’s degree and 7% hold a graduate degree. 

There are 3,487 registered voters in Fort Bragg, representing 2,211 households. Of those voters, 1,828 are registered Democrats, 553 registered Republicans, 26 registered Libertarians, 62 registered Green, 20 registered Peace & Freedom, 6 registered Reform and 992 registered Independents.

Even if you are not in favor of by-district elections, I encourage you to participate in the process of determining the district boundaries. One of the more important criteria, besides roughly equal population, for determining district boundaries is communities of interest. Communities of interest include such factors as: neighborhoods, retail and commercial districts, voting precincts and shared similarities such as income level, educational level or family composition. 

So the question is - what community of interest is most valuable to you?

Voter graph