Sonoma County, California

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521px-Map of California highlighting Sonoma County.svg.png
Grade2.pngB-
Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials Y
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Permits, zoning N
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Audits Y
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Contracts P
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Lobbying N
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Public records Y
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Local taxes Y
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Transparency grading process


Sonoma County is one of 58 counties in California.

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of California county websites

Last rated on Jan. 18, 2012

The good

  • The names and contact information for all board of supervisor members is available.[1]
  • Board of supervisor meeting agendas and minutes are published.[2]
  • Contact information for administrative officials is available.[3]
  • The complete budget and audit reports are available.[4]
  • Information on taxes is provided.[5][6]
  • Information on bid policies and procedures are available.[7]
  • Information on how to obtain public records is provided.[8]

The bad

  • There is no information on building permits and zoning and lobbying.
  • Active and awarded bids not posted.

Lobbying

Main article: California government sector lobbying

Sonoma County pays for services of the lobbying firm Alcade & Fay.[9]

For 2007 and 2008, the county spent $516,935 on lobbying the California legislature.[10]

Public Pensions

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisor authorized a new, lower set of benefit formulas for future hires who carry over from other government retirement systems their years of service and eligibility for benefits. Provided unions agree, the new benefit tier would apply to those employees hired after Dec. 31.[11]

The change would affect a small segment of the future workforce. Only about 12 to 13 percent of county employees come to their job with previous government service that makes them eligible for benefits from Sonoma County. That carryover is allowed under so-called “reciprocal” agreements common among city, county and state agencies in California.[12]

The change is not expected to lower the county's current unfunded pension liability, set last December at $353 million.[13]

Union Rejects Contract

Service Employees International Local 1021 rejected a proposed contract that would have cut their pensions and pay. The union represents about half of the county's 3,400 workers, mostly lower paid staff. Those workers have taken aim at the higher pay and perks of managers and argued that their own ranks have been unequally thinned in budget cuts from 2008 to 2011. They also have gone without a cost-of-living adjustment to their wages since 2007, a freeze that would have continued under the new contract.[14]

To meet new public pension financing rules, Sonoma County, along with five others, would have to dedicate all of their existing property taxes to pay for pensions or pursue municipal bankruptcy through the courts, according to a report by Moody’s municipal credit rating agency. Moody’s proposed changes in evaluating pension funds are:[15]

  • The assumed rate of return on pension fund investments will be lowered from 7.75 percent to 5.5 percent. The lower the interest rate on pension fund investments, the larger the cash contribution required by employees or counties. Public pension funds have assumed unrealistically high investment return rates based on inflation during the Mortgage Bubble.
  • Municipalities will be required to catch up on its unfunded pension liabilities in 17-years, not the 20 to 30 year period now used.
  • Full payment of borrowed principal and interest – called full amortization — will be required in making pension payments. This means that level payments will be required, not graduated payments that start low and rise over time.

External links

References