Marysville residents found themselves $144 poorer each year beginning October 1, 2019 as the council voted a sewer fee increase on September 17. The monthly rate bumped from $36.80 to $48.95, a 33% increase. The justification was to make payments on debt incurred through a sewer bond.
Marysville is mired in numerous bond and pension debt payments, wants to add more employees, and struggles with regulatory compliance. Don’t you dare try this at home or you’ll end up living at the ‘14 Forward’ homeless camp in a Tuff Shed.
After the Central Valley Water Board (CVWB) fined Marysville $3.1 million for not filing 11 quarterly waste water reports, CVWB then agreed to a negotiated reduced fine of $288,288 in 2017. CVWB further authorized the use of 50% of the $288,288 fine to rehabilitate Ellis Lake.
A final report on the lake rehab was due to be presented to CVWB in January 2019, but the work has not been started. Unfortunately, the city is again out of compliance by not getting the lake clean-up completed.
A CVWB option of pumping Yuba River Water to the lake was offered to be done and paid for by businessman Charles Mathews and retired Fish and Wildlife employee Dale Whitmore. The council declined, favoring instead nearly a million dollar project to essentially convert the lake into an aquarium plus spend $45,000 in annual maintenance. EKI engineers, the promoters of the idea, offer no project guarantees except that the water will not be clean enough for human contact.
Now, the California State Auditor Elaine Howle says Marysville ranks 16th among the top 18 most “fiscally challenged” cities in the state. The auditor evaluated 471 cities. More than half the cities were listed as moderate to high risk for financial problems. The primary ailment is employee pensions and benefits. They’re too expensive.
These problem cities' lousy financial state exists in spite of California's overall economy, now in its 115th month of growth, breaking a record set in the 1960s. Unemployment is at historic lows and the state has so much tax revenue that the Legislature approved a budget earlier this year with a $21.5 billion surplus. The next downturn will be catastrophic for the troubled cities.
Howle said 337 of 471 cities have not saved enough money to pay for future retiree health benefits. Nearly half of the cities are not saving enough money to pay pension benefits in five years. She also was alarmed to see some cities borrowing money to pay pension obligations.
The auditor's office used 10 indicators to measure financial health, including whether cities had enough money to pay their bills, how much debt they have, how much money they have in savings, and if the city has enough money to pay retirement obligations. The office used those indicators to rank cities from worst to best.
Marysville was rated “high risk” in the following categories: Debt burden, pension obligations / funding, future pension costs, OPEB – other post-employment benefits funding. The city was “moderate risk” in general fund reserves and revenue trends, and pension costs. It was “low risk” in liquidity and OPEB obligations.
Yuba City was ranked at 26 in overall risk. Compton achieved the number one spot for most “fiscally challenged” cities and was noted by Auditor Howle for a lack of transparency.
Marysville residents are irritated with paying an additional 1% sales tax, higher gas taxes and DMV fees with no benefits. For example, all SB1 road improvements are occurring in adjacent jurisdictions (Linda, Olivehurst, Yuba County foothills, Yuba City, Sutter County), everywhere but Marysville.
And finally, Marysville residents pay triple the cost for water compared to Linda, Olivehurst and Yuba City. The service rate starts off higher then there is a premium for going over your use-budget and finally a charge because customers are not consuming sufficient water to provide California Water Service enough profit.
The Marysville management philosophy of a path to financial health seems to be raise taxes and fees, incur more debt and increase the size of government while making one poor decision after another.
(Get Lou’s podcast at “No Hostages Radio” and his articles at nohostagesradio.com)