Mission Viejo

                      Staff Increases Lead to Burgeoning Costs
                                                                               by Larry Gilbert

Twenty years ago I requested financial data on our City staff wages and compensation. My request was denied by our City Attorney, who took the position that I lacked adequate justification to gain access to that data.

 Fast forward to present day, when Laguna Hills Councilwoman Barbara Kogerman's persistence in chasing the same staffing data resulted in all City employee compensation records in our state now being transparent and online. At the end of this article I am providing a link to Transparent California, the source of facts included in this article.     
I will benchmark Mission Viejo staffing levels with other South County cities that incorporated within a decade of each other. We are all General Law cities that contract out professional services such as police and fire protection, and water/ sewer services.

 Seeing that Mission Viejo has 834 names on the Transparent California benefits listing truly caught me off guard. Digging deeper into the report, where it lists our population as between 93,000 and 94,000, I noted that we have grown from 270 City employees in 2011 to 291 as of 2013. Based on our 135 full-time, year-round staff, Mission Viejo has more full-time employees than Aliso Viejo, RSM, Laguna Hills and Laguna Niguel COMBINED. Here are the breakdowns for our neighboring cities:
· Aliso Viejo, with a total (2013) population of 49,000, employs only 15 full-time year-round employees.

 · Rancho Santa Margarita had a (2013) population of 48,000 and only employs 21 full-time, year-round staff. 

· Laguna Hills, with a (2013) population of 31,000, employs 32 full-time, year-round staff.

· Laguna Niguel, with a (2013) population of 64,000, employs 59 full-time, year-round staff. 

Not included in the Mission Viejo employee count is our Building and Inspection Department which is operated by Charles Abbot Associates, whose employees carry City of Mission Viejo business cards. In the year ending June 30, 2014, we paid them $1.2 million for their services.

Another missing name is our Park Inspection and Maintenance services where we employ Jamie Clark Inc. Last fiscal year we paid Jamie $458,000.

Yes, we do have recreation centers, an animal shelter and our City library. We can debate the pros and cons of splitting off from the County Library system at another time, but like so many other things in our City, the original annual operating costs of the animal shelter and the library have exploded. 

The main issue of this report is that as City employees retire, most of them are replaced which results in the need to create a reserve for duplicate compensation. It's interesting when staff compares our City with others in order to gain acceptance of pending decisions. For that reason I include the same figures from our sister cities, each of whom incorporated between 1991 and 2001.

Recognizing the need to control our unfunded liabilities, Councilman Ed Sachs has taken the lead in getting the support of his fellow council members to start paying down our future obligations. I encourage the council to take it a step further and review the staffing needs versus the “wants” of each department.

As Ronald Reagan said, "Trust, but verify". I encourage you to verify your City data in the following link: http://transparentcalifornia.com/

Larry Gilbert, a retired electronics industry executive, has lived in Mission Viejo since 1977. He is an elected Board member of the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights. 


Anonymous said...

You cannot compare Mission Viejo to RSM and Aliso Viejo. Both of those cities are run by the Master Association. In fact, Aliso Viejo only has 2 parks that they are in charge of, the rest of the parks (over 20) are maintained and operated by the master association AVCA. RSM is maintained by a master association and the parks and pools are maintained by the master HOA. You are comparing apples to oranges.

Anonymous said...

Well said!
Gilbert and Holtzman, propped up Schlicht and Sachs, and are nothing but a pest to this city. In the mean time, our sports facilities are poorly maintained, are falling apart and are archaic compared to those of all of our neighbor cities in South County. We should vote Schlicht out!

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