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Money For Nothing

By J.J. Gasparotti
By J.J. Gasparotti

Did the Laguna Beach Taxpayers Association die and somebody forgot to print the obituary? I only ask because lately the antics at City Hall are such that any alive and well taxpayers association would be up in arms. Ours seems to be missing in action.  Have we become so prosperous that fiscal responsibility is no longer a concern?

A recent city council meeting bore a strong resemblance to a Oprah Winfrey show. What with the annual giving away of surplus money to all those smart enough to ask for it. It went to the same kids selling the same chiclets.

Alas there seemed to be no money for responsible fuel modification in the overgrown brush areas. The Laguna Canyon Foundation has given us a demonstration on how fuel modification can be done right. It would increase safety to do more projects like that.

The problem is this concept of surplus money. It bears a strong resemblance to a family that fails to pay off its credit card balance in favor of keeping money in their checking account and then going off and spending that money on something else new and shiny.

In our city’s case this unpaid credit card balance is the unfunded obligation for the generous pensions given to public employees. In a world where most of us have defined contributions to our pension, our city employees still get defined benefits from their pension. A much better deal for the employee. Not for the employer. It won’t be long before we are paying the cost of two employees for every one working.

At the same meeting where the council was acting like Oprah by giving away nearly $5 million dollars of surplus money, the fact we owe almost $3 million to the California Employees Pension fund was barely mentioned. And this number is probably low when you consider the pension fund projects its rate of return to be an optimistic 7%.

The best part of the council’s give away was when they doubled down on the movement to turn the defunct sewage sludge digester tank into a silk purse. This time it was only another $15,000 being spent on a study for the village exit. Not a lot. But over time these drips, dabs and chunks of money have accumulated into a total expenditure on studies for the Village Exit of $1.6 million, according to records provided by the city clerk. That’s some serious money. Enough to do something substantial. What did we get? Nothing!

There really is no such thing as surplus money. There is such a thing as having more money than brains.


JJ Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11yrs old. He has loved it ever since.

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