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Tribune providing a disservice to community

What is it with the Tribune? Your inaccurate and incomplete reporting of City of Madera finances is a disservice to the citizens of Madera. Citizens of Madera have been right to be upset regarding some of the wage and benefits provided to City and Redevelopment Senior Management employees (both past and present). Due to these concerns voiced by many (some very legitimate and others often misleading and simply in error) in March of this year the City Council commissioned an updated management compensation study (conducted by Koff & Associates) of 15 such City positions. I was also contracted by the Council to provide recommendations for study guidelines and assumptions and to analyze the report’s findings and provide recommendations and options for implementation. My contract did not include final implementation strategies or review of the final staff and Council decisions. After my open session report (Management Compensation Study: Analysis & Consideration) to Council on July 18th I found it necessary to submit a letter of correction to the Tribune regarding significant errors in the reporting of my written and verbal report to Council. I had a similar expereince regarding my “Water Rate Review” report of April 8th in which I provide detailed analysis linking the high water utility rates to a long history of the City of Madera failing to address and establish adequate Development Impact Fees for new development and its impact on the water system infrastructure. In both cases the Tribune either ignored, misreported and/or did not comprehend the information presented. Unfortunately, the Tribune again made a glaring and misleading statement in its front-page article: “Council says no to benefit extension” in its Saturday, October 6th edition. Consider the following which appears mid-way through the first paragraph of reporter DJ Becker’s article: “Buried within the measure was also an item to provide new lifetime health benefits for senior city staff approaching or with between 12 to 15 years on the job” (my Italics added). Such false reporting and use of blatant incendiary language have been the Tribune’s modus operandi thorough its entire year-long reporting of these important matters. Even for the casual reader it is difficult to imagine that anything was “buried” in the very well-organized Council Agenda Item C-2 cover report: Consideration of Resolution Approving Agreements with the (nine (9) Dept. Head Titles following). The benefit for continued medical coverage for management employees with 20 or more years of service was a pre-existing benefit. While the new, recommended policy change may or may not go far enough in limiting the availably of such a benefit, it’s certainly not a “New Benefit” which was nefariously slipped in. The recommendation for the new contracts limits this CURRENT BENEFIT. While the wisdom of such a benefit may certainly be challenged, let us begin by accurately reporting the current status and recommended changes. And while I may not necessarily agree with the extent of those changes, they are significant. The policies and decisions related to the compensation package afforded to some senior management employees were not established in recent years. Nor are all of the management salary ranges all out of line. Some of the decisions go back 15 years or more and have been expanded by subsequent Councils. Similarly, the failure to establish Development Impacts Fees to properly address the impacts of new development on our water system has an even longer history of neglect dating back 25 years or more. However, the Tribune’s often shoddy and inaccurate reporting is impeding the process of addressing solutions in a fairly and non-prejudicial manner. The City staff report conservatively estimates that their recommendations to Council, limiting and reducing the cost of the current benefits package, will generate an approximate annual savings of $73,000 plus. But the Tribune failed to report this! I believe that to be a conservative figure. The staff report did not reference the potential, additional savings to two currently open Department Head positions. In addition, if implemented, similar reductions in compensation and/or fringe benefits to Executive Management positions (not yet presented) reporting directly to City Council (New City Manager, Attorney and City Clerk) combined could generate another $40- to $50,000 in annual savings. There are also future savings which should materialize. My rough estimate is that the City Council should, within a couple of years, be able to wipeout the current deficit if it continues to make these tough decisions. — Ron Manfredi, Madera

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