Your Tax Dollars at Work

Caltrans to Spend $25 Million to Resurface Sacramento Bridge. Will the third time be the charm for the California Department of Transportation in resurfacing a freeway bridge in Sacramento? The agency hopes so.

CalTrans plans to spend $25 million to resurface the Pioneer Bridge on Highway 50 after failing on two prior attempts.

The first time, Caltrans spent $26 million for a concrete-like layer of resin, sand and bits of gravel. The mixture was laid on the bridge at less than half an inch thick, but the mixture did not stick to the old surface.

The first repair began to fall apart, and had to be fixed while it was under warranty. Still, the road surface continued to crumble, and now the warranty has expired.

Caltrans plans to use the same contractor that did the original work, but a different road surface mixture – expected to last approximately 20 years – that has been used on more than 1,000 other bridges in California.

Caltrans chose the initial bridge mixture in an attempt to save taxpayer dollars, but the latest repair will cost an additional $25 million. (Source: KCRA News, July 11.)

Los Angeles School Board Salaries More Than Double. The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education Compensation Review Committee has authorized a hefty pay raise for Los Angeles school board members.

Under the city charter, the Board of Education sets salaries every five years. This year’s commission authorized new annual salaries of $125,000 – up from $45,637 – that will take effect in 60 days. The raise equates to a 174 percent salary increase.

Efren Martinez, a commission member appointed by cities in southeast Los Angeles County, said, “It’s very obvious how much hard work the school board members put in day in and day out.”

Los Angeles City Council members make $191,000 a year, and Mr. Martinez noted that a typical board district is twice the size of a City Council district.

Yolie Flores, who left the board in 2011, argued that members should receive pay equal to that of City Council members, but commission members found that jump too large.

Mr. Martinez described the 174 percent salary increase as “a good starting point.” (Source: Los Angeles Times, July 11.)

Audit Suggests Taxpayers Are Owed for Levi’s Stadium. A leaked draft of a city-commissioned audit claims that the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium management owes taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for city staff time spent on games, and for the use of a public golf course as a parking lot.

Team officials have questioned the accuracy of the audit. Hannah Gordon, an attorney for the 49ers, said the report is “a waste of public time and funds.” Several city staffers also have questioned the audit, saying the city has been reimbursed for the expenses.

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who pushed the $200,000 audit and has publicly feuded with the 49ers, believes taxpayers are improperly subsidizing the stadium.

Measure J, passed by Santa Clara voters in 2010, prohibited the spending of taxpayer dollars on stadium events – including staff time of police officers, firefighters and other city workers.

The mayor believes the city is in violation of Measure J. The audit alleges that the team owes the city $424,349 in unpaid staff costs, but contains no documentation of the costs.

The firm of Harvey M. Rose, which conducted the audit, took the average cost of 11 NFL and non-NFL games and multiplied it by all events during a two-year period to come up with the $424,349 number.

Santa Clara’s acting finance director, Angela Kraetsch, questioned the accuracy of the estimates, and 49ers President Al Guido said the mayor handpicked the consulting firm that performed the audit, against the city’s recommendation.

This isn’t the first time the 49ers have feuded with the city. The stadium was built on top of a youth soccer field that the team agreed to replace, but the replacement has yet to be built.

A final report of the audit is expected to be released in August. (Source: San Jose Mercury News, July 12.)

Straight Outta Compton, Former City Official Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement. A former Compton deputy city treasurer pleaded guilty July 13 to embezzling more than $3.7 million from the city over the last six years.

Salvador Galvan was responsible for tallying the revenue Compton received from varying city fees like trash and water fees and then depositing the funds into the bank.

According to federal records, Mr. Galvan began to pocket anywhere from $200 to $8,000 a day, and avoided detection for years until a city colleague spotted a $7,000 discrepancy that triggered an investigation.

Mr. Galvan earned an annual salary of $60,000, but lived a lavish lifestyle that raised suspicion from several of his colleagues. Mr. Galvan’s supervisor told investigators that the employee upgraded from an old Toyota to a new black Audi sedan, and would pay for office parties, purchase gift cards for cashiers, and bought a high-end coffee machine for the office.

When confronted, Mr. Galvan confessed. Los Angeles County deputies arrested him late last year, after which he posted bond and remained out of custody until he was arrested by federal agents in March.

Mr. Galvan’s wife, who reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and money orders from her husband, also pleaded guilty. Both parties are scheduled to be sentenced in November. (Source: Los Angeles Times, July 14.)



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