Contra Costa County's Budget Boondoggle


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Providing advance notice of what was then a soon-to-be published report, the Contra Costa Grand Jury advised our irresponsible supervisors and county administrator [John Sweeten] in 2002 that their reckless pension-fund giveaways would wreck the County's finances.    The Supervisors -- especially Mark DeSaulnier and John Gioia -- ignored that advice, and now they're laying off employees even as salaries and benefits grow immensely....

CONTRA COSTA TIMES -- October 1, 2002 

"Grand Jury asks board to delay vote on pension; panelists will suggest to supervisors that the plan could plunge the system into debt and cause big problems....  

" 'I seriously doubt there is anything new here,' [DeSaulnier] said.  'The grand jury has members who are very conservative  and don't have a full understanding about how county finances work.' ... Gioia also said he doubts the group's qualifications to investigate the retirement system thoroughly.  'They are essentially appointed through a random lottery drawing,' Goia said."  

CONTRA COSTA TIMES -- November 8, 2002 

" ' The county is going to be all right," [DeSaulnier] said. "It's going to be tough, but we can handle the impact. We'll manage it.'

"Gioia declined to comment, saying he had not read the grand jury report.


"[Sweeten] said the grand jury report grossly underestimates the county's ability to meet its new fiscal obligations....  'We already know the cost of the benefits package, and we've budgeted to account for it,' he said. 'We've spent a ton of time going over this and doing our homework -- that's where the grand jury is off base.'"



See the report these spendthrifts ignored:  " the Board of Supervisors has approved agreements that increase the already severe underfunding of the retirement plan. This action has placed additional liabilities on the County and insures a serious drain on future County finances.... By approving these increases, the Board of Supervisors is spending money it does not have."   


The problems predicted by the Grand Jury are already taking  hold.  Take a look at the mismatches below between expenses and revenues, and at the reduction in the number of county employees despite rapidly growing salaries and benefits....  


You'll see a county government living increasingly beyond its means, despite generous revenue increases.    Four of five current supervisors voted for the outrageous salary-benefit problems that have created most of the mess.  At least one of them -- Mark DeSaulnier -- hopes nevertheless to be rewarded with an Assembly seat in 2006.  



County of Contra Costa FY2005-2006 Preliminary Recommended Budget

General Fund Summary:












Salaries & Benefits






up 16.0% 
since 2003-04

Services & Supplies






Other Charges






Fixed Assets






Interdept. Transfers












up 9.1% 
since 2003-04


Local Revenue






Federal Assistance






State Assistance












up 7.1% 
since 2003-04















Meanwhile, nearly 60% (actual: 58.7% for 2003) of the County's safety employees who retire do so on disability status.   We can't afford such misuse of the system.


This page was last updated on 10/02/05