ISU raises contingent on state funding, pension reform

NORMAL — The Illinois State University Board of Trustees approved a pay increase of just over 4 percent for President Al Bowman Friday, but it won’t take effect until merit salary increases are adopted for other employees.

No action has been taken on those increases as the board and administration waits on the Illinois General Assembly to act on state funding and pension reform.

Bowman’s salary is $384,400. The approved raise would take him to $400,000, which board chairman Michael McCuskey said is the average compensation for a university president.

“President Bowman is not ‘average’ at all,” he said. “It’s average compensation for an above-average person.”

Board member Jay Bergman, a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said the presidents of University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University all make more than Bowman.

Given the uncertainty of actions at the state level, a decision on merit salary increases is postponed. Bowman hopes a modest increase can be approved that would be retroactive to the start of the fiscal year.

He said he does not see a need for layoffs. He said ISU remains financially stable because of prudent planning and lower than average debt.

The university received $15 million in new cash and gift commitments last year, “surpassing all but the final year of the Redefining Normal campaign,” Bowman told the board.

In addition, the university received $25.5 million in grants, surpassing its previous best grant year by $3 million (excluding last year’s $17.7 million grant for developing Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network).

In other action, the board:

 Learned the university received about 12,400 freshmen applications this year, down slightly from last year.

 Agreed Normal will provide fire protection services or fiscal year 2013 for $517,666.

 Hired consultants for a multi-year project to upgrade academic information technology infrastruc-ture.

 Approved a doctor of nursing practice program and a master’s degree in anthropology that will replace a master’s degree in archaeology.

via ISU raises contingent on state funding, pension reform.

San Bernardino employees meet with interim city manager for answers, reassurance – San Bernardino County Sun

SAN BERNARDINO – They’re still anxious and they’re still frustrated, city employees said after meeting Wednesday with Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller, but they feel a lot better now that they’ve heard directly from the top.

“Morale, ever since the (authorization) of bankruptcy, has been in the toilet,” said Stephen Johns, who works in the sewer division of the Public Works. Department “It’s the uncertainty. At least now we have some guidance, and we’ve seen the city at least seems to be on point in putting together a plan and being transparent.”

The meeting, which lasted about two hours, was open only to city employees.

Johns, who has attended each of the City Council meetings since the council authorized staff to pursue Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection on July 10, said Wednesday’s meeting didn’t include any significant information that wasn’t public before.

But the opportunity to ask questions and receive as much information as was available made a big difference in employees’ mind-sets, he said.

“(Morale) is a lot better than before. It’s good to know ahead of time and be ready for any potential layoffs,” he said. “There was a lot of agreement that we all need to bond together.”

Paula Miller, a literacy program coordinator with the San Bernardino Public Library, agreed that employees need to be on the same page, but she wanted to make sure that public safety employees also took a cut.

“As long as it’s

done equally and it also hits police and fire, that’s OK,” she said. “We all need to come together and stand by each other. I’ve been telling people, you’re not hearing the whole story about pensions. At the library, we don’t make much, and we’ve been making concessions for four years.”

Travis-Miller said Tuesday that 63 employees had announced they were leaving the city in the last two weeks, complicating the city’s cash shortage because it must pay them for accrued vacation and sick leave.

“If any union or individual has a question about our financial situation, I’m willing to meet with them,” said Travis-Miller, who runs the city under direction from the mayor and council.

She has previously indicated the budget will have to be cut by about 30percent, which will likely necessitate layoffs.

It’s hard to imagine further cuts to the library, which has gone from 43 full-time employees to 12 in the past few years, said Joe Michaud, the library’s network administrator.

“They answered a lot of questions, but people still want to know if they’ll be working here, if we’ll have parks and libraries and other things that a city needs,” Michaud said.

He said he’s seen funding steadily cut in his 13 years as a city employee, but he’s never before seen an all-employee meeting like Wednesday’s.

“That’s a great sign,” Michaud said. “If we can come together and if we can be transparent like this, maybe that will be a good thing out of all this.”

via San Bernardino employees meet with interim city manager for answers, reassurance – San Bernardino County Sun.

Raimondo Pension Lawsuit Seen Risking Bankruptcies: Muni Credit – Businessweek

Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo championed an overhaul last year of one of the nation’s worst- funded public pensions, setting out a road map for states and cities by curbing benefits and delaying retirements.

Now the revamp, which took effect this month, is facing a legal challenge from unions. If successful, the lawsuit could produce fiscal “devastation” by spurring more municipal bankruptcies in a state already on the verge of falling back into recession, according to Raimondo, a 41-year-old Democrat.

While the court action may take months or years, it’s being closely watched as it may provide guidance in other states where similar legal battles have arisen, said Amy Monahan, who teaches law at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Rhode Island is also unusual because, unlike in California, where court rulings have sided with labor to protect benefits, there is little precedent to guide the outcome, she said.

“Other state courts will watch because they’d love to come up with a way to address this area that makes sense,” Monahan said, calling it “a compelling case.”

“Rhode Island has it all: a poorly funded plan and really widespread changes,” she said.

$4.6 Trillion Gap

The law provided “a dramatic punctuation” to efforts by U.S. state and local governments seeking to control retiree costs as pension-plan losses drained assets, said Ronald Snell, a senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. Estimates of the collective unfunded liability run as high as $4.6 trillion.

Cuts affecting public workers have been made in more than 40 states since the financial crisis, typically targeting newly hired employees because of legal or contractual restraints, according to the legislatures group.

In Rhode Island, five unions representing state and municipal workers, teachers, firefighters and police claim that the law violates their constitutional rights by breaking contracts and taking away benefits earned by retirees and workers. The groups also say Raimondo manufactured a crisis by lowering pension investment-return assumptions, increasing unfunded liabilities and forcing lawmakers to back the cuts.

“Gina Raimondo, who I am personally fond of, did a phenomenal job of equating the unfunded pension liability as if it were a weapon of mass destruction,” said Robert Walsh, the executive director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, the teachers’ union that has sued. “The political tide was unstoppable once that connection was made.”

National Attention

Raimondo gained celebrity status by engineering the overhaul. She was featured in Time magazine, and earned awards and recognition from public-policy groups. She rose in voter surveys, becoming Rhode Island’s most-popular politician. The accolades reflected both her willingness as a political neophyte to buck her party and take on unions as well as her success in winning passage for far-reaching pension changes.

By delaying retirement, suspending cost-of-living increases and offering workers 401(k)-type savings plans, Rhode Island cut its pension obligations by $3 billion, to $4.3 billion, and lowered the state’s required annual contribution by $275 million, to $414 million. In 2007, the system was judged by Bloomberg Rankings to be the least funded of any state, with 54 percent of assets needed to cover projected liabilities.

“She deserves credit along with others,” said David Walker, president of the Comeback America Initiative, a nonprofit public-policy group in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “She had the courage to campaign on the need for pension reform and to make tough choices, even in the face of significant union opposition.”

Court Action

Labor leaders promised to sue to block the changes as soon as Governor Lincoln Chafee, elected as an independent in 2010, signed the overhaul law in November. They made good on their threats last month, taking the issue to court days before the law took effect July 1.

Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter rejected a request to block the changes while the dispute is litigated. The complaints brought by the five unions have been consolidated into a single action, according to Craig Berke, a court spokesman. The unions continue to seek an injunction to block enforcement, according to court records.

The stakes are high in Rhode Island, which has dealt with six-straight budget deficits and has the second-highest unemployment rate in the U.S., according to Labor Department data. One city, Central Falls, sought protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Providence last year, citing pensions it couldn’t afford. The state has taken over the finances of two others, Woonsocket and East Providence.

via Raimondo Pension Lawsuit Seen Risking Bankruptcies: Muni Credit – Businessweek.

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Peek into municipal bankruptcy crystal ball

By TERI SFORZA

So we’ve had our nose buried in city audits, trying  to see who might plunge off the fiscal cliff and into the bankruptcy abyss.

This involves assessing the short-term fiscal health of O.C.’s 34 cities, and we’ve told you that Placentia and Stanton are uncomfortably close to the edge. Both cities say they are buckling down, trying to live within their means, and are optimistic they’ll be able to do so without going officially bust.

Article Tab: image1-Peek into municipal bankruptcy crystal ball

What of the rest of our fair metropolises?

Gaze into our Municipal Bankruptcy Crystal Ball (or at least, our list, which you’ll find below) and ponder what the future may hold.

City manager-types are not in universal awe of the method we’ve been using to assess the short-term fiscal health of their cities: We’ve been comparing general fund unassigned balance — something akin to “mad money,” if you will — to general fund expenses to get a snapshot of a city’s ability to pay its bills in the short term. (Remember, going bankrupt doesn’t mean you’re not worth a lot; it means that you don’t have enough liquid cash on hand to meet your immediate obligations, and your credit situation is in the toilet, so no one will lend you money to get over the hump.)

Very important:  Some cities have much more stashed away than one can see by this measure. They’ve put rainy-day money into separate “assigned” funds — which can easily be “unassigned” or “reassigned” by the city council if need be. (Several cities go into great detail about this, and you’ll find those details below. We expect to hear from more cities after this publishes, and will update.)

So this crystal ball is not perfect. It is in many ways a worst-casescenario, as harsh a picture as can be painted, and thus a rather conservative measure of fiscal health.

If they’re looking good on this list, they’re looking good. If they’re not, well, citizens might want to ask their elected representatives a few more questions.

LOOKING GOOD

First, let’s note those who have managed to stash away the most for a rainy day by this measure:

Yorba Linda (where reserves are 159 percent of the general fund budget), Lake Forest (144 percent); Laguna Woods (131 percent); Fountain Valley (98 percent); and La Palma (97 percent).

LOOKING, YOU KNOW, MAYBE NOT SO GOOD?

And then, let’s look at the ones who have the least by this measure. We’ve talked at some length aboutPlacentia already. Officials say Santa Ana was close to the brink, but is on the mend.

So let’s talk about Cypress, which comes in just behind Placentia on our list, which is not a place one wants to be. By our unassigned general fund balance measure, Cypress had mad money of less than 1 percent of its annual spending. But that, its mayor said, is because of the aforementioned emergencymoney-placed-elsewhere thing.

“Cypress remains financially strong and we are not on the brink of insolvency,” Mayor Douglas A. Bailey wrote in a response to our measure, which we’ve been circulating among city-types for weeks.

To wit: Cypress puts 25 percent of its operating expenses into an assigned emergency fund, and has another 5 percent stashed in assigned funds elsewhere, for a reserve of about 30 percent. The most important points, the mayor said, are that Cypress’ general fund revenues were $30 million and it spent some $25 million, leaving a healthy “balance available for assignment” of more than $4 million. “The City of Cypress has traditionally been a fiscally conservative and prudently managed organization, and it is no different when the economy is booming, or during lean times as we are currently experiencing,” he said. (See more detail from Cypress below.)

OTHERS HAVE MORE TOO

Consider Newport Beach, which has a comfy 35 percent cushion by our measure. It also has many millions more set aside. “For instance, we have assigned funds to our IT strategic plan and for additional facilities, but these are cash and liquid,” City Manager Dave Kiff told us by email. “If I need them in the event of a crisis, I just don’t buy the IT nor build another facility.  And they immediately become unassigned and available reserves.  So Newport’s number, using my math, is $88.3 M” — or 138 percent.

  • Laguna Beach has an 8.3 percent cushion by our measure; but city officials say it’s more like 22 percent when other funds are taken into consideration.
  • San Clemente, which has a 9 percent cushion by our measure, has a separate ‘sustainability fund balance reserve’ of $10 million, which takes it firmly into the comfort zone of 32 percent.
  • Dana Point, which has a comfy 22 percent cushion by our measure, had many millions more in other accounts — with “on-hand available cash resources”  totaling 68 percent of annual expenditures.
  • Laguna Niguel, which has a comfy 50 percent by our measure, would be more like 160 percent.

See detailed explanations below the chart.

Now, the crystal ball is funky: Stanton, which is widely considered one of the cities closest to the edge of the financial abyss here in O.C., had an unassigned general fund balance of $12.5 million. With a general fund of only $15.6 million, that appears to be a very comfortable cushion of 80 percent.

But Stanton is spending way more than it takes in each year. It has eaten into that money to cover that overspending, and officials say that if costs continue unabated, Stanton will be broke in four years.

We’ll be gazing through that particular lens for you very soon.

LAGUNA NIGUEL

From City Manager Tim Casey:

Interesting numbers. I suspect that some of the variations are due to GASB 54 which replaced former fund balance designations (Reserved, Unreserved/Designated and Unreserved/Undesignated) with the new terms (Nonspendable, Restricted, Committed, Assigned and Unassigned). In Laguna Niguel, using the June 30, 2011 CAFR, we consider our General Fund reserves to consist of:

Capital Asset Replacement Reserve (Committed per GASB 54) $25,238,030

Streets and Roads Reserve (Assigned per GASB 54) $4,442,315

Reserve for Economic Uncertainty (Unassigned per GASB 54) $13,383,939

Total $43,064,284

That obviously paints a different picture. All of these reserves were established by Laguna Niguel City Council actions, but GASB 54 requires them to be assigned to different buckets.

SAN CLEMENTE

From Assistant City Manager/City Treasurer Pall Gudgeirsson:

San Clemente should also reflect our  ‘sustainability fund balance reserve’ of $10 million dollars in addition to unassigned fund balance. This is much like an emergency reserve and enhances our liquidity position and is a similar adjustment you made to other cities.

LAGUNA BEACH

From Director of Finance and Information Technology Gavin Curran:

First, it is important to point out that the City’s General Fund, as reported in the CAFR, includes expenditures for the City Sewer Service Fund, Capital Improvement Fund, and the Parking Fund. Please understand that other cities may show these expenditures as separate funds, in which case the expenditures apparently would not be included in the expenditure number the OC Register is using to calculate the “unassigned” fund balance percentage.

Second, the “assigned” amount of $19.5 million is comprised of a cash set-aside of $12.6 million for specifically identified and approved capital improvement projects, $4.8 million for future parking improvements, and $2.1 million set aside for specified operational expenditures such as the City’s Fuel Modification program and department-requested capital equipment purchases. While the City Council arguably could consider moving a portion of the “assigned” fund balance to the “unassigned” fund balance, there would need to be legal review on a case-by-case basis, consideration for delaying or eliminating capital improvement projects, deciding not to move forward with future parking projects, or not approving departmental funding requests.

Third, it should be noted that in Fiscal Year 2009-10, the City paid off a $10 million pension liability to CalPERS. This was a payoff of the City’s so-called “Side Fund,” which represents the unfunded liability for past service credit of safety employees. CalPERS had been charging the City 7.75% interest on a balance of $10 million over a remaining repayment period of about 15 years. To make the $10 million payment, the General Fund had to “borrow” $8 million in available cash from other funds – including the Parking Fund, the Insurance Fund, the Vehicle Replacement Fund and the Street Lighting Fund – which borrowed funds would be repaid over 15 years through the required allocation of future revenues. The payment, or expenditure, was recorded in the General Fund, thereby reducing the “unassigned” fund balance, although cash was borrowed from the other funds so that the General Fund cash balance itself would not be impacted. The Governmental Fund Types Balance Sheet shows this $8 million advance to the General Fund. By borrowing internally and paying off the debt, the City is expecting to save approximately $4.2 million over 15 years.

We consider the $8 million as available cash in the General Fund, with less cash available in the other funds that were impacted by the borrowing. By adding that figure to the “unassigned” fund balance and dividing by the General Fund expenditures, the fund balance percentage is 22%.

DANA POINT

From Assistant City Manager Mike Killebrew:

…(W)e think it important for you to point out some unique elements that make Dana Point a very financially sound City as well as reflects the historically fiscally-conservative nature of the current and past City Councils. DanaPoint has never had a Redevelopment Agency and has no outstanding debt or long-term financial commitments. As such, we think it important that you list the liquid assets of the City that the City Council has available to it should they need to draw upon them for some unforeseen financial situation. For the past year, the City has had on average approximately $33.5 million of cash and secure investments on hand each month. The City Council has the ability to designate and/or re-designate the vast majority of these funds as necessary to cover City expenditures.

The City’s financial condition is very strong and our budget is constructed in a manner which allows for much flexibility should revenues the City relies on dramatically change. I would like to point out that the number you use from a year ago for the unassigned fund balance (i.e. $6,093,837) does not include other Council-designated reserves that are available at any time by Council action. City Council policy dictates that in addition to the unassigned fund balance, that the City maintain reserves of 30%, and at June 30, 2011 those reserves were fully funded (and continue to be to this day) and amounted to $8,211,000; of that amount, $2,737,000 is set aside for cash flow (e.g. to cover payments until the semi-annual property tax revenue is received from the County AND assuming that there is no unassigned fund balance, which as you report there is unassigned fund balance), and an additional $5,474,000 is set-aside for emergencies.

In addition to those two reserves, the City has also set-aside cash of $648,856 just in case the State decides to use more of their budget gimmicks and take additional City revenue; plus, another $3,169,000 in cash for future capital asset replacements. All of these cash reserves are available and could be utilized, if needed, simply by action of the City Council. When one speaks of solvency, one must consider all liquid resources that are not restricted for specific purposes. Even using your more limited perspective of short-term fiscal health, which of course shows the City to be in good shape having an unassigned fund balance of 21.9%, we know the City is in exceptional fiscal shape. This is the case for both the short-term and the long-term, and with that the City has on-hand available cash resources of 68% of expenditures.

CYPRESS 

From Mayor Douglas A. Bailey:

…the City of Cypress “assigns/commits” a portion of its fund balance (25% of its operating expenses) for a contingency/unforeseen situations/stabilization agreement.

As mandated by government accounting procedures, the City reports its fund balance by self-imposed constraints to demonstrate how fund balance amounts will ultimately be expended. Since the City Council formally approved the 25% contingency it is recorded under committed fund balance, not unassigned.

It appears that the goal of the Orange County Register’s article was to determine the liquidity of the City. To determine liquidity, a better measure would have been to analyze the General Fund cash ($27,304,783) as compared to accounts payable ($2,433,809). By using the “unassigned” fund balance, it appears that the City was being criticized for having a financial plan which commits, assigns and restricts funds for specific purposes.

The facts of the City’s financial picture are as follows:

  • The General Fund maintains a Contingency (Stabilization Agreement) of 25% ($6.0 million)
  • The General Fund also has assigned $1.6 million in cash to a Business Relocation Stabilization Account
  • These two designations of the General Fund’s fund balance would equal an over 30% reserve
  • The City also maintains general fund monies in the capital projects fund (a 30% emergency contingency of $7.2 million)
  • In addition, the City’s infrastructure fund is an assignment of general fund monies and includes over $8 million.

Finally, the most important points for FY 2010-1 1:

  • Cypress’ General Fund revenues/sources were $30 million
  • Cypress’ General Fund operating expenses and basic capital expenses were over $25 million, leaving the balance available for assignment annually of over $4 million

The City of Cypress has traditionally been a fiscally conservative and prudently managed organization, and it is no different when the economy is booming, or during lean times as we are currently experiencing.

The City maintains internal service funds with accumulated balances to cover equipment replacement, employee benefits (including fully funding retiree health benefits), and insurance reserves. These funds are funded at levels greater than actuarial requirements.

Furthermore, the City Council and the City’s workforce continuously work together to identify opportunities to realize cost savings. In this effort, the City has:

  • Reduced the number of full-time positions through attrition, reorganization, and hiring freeze
  • Contracted out certain City services such as landscaping
  • Optimized use of equipment and replaced only when absolutely necessary
  • Sought competitive bids for the lowest pricing on goods and services
  • In partnership with employee associations, future employees will pay a portion of pension costs
  • Police Department commitment to core services and reducing overtime expenditures

The City Council of the City of Cypress is committed to maintaining the fiscal health of the City and continuing the quality services that our residents have come to expect. On behalf of my colleagues on the City Council, we would like to assure our residents again that the City is in good financial health, and we expect the City to remain fiscally strong and prosperous for many years to come.

For more information regarding the City’s finances, the City’s financial documents are readily available on the City’s website. The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) can be accessed at

http:/lwww.ci.cvpress.ca.uslfinancell011 cafrll011 cafr.pdf.

The City’s annual budget can be accessed at http://www.ci.cvpress.ca.us/financelbudqet table contentshtm

City safe from bankruptcy – St. Joseph News-Press and FOX 26 KNPN: Local News

By Clinton Thomas | St. Joseph News-Press | 1 comment

You won’t catch many accountants California dreamin’ these days at City Hall.

The recent bankruptcy filings of three California cities — Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes — have raised concerns of municipal financial failures closer to home.

Carolyn Harrison, administrative services director for the city, explained how St. Joseph’s financial situation differs from its West Coast counterparts.

“Obviously, everything on either side of the coasts happens on a greater magnitude than the Midwest in general,” Ms. Harrison said. “The highs are higher, the lows are lower.”

Broken down into the most basic terms, Stockton and San Bernardino suffered from a loss of tax revenue during the recession, coupled with rising personnel and pension costs. Once the cities realized they could not afford to provide basic services, they filed for bankruptcy.

Mammoth Lakes, in contrast, was forced into bankruptcy when the town of roughly 8,000 lost a $43 million lawsuit with a developer.

Government officials in St. Joseph adapted their budgets when they began to notice a drop in revenue. It also had made consistent payments to its pension plans. Though St. Joseph remains underfunded from prior neglect decades ago, the city is in no danger of defaulting.

“As soon as we realized there was a problem with the general economy going south, we quit using the salary increases that our salary matrix had built in,” Ms. Harrison said.

The city’s budget hit its toughest patch in May 2010, when a projected $2.5 million shortfall forced the City Council to eliminate 20 positions from city government.

For comparison, Stockton and its 292,000 residents faced a $26 million budget shortfall, while the 211,000 citizens of San Bernardino found themselves in a $45 million hole.

By the time St. Joseph employees received a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment in this year’s budget, they had gone since the 2008-09 fiscal year without a raise. Ms. Harrison credited the city’s municipal labor unions for understanding the financial situation during the interim.

“The fact that we were able to offer even a very minor pay increase really speaks to the financial health of the city,” she said. “We’re nowhere near where they are in California, and the economy is showing signs of improving.”

via City safe from bankruptcy – St. Joseph News-Press and FOX 26 KNPN: Local News.

Are California’s ‘Charter Cities’ Bankruptcy Prone?

The last three major California cities to file for bankruptcy or announce plans to do so – including Stockton last month and San Bernardino two weeks ago – have something in common: They are all “charter cities.” They have their own constitutions, or charters, granting them more freedom than non-charter cities to govern their affairs.

A hundred and twenty one of California’s 482 cities are charters. The first were established in the 1870s when tough economic times and criticism that the state was meddling in city affairs spurred a constitutional revision granting municipalities the charter option. Other states, including Colorado, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas, also offer their cities greater autonomy under what is generally known as “home rule,” but while the courts in those states have sometimes limited the power of home-rule cities, California’s Supreme Court has tended to side with the cities when power disputes with the state have arisen.

Some say the resulting level of independence may be the very cause of charter cities’ fiscal problems. They say charter cities, for instance, aren’t subject to state laws mandating salary limits for elected officials, a fact that was revealed – infamously – two years ago, when news broke that the tiny, working-class city of Bell outside Los Angeles paid its city manager $800,000 a year.

But not all of California’s charter cities are in financial trouble. Two of the largest, Los Angeles and San Francisco, are relatively stable, owing to their large populations, diverse economies and high property-tax rates. And it isn’t just California’s charter cities that are struggling; plenty of non-charter cities are also facing financial difficulties.

Charters can actually give cities more flexibility to cut costs. For example, California’s Supreme Court recently ruled that charter cities don’t have to pay prevailing union rates to contractors on municipal projects funded with local tax dollars.

“When you give a city more control, it can go one of two ways,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles and local-government expert. “One way is the leaders are very successful in running that city; the other way is, you get Bell, you get San Bernardino, you get Stockton.”

Lately, however, it seems more charter cities are headed the way of the latter group. Another, Compton, just announced it may have to file for bankruptcy by September (WALL STREET JOURNAL, STATE NET)

The above article is provided by the State Net Capitol Journal. State Net is the nation’s leading source of state legislative and regulatory content for all states within the United States. State Net daily monitors every bill in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the United States Congress – as well as every state agency regulation. Virtually all of the information about individual bills and their progress through legislatures is online within 24 hours of public availability.

via Are California’s ‘Charter Cities’ Bankruptcy Prone?.

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Police seize $2.8M in raid on Last Place on Earth

Duluth police officers remove items from the Last Place on Earth in Duluth after exercising a search warrant in September 2011. Synthetic marijauna, cash, and 31 guns were seized from the business. Owner Jim Carlson and his attorney are asking a court to return some of the items and sach, along with requesting copies of scientific tests of the synthertic marijuana. (File / News Tribune)
Read the article: Police seize $2.8M in raid on Last Place on Earth

Coon Rapids city manager resigns at request of city council – TwinCities.com

With little explanation offered, the Coon Rapids City Council this week accepted the resignation of its city manager.

The move came less than a week after council members met in closed session to conduct Matt Fulton’s semiannual performance review, where they unanimously voted to ask him to step down, according to council member Scott Schulte.

“He didn’t share our vision as to where Coon Rapids should go in the future,” Schulte said.

He declined to elaborate beyond saying there were differences of opinion between council members and Fulton regarding public and private development in the northern suburb.

Citing legalities spelled out in Fulton’s separation agreement, another council member, Bruce Sanders, would only say what did not prompt the decision.

“There is absolutely no story behind the story, no wrongdoing, no immoral or indecent acts that occurred,” Sanders said. “I wish I could say more but … I will leave it at that.”

Other council members either did not respond to calls or emails or declined to comment. Fulton also did not return phone calls.

Fulton was hired as city manager in July 2006 and most recently earned an annual salary of about $135,000, according to City Clerk Cathy Sorensen. He has no violations or complaints listed in his personnel file.

Before Coon Rapids, Fulton was city manager in New Brighton for about 13 years and city administrator in Hartford, Wis., for about six years.

The performance of Coon Rapids

staff members is reviewed annually, but Fulton was asked to switch to twice-a-year reviews in January, Schulte said.

“We thought that would be best because, again, our vision was not necessarily the same as (Fulton’s),” Schulte said.

During his tenure with the city, Fulton oversaw discussions about developing a community center, ice arenas, golf clubs and other types of development, Schulte said.

“He is a very reputable, very solid city manager and he will serve some other community very well,” Schulte said. “He was just not the perfect fit for Coon Rapids at this time,”

The city’s public works director will serve in Fulton’s place while staff conducts a search for an interim city manager and finally a permanent replacement for Fulton, council member Sanders said.

“We wish him well,” he said.

Fulton will receive about $67,500 in severance, not including any accrued vacation or sick time.

via Coon Rapids city manager resigns at request of city council – TwinCities.com.