Oceano board to blame for deficit

March 25, 2015
Julie Tacker

Julie Tacker


Tonight’s Oceano Community Services District Board meeting will try to answer questions that have been posed to the district since the 3.5 percent rate increase notice went out on March. The rate increase, as noticed by the district, is tied to the loss in revenue due to water conservation associated with the drought since the previous rate increase in 2011.

One question continues to come up, “Is the general managers salary causing the need for the water rate increase?”

The district will answer “no” and explain its General Manager Paavo Ogren holds the combined positions of general manager and district accountant and his salary reflects the two jobs.

In reality, the answer reads like a junior high mathematical word problem:

When the last rate increase was adopted in March of 2011, Monty, Oceano’s general manager’s salary was $87,500 and the district had eliminated the accountant position. Monty had some math problems of his own, paying himself sick leave while also paying himself to work. In May of that year, the board gave him a $17,000 severance handshake and let him go.

In June of 2011, soon after the rate increase was implemented the district hired Tommy and paid him $126,000 annually. The increase from Monty’s salary to Tommy’s was $38,500.

A year or so later, without the board’s knowledge, Tommy hired Josie the accountant to work just 30 hours a week. She was paid $45,000 annually. Tommy and Josie’s combined salary was $171,000.

Josie was a good accountant; a licensed CPA, she worked hard at crunching the districts numbers and found that Tommy was paying himself more than his contract allowed. Tommy was fired and required to return the $45,000 in funds he had “overpaid” himself. The district replaced Tommy with Lonny at the same annual salary. Lonny and Josie didn’t get along too well and Josie quit. Lonny didn’t work out for the district and was fired after just five months.

Now the district was really in a pinch, (insert Lone Ranger theme music here) Paavo, the county’s director of public works and former CPA, offered his expertise to the district for a mere $196,000 annually. He justified the salary by promising to perform the duties of both the GM and accountant.

The district’s legal counsel went to work on a formula that might convince the board and the public that combining the duties of two jobs into one would actually save the district money.

By suggesting Josie had worked at the highest possible step on the districts pay scale and 40 hours a week, her salary could have been $65,000 annually. Sure enough, $65,000 and $126,000 is $191,000, just $5,000 away from Paavo’s requested salary. Attributing myriad potential cost savings accrued by Paavo’s experience, the district would be getting a deal. Never mind that the actual impact of the combined salary formula was a $25,000 hit to the districts bottom line. (This formula doesn’t include medical benefits, retirement, district matching contributions or overtime.)

The responsibility for these devastating financial impacts to the district is on its board. The $38,500 increase from Monty to Tommy, plus Josie at the inflated of $65,000 and Paavo’s additional $5,000 runs the annual hit to $108,500 for these two positions over that which was anticipated in 2011. The cost increase from Monty (2011) to Paavo (2015) includes the accountant position that didn’t exist.

No matter how they spin it, Oceano’s expenses have gone up and up while revenues have gone down.

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  1. NorthCountyDude says:

    Isn’t it about time Arroyo Grande or Grover Beach annexed Oceano?

    (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      I’d vote for Grover Beach doing the annexing.

      (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
  2. falconbh says:

    Small Steps- Increase base rate to 8 units, to help low income and seniors on fixed income.
    Freeze salaries and benefits at 2014 levels.

    (-2) 10 Total Votes - 4 up - 6 down
    • Julie says:

      On the contrary, Paavo at one point was suggesting dropping the the base rate to just 4 units. They chose to stick with 6 units for the base rate and added a tier to shorten the distance between tiers.

      (-11) 21 Total Votes - 5 up - 16 down
    • Mitch C says:

      A good start. You concept has merit but you may want to flesh it out so that the soundness of your position has more substance. What is needed in these posts is concrete ideas backed by sound reasoning. Anyone can be negative, sound suggestions back by solid analytical thought will move the discussion to reasonable solutions. You have a suggestion, flesh it out so that the reasoning can be understood. Thanks.

      (11) 11 Total Votes - 11 up - 0 down
      • Julie says:

        This is not my concept, this is what in front of the ratepayers right now.
        BTW, Paavo would like to talk to you, he’s probably too proud to reach out.
        He’s not understanding the rationale behind the Water and Sewer funds fronting the Sheriff’s station construction.
        He’s asking why the funds we’re not transferred to Admin. and made as a
        Governmental Fund loan.
        Currently rent revenue from the Sheriff Dept. is going to Water and Sewer.
        You two should talk.

        (-14) 22 Total Votes - 4 up - 18 down
        • Mitch C says:

          It was always intended that rent from the Oceano Sheriff facility would be allocated to water and sewer.

          (9) 9 Total Votes - 9 up - 0 down
          • Julie says:

            Thanks Mitch, that’s what it’s been doing. Of course, Water has out spent revenues by about $1M in the last 4 years.
            He’s thinking of trying to change it.
            You too should chat sometime.

            (-9) 19 Total Votes - 5 up - 14 down
            • Mitch C says:

              The Sheriff’s substation was built with water and sewer reserve money. Instead of investing reserves in LAIF a Sheriff Substation was built. Before any contract was signed to build the facility the county entered into a 20 year lease that returned the money spent to build the facility plus interest at about 8% per annum. The lease money was to be returned at the same percentage as it was taken out of reserves. Not only was the money invested at a higher interest rate than we could have gotten from LAIF, Oceano got the Sheriff back in town (they had moved their substation to AG a few years prior).

              (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
    • falconbh says:

      The nice thing about a safety net for low income families and fixed income seniors post is you pull those who are only concerned with personal greed into the open.

      (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
  3. falconbh says:

    I support and encourage the expanded comments and debate on these important costly issues facing our local communities.

    When I look at the facts as a ratepayer, I see past wasted rate increases, more rate increases, a budget in the red, poor spending decisions, salaries that we cannot afford,outside agency like SP downgrading district, concerns at the county level,and gross negligence at both the OCSD and Sanitation District.

    (1) 15 Total Votes - 8 up - 7 down
  4. veritas says:

    A couple of old chestnuts come to mind…
    “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (William Congreve), perhaps; or
    “Methinks thou doth protest too much” (William Shakespeare); or
    “Let (s)he who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7); or
    “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3, King James Version); or
    “Consider the source” (Unknown); or
    “Do as I say, not as I do (did)” (Matthew 23:3, paraphrased); but my personal favorite, and the one I find to be most apropos, is from Teddy Roosevelt and is often known as “The Man in the Arena”:
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    In other words, it’s easy to sit in the peanut gallery and cast aspersions, but when the rubber meets the road, what have you done that is at all in line with what you expect of others?

    Here come the “shoot the messenger” diatribes…Please…Spare me.

    (9) 23 Total Votes - 16 up - 7 down
    • Mitch C says:

      Well said. This is especially true when the peanut gallery is filled with out-of-town carpetbaggers, who have no credibility in their own community and who arrive with an agenda that they hope will benefit them personally.

      (11) 23 Total Votes - 17 up - 6 down
      • bigdaddy says:

        You have hit the nail on the head Veritas and, Mitch C and C.V. Enough is enough.
        These carpetbaggers and their hate filled posse are just plain pitiful.

        (9) 21 Total Votes - 15 up - 6 down
        • Julie says:

          Carpetbaggers do what they do to make money.
          Watch-dogging the OCSD takes money.

          This Board is the worst offender at allowing access to their representatives.
          No matter who you are, Oceano resident or not, if they don’t agree with what is said, you will be cast off.

          Just watch a meeting, even the Board President doesn’t know when public comment is to be allowed.
          The six (6) minute rule is expressly their to deter public input.

          Oceano’s matriarch, got caught in the mix up at their 3/11 meeting when she wanted to speak to the Brown Act violations they promised never to commit again.
          She was passed right over and Lucey had to re-open public comment for that item an hour later when she realized
          the speaker was their to bash me, suggesting I was driving up legal costs.

          No one person has caused OCSD more in legal bills than the Board President’s schizophrenic leadership.

          (-13) 23 Total Votes - 5 up - 18 down
          • Pelican1 says:

            How dare you stand in judgement of the OCSD considering what you did to Los Osos? At what point will you atone for all your wrong doing?

            (11) 19 Total Votes - 15 up - 4 down
            • Julie says:

              I don’t know what I did to you that you hold such a grudge. Please call me to discuss.
              I’m in the book.

              (-14) 22 Total Votes - 4 up - 18 down
    • C.V. says:

      You are right on point.
      The peanuts talk a game but have hurt the OCSD and continuously cost $$$ for their own gain.
      For the public good? I think not.
      No, I know not.

      (10) 16 Total Votes - 13 up - 3 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Well, no one should be surprised that a “shoot-the-messenger” discussion occurs.
      Especially when a few posters are attempting to pull a “shoot-the-messenger” scam.

      The issue is not the messenger….it is the message. The messenger’s qualities and
      actions are not part of a legitimate discussion.

      There is a lot about Oceano that needs addressed, it hasn’t been addressed for many
      years, with different general managers at the helm, and the corruption that has
      ensued has dearly cost Oceano residents.

      There can be no fault in this message because it has been repeatedly shown to be

      If you can prevent evidence that the message is not true, please do. THAT is how
      a logical discussion works: one person makes a claim, another person
      challenges it with evidence. THAT is the way one proves a point…not by taking
      potshots at the messenger.

      (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
  5. falconbh says:

    Servant Leadership,we need leaders who will place the needs of the people they serve first.

    A good first step is for the general manager and board to set an example for the people they are sworn to serve.
    Show good faith , sacrifice for the good of the community, lead by example , and then provide hope for those most deprived.

    Sometimes in life we all have to do the right thing, for the right reasons , it is all part of the ethical part of leadership that helps build civility and trust in every community, that helps make our country great.

    When we look in the mirror do we like or even trust what is happening in Oceano and the Sanitation District.

    (1) 15 Total Votes - 8 up - 7 down
  6. SanSimeonSam says:

    GM and accountant. Good people of Oceano prepare to bend over and receive that which you truly deserve. Pavvo comes to you with a reputation for graft and corruption and now you have given him the check book and made him the oversight to his spending. I am surprised you all are not on life support. In any event I would predict that you will soon be presented with a proposal for a 200 million dollar sewer system and you folks will just smile, bend over and say thank you sir, may i have another.

    (14) 34 Total Votes - 24 up - 10 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      ….A sewer system administered by John Wallace, too.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down

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