Looking behind the Scenes: State: Take a hint from Auburn’s thrifty ways

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Asking the caddy for the proper page from my notebook while finally realizing that during the BP oil spill mess, President Obama has made more trips to the golf course than to the gulf ... Meanwhile, the city of Auburn’s governance continues to impress at least me. The latest bit of good news — at least in my mind — is the way it managed to save beaucoup bucks while still granting a promotion to a very deserving employee. Journal readers are well aware that Bernie Schroeder was recently elevated to the position of director of public works, and proper notification was also made that her promotion came with a pay raise. However, what the city did not make crystal clear was that city taxpayers are actually saving money on the deal. How so? First off, Schroeder was making $108,000 as engineering division manager, and that counts an earlier 10 percent pay cut taken by all city employees and elected officials. Her new job pays $129,000, but she’ll get about $116,000 after the 10 percent cut is deducted. The good news for taxpayers is that Schroeder not only will direct the public works department, but also will continue her duties as division manager. That means that the city will cut Jack Warren’s consulting contract (as city engineer) from $80,000 per year down to $20,000, although he’ll be eligible for additional money paid by developers and proponents from their projects on which he works. So let’s do the math. Schroeder now makes about eight-grand more than she was, but Warren is scheduled to get about $60,000 less of taxpayers’ money than he was. That works out to a savings of more than $50,000 per year. “That’s about where we thought it would be,” admitted City Manager Bob Richardson ... Rock on: While Auburn’s City Council works on ways to save money, that doesn’t seem to be the case for elected officials from other civic entities. Apparently while we common folk continue our ever-increasing attempts to stay afloat in this current sea of red ink, some other politicos haven’t quite got the message that real money has become an endangered specie. Congress keeps spending money it doesn’t have, Placer County continues to pay exorbitant salaries for upper-echelon employees, and more than a few neighboring cities and counties think boycotting Arizona is what the electorate really wants. Unfortunately — as usual — it gets worse at our state Legislature. The latest folly was committed by state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles). While California was recently placed on an international list of the Top 10 bond issuers liable default, Romero introduced SB 624. That vital piece of legislation calls for the Legislature to strip serpentine of its valued title as “official state rock” because Romero says it has chrysotile asbestos and can cause cancer. The medical evaluation is quite correct, but what is the state rock is hardly the issue which will solve our fiscal disaster. Any wonder why this soon-to-be termed-out ditz lost her recent bid to become her party candidate for State Superintendent of Schools? On the other hand, if Romero is successful with SB624, then perhaps the rock heads in that august body will substitute iron pyrite as the official rock ... Extra help: Auburn City Police picked up more potential volunteer help than it had supposed from its recent nine-week Citizens Awareness Academy, which ended June 10. According to Captain John Ruffcorn, five of the roughly two-dozen graduates signed up as police volunteers. “That’s significantly more than we thought we’d get,” he said, adding that one of the new volunteers is being trained to help current volunteers with parking enforcement, while “another is being back-grounded to be used to help us dispose of (out-of-date) records.” Ruffcorn said a Citizens On Patrol (COP) program is also being looked at for volunteers, especially for summer use at local parks. “We were pleased with the results of the program. Those local citizens came in hesitant, but now are aware of how we work, which really helps us satisfy our goal of transparency,” he said. He said if enough local citizens want APD to do a similar academy, it would have another at the end of the year. Ruffcorn also made an appearance at last Tuesday’s Meddlers, where he reported that the latest department figures show cases were cleared at a rate 68 percent higher than the previous year, and “we’ve lowered our overtime costs by 21 percent, and our budget by an additional 17 percent.” Perhaps Gloria Romero and the rest of the state’s legislative circus ought to visit Auburn once in awhile. Reach Jim Ruffalo at