With the city of Eureka and Humboldt County combining to spend $1 billion over the next decade on pension debt, a $1 billion loss of funding for services, (Mailbox, Sept. 9, 2021) at what point does leadership in law enforcement and other governmental leaders acknowledge the significant negative impact pension costs (increasing current costs and especially increasing debt payments) have on their ability to provide services?
We are currently in another law enforcement staffing crisis. For 2021, Eureka's pension debt payment is $6 million. HumCo is just starting its $17 million per year increase in pension spending due to its pension debt increasing from $220 million in 2015 to $330 million in 2021. It is very disturbing to think of where we will be at the end of this decade when Eureka's yearly pension debt payments will be over $8 million and HumCo's increase in yearly pension debt payments will be well over $100 million and still climbing to $170 million.
Having funding for retirements absolute and guaranteed with funding for services optional and variable, with services so often diminished, is bad for everyone. Current law enforcement officers, dealing with increasing violent crime and very difficult situations are at increased risk of harm. The citizens are at increased risk of being the victim of these crimes.
In a 2019 article about Eureka's pension debt problem (Times-Standard, March 8, 2019), Mark McGuire stated: "This is just the beginning." He was right. We are now in another law enforcement staffing crisis. Without fundamental economic change, we will all experience the plight of these law enforcement staffing crises a few more times during this decade.
Thanks for listening.
Patrick Cloney, Eureka