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Old Mendocino County Courthouse Around 1915

California County Pension Debt

 

Mendocino County's Pension Debt



Stories & Evidence



Stories and Evidence


Choices -

Who Done It?

'98 Retiree Healthcare - '02 Board Policy 40 - Diversion of County Contributions - Part 1

'98 Retiree Healthcare - '02 Board Policy 40 - Diversion of County Contributions - Part 2

'98 Retiree Healthcare - '02 Board Policy 40 - Diversion of County Contributions - Part 3

San Diego - IRS - Excess Earnings

Increase Pensions When Already Deep in Debt

Staffing & Compensation Chaos

Deeply Flawed Pension Fund Financial Statements - Part 1

Deeply Flawed Pension Fund Financial Statements - Part 2

Deeply Flawed Pension Fund Financial Statements - Part 3

Retiree Healthcare

Assumed Investment Profits Too High

Plans to Increase Debt

County Puts Off Bad News

The Myth of 80% Funding

Numerous Financial Errors

 

But - What Really Caused the Unfunded Pension Debt?

Over the last three sections I described Mendocino County's unfunded pension debt and its growth over the past few decades, the impacts of that debt, and the immediate causes of the debt. While it's a lot of work to find and enter all this data and see how it developed - it's essentially fairly straight-forward financial-analysis math. You enter the numbers and see the trends and numeric impacts, and the specific variables that drove that impact - such as ...

  Mendocino County's Failing Pension Fund

This shows the amount of Mendocino County's unfunded pension debt (Unfunded Pensions + Pension Bonds) over the last 2 decades.

 
Staffing - payroll

One of several impacts of the debt is for the last 20 years the long-term trend has been as total unfunded pension debt went up the number of County jobs went down.

  Three Main Immediate Causes of Mendocino County's Pension Fund

Each of these three factors directly caused roughly 25% of this debt - and a bunch of others caused the last quarter.

 

But now we're faced with the far more complex difficult question. It's like the detective taking a look at the poor fellow in the hospital.

  A Patient Out Cold

We know a patient was brought into the emergency room, he was out cold, and it appeared he'd been shot.

  Medical Report - the Immediate Cause for the Patient's condition

The Docs took a look, pulled out a couple of slugs, and the lab indentifed what kind of pistol fired the bullets.

  Sherlock starts an investigation

But now comes the hard part - "Who done it?" Was it an accident, near manslaughter, or attempted murder?

 

A decade ago I became very concerned about my County's finances. Programs I strongly supported were being cut. The "Dot Com" bubble had burst and thrown the country into recession and a bear stock market was imposing lots of pain. County officials said that caused the funding cutbacks. But I sensed the cutbacks were way more than would be caused by those bad things. Official County explanations didn't "feel right" to me. When you've done financial - organizational - industry - market analysis and planning for decades you develop a "feel for the numbers". Even though you may not yet have identified the problem - you sense something is I became a money-hound and started following the money "out of whack" - "doesn't add up". Something's going "bump in the night" - and you want to find out what it is.

So - I turned into a "Money Hound" - I put my nose to the ground and started following the money. At first I didn't know where the scent would take me and I refused to speculate where I'd wind up. But I kept my nose to the ground. When I came to a big rock covering the scent I'd flip it over and see what crawled out. If I found a spot that looked like something had been buried - I dug it up.

I felt I'd find some problems officials weren't talking about. Years later - I was amazed at what I'd found. It's way more than I expected.

During the first few years I refused to speculate about where the trail would lead. But now - I believe I have a pretty good idea what was "really going on" that created the debt.

Here are a few things I found along the trail that eventually led me to the conclusions I'll describe in "Basic Causes" - the next section. After you read about some of what I found - see if my conclusions about basic causes make sense to you.



 
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