budget deficits

Chicago Faces $297 Million Budget Shortfall In 2015, $588 Million Deficit By 2017

I’ve been wanting to blog about the latest City of Chicago annual financial analysis for some time now. This afternoon I’m finally getting that chance. From Fran Spielman (who’s done a terrific job breaking those analyses down the past couple years I’ve been paying attention to them) on the Chicago Sun-Times website back in August:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ruled out a pre-election increase in property or sales taxes, but he’ll have to find another way to close a $297.3 million budget gap that assumes the Illinois General Assembly will lift the pension hammer hanging over Chicago.

State law requires the city to make a $550 million contribution to shore up police and fire pension funds that have assets to cover just 30 and 24 percent of their respective liabilities.

If Emanuel chooses to fund the payment with property taxes, the city’s levy must be raised in 2015 so bills issued the following year reflect the increase.

Instead of including that payment in the financial analysis now used as a substitute for Chicago’s preliminary budget, the mayor left it out, assuming he will get both revenue and reform before the payment is due

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

$297.3 million budget shortfall for Chicago in 2015- assuming the city gets “relief” from that State of Illinois-mandated $550 million pension fund contribution.

From what I’ve read, that looks to be a big assumption.

Still, the projected 2015 budget gap that’s being advertised by City Hall is significantly rosier than a year ago (big election coming up in February 2015 you know).

I blogged back on August 1, 2013:

The latest financial analysis is out, and the budget gap in 2014 is projected to be $339 million. Still crappy, but a lot better than what could be in store for the “Windy City” by 2015. Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

The day of financial reckoning for Chicago is not far off, with the city budget shortfall expected to near a record $1 billion in 2015 if major changes are not made to the government worker pension systems, city officials said Wednesday.

That stark assessment, contained in the annual financial analysis prepared by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top budget officials, overshadowed the fact that the city needs to close an expected $339 million budget gap predicted for next year.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Returning to that Sun-Times piece from this August, Spielman added:

As for the more manageable, $297.3 million gap, sales and property taxes are off the table. But [Budget Director Alexandra] Holt refused to rule out other tax and fee hikes after exhausting further cost-cutting that might include layoffs

Last year’s financial analysis projected a $338.7 million shortfall that would balloon to $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016 without a painful mix of employee concessions and new revenues. This year’s version takes the 2017 shortfall down to $587.7 million, but only if the mayor’s risky assumptions are correct.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

That classic Benny Hill skit about why one shouldn’t assume things comes to mind right now.

Okay. Looking at the actual 2014 annual financial analysis on my laptop screen right now, I see that $297.3 million budget shortfall projected for Chicago in 2015, a $430.2 million gap in 2016, and that $587.7 million deficit in 2017 that Spielman mentioned.

The trend is definitely not Rahm’s and the City’s friend in this instance.

Here’s what I see going down for the “Windy City.” The Machine will mobilize as many kissing cousins (Democrats elsewhere in the state) as it can to get Mayor Emanuel his much-desired pension “reform.” Basically “kicking the can down the road.” If full reform isn’t achieved, perhaps partial “relief”?.

Of course, the City of Chicago will still have those snowballing budget shortfalls to contend with. At first, I anticipate a lot of stupid spending still going on, with only some belt-tightening and layoffs here and there (“Kiss Your Clout’s Ass” Day soon to be a much celebrated event?). And fees, fines, and taxes will be heading up (but not property and sales taxes initially). But I suspect as Chicago’s “day of reckoning” gets closer, all these measures will be intensified.

Think major cost-cutting in conjunction with a much stronger attempt to increase incoming revenues.

Like my forecast for the rest of the nation- regrettably, I see things getting a lot worse before they get better again.

You can view the entire 2014 City of Chicago Annual Financial Analysis on the City of Chicago website here (.pdf format).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Spielman, Fran. “City budget puts off day of reckoning until after election.” Chicago Sun-Times. 1 Aug. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/city-budget-puts-day-reckoning-until-after-election/fri-08012014-1210am). 23 Sep. 2014.

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CBO: Updated 2014-2024 Budget Projections Show Substantially Rising Budget Shorfalls, Federal Debt

That idea that the U.S. could someday resemble a “banana republic” might not be too far off the mark. From the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office website today:

As it usually does each spring, CBO has updated the baseline budget projections that it released earlier in the year…

Between 2015 and 2024, annual budget shortfalls are projected to rise substantially—from a low of $469 billion in 2015 to about $1 trillion from 2022 through 2024—mainly because of the aging population, rising health care costs, an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, and growing interest payments on federal debt. CBO expects that cumulative deficits during that decade will equal $7.6 trillion if current laws remain unchanged. As a share of GDP, deficits are projected to rise from 2.6 percent in 2015 to about 4 percent near the end of the 10-year period. By comparison, the deficit averaged 3.1 percent of GDP over the past 40 years and 2.3 percent in the 40 years before fiscal year 2008, when the most recent recession began. From 2015 through 2024, both revenues and outlays are projected to be greater than their 40-year averages as a percentage of GDP (see the figure below)…

In CBO’s baseline projections, federal debt held by the public reaches 78 percent of GDP by 2024, up from 72 percent at the end of 2013 and twice the 39 percent average of the past four decades (see the figure below). As recently as the end of 2007, federal debt equaled just 35 percent of GDP

Such high and rising debt would have serious negative consequences. Federal spending on interest payments would increase considerably when interest rates rose to more typical levels. Moreover, because federal borrowing would eventually raise the cost of investment by businesses and other entities, the capital stock would be smaller, and productivity and wages lower, than if federal borrowing was more limited. In addition, high debt means that lawmakers would have less flexibility than they otherwise would to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges. Finally, high debt increases the risk of a fiscal crisis in which investors would lose so much confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget that the government would be unable to borrow at affordable rates…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can read the entire assessment and view the complete document on the CBO website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Peter Schiff: No Recovery, Just An Illusion Of Prosperity

I first started paying attention to Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff just prior to picking up his book Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (now Crash Proof 2.0, second edition) shortly after its early 2007 release. While some of the calls he made in that controversial text are still playing out, others have already come to fruition.

Subsequently, Schiff has been given credit for correctly-calling the U.S. housing bubble and its burst, and the 2008 global economic crisis.

Being one of Survival And Prosperity’s “crash prophets,” his latest investment recommendations are chronicled on this blog. As are his economic analyses and forecasts as well.

Here’s a recent breakdown of what Schiff sees going on with the U.S. economy and larger financial system, courtesy of a March 21 commentary entitled “Debt and Taxes” that’s posted on his Euro Pacific Capital website:

The last few years have proven that there is no line Washington will not cross in order to keep bubbles from popping. Just 10 years ago many of the analysts now crowing about the perfect conditions would have been appalled by policies that have been implemented to create them. The Fed has held interest rates at zero for five consecutive years, it has purchased trillions of dollars of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, and the Federal government has stimulated the economy through four consecutive trillion-dollar annual deficits. While these moves may once have been looked on as something shocking…now anything goes.

But the new monetary morality has nothing to do with virtue, and everything to do with necessity. It is no accident that the concept of “inflation” has experienced a dramatic makeover during the past few years. Traditionally, mainstream discussion treated inflation as a pestilence best vanquished by a strong economy and prudent bankers. Now it is widely seen as a pre-condition to economic health. Economists are making this bizarre argument not because it makes any sense, but because they have no other choice.

America is trying to borrow its way out of recession. We are creating debt now in order to push up prices and create the illusion of prosperity. To do this you must convince people that inflation is a good thing…even while they instinctively prefer low prices to high. But rising asset prices do little to help the underlying economy. That is why we have been stuck in what some economists are calling a “jobless recovery.” The real reason it’s jobless is because it’s not a real recovery! So while the current booms in stocks and condominiums have been gifts to financial speculators and the corporate elite, average Americans can only watch from the sidewalks as the parade passes them by. That’s why sales of Mercedes and Maseratis are setting record highs while Fords and Chevrolets sit on showroom floors. Rising prices to do not create jobs, increase savings or expand production. Instead all we get is debt, which at some point in the future must be repaid

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Which at some point in the future must be repaid”

Good luck trying to get your average American in 2014 to wrap their head around that crucial concept.

Once again, I agree with Schiff’s observation of what is going on all around us.

“Illusion of prosperity” is a fine choice of words here, and makes sense that I find a fine economic blog by the same name good reading.

As certain as the “Big One” will eventually hit California, so must our nation’s “financial reckoning day” arrive for all this debt we’ve accrued for some short-term “prosperity.”

You can read Schiff’s entire commentary on the Euro Pacific Capital website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Wisconsin Cuts Taxes While Illinois Looks To Make 2011 ‘Temporary’ Tax Hikes Permanent

Throughout the years, I’ve known/met a number of Illinois residents who can’t stand Wisconsin. Mostly from the Chicago area, they equate Wisconsin and its residents as being unsophisticated clowns.

I wonder if they haven’t noticed by now that the only circus around is in the “Land of Lincoln.”

While Illinois falls deeper into an economic abyss (public pension fix my butt), Wisconsin seems to have gotten their finances under control and look to be on the path to prosperity.

So much so they’re cutting taxes. Again.

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein reported on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website Monday afternoon:

Lowering taxes for the third time in less than a year, Gov. Scott Walker signed his $541 million tax cut bill in a ceremony Monday at a farm in Cecil as he travels through central and northern Wisconsin touting it.

Speaking at Horsens Homestead Farms, about 35 miles northwest of Green Bay, Walker called it a great day for Wisconsin taxpayers and a sign of the state’s shifting financial fortunes in recent years.

“Now, instead of billion dollar budget deficits, we have a surplus — and today that money is on its way to the workers, parents, seniors, property owners, veterans, job creators and others. You deserve to keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible — because after all, it is your money,” Walker said.

With growing tax collections now expected to give the state a $1 billion budget surplus in June 2015, Walker’s tax proposal will cut property and income taxes for families and businesses, and zero out all income taxes for manufacturers in the state.

Though the state’s tax revenue is increasing, GOP lawmakers and Walker are trimming state spending slightly for the next three years rather than increasing it

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Meanwhile, across the Cheddar Curtain in Illinois there’s this on the website of The State Journal-Register (Springfield). Doug Finke reported Friday:

Hundreds of employees would be laid off, state facilities would be closed and thousands of prison inmates released without supervision, state agency directors told senators Friday during a hearing to gauge the effect of possibly severe spending cuts next year.

During a more than three-hour joint hearing of the two Senate Appropriations committees, agency after agency warned of drastic consequences should they be forced to cut their current budgets by 20 percent.

“There would be extreme consequences for the economy across Illinois,” warned Ben Winick of Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office. “Over a dozen state facilities would have to close. Thousands of state employees would have to be laid off.”

The hearing occurred just days before Quinn is scheduled to finally deliver his budget outline for the fiscal year that starts July 1…

Translated? Illinois residents, this is what will happen if you don’t support making the Democrat-led temporary 67 percent personal income tax hike and 46 percent corporate income tax hike implemented in January 2011 permanent next year.

I hear Governor Quinn will be delivering his budget plan tomorrow.

Instead of ridiculing Wisconsin, us FIBs (F***ing Illinois Bastards as we’re known by up there) might want to start emulating our neighbors to the north in certain respects before we completely destroy Illinois.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Marley, Patrick and Stein, Jacob. “Scott Walker signs tax cut legislation.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 24 Mar. 2014. (http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/scott-walker-set-to-sign-tax-cut-legislation-b99231851z1-251936261.html). 24 Mar. 2014.

Finke, Doug. “State agencies outline cuts if forced to make 20% reductions.” The State Journal-Register. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140321/NEWS/140329821). 24 Mar. 2014.

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The Civic Federation Proposes Plan For Achieving Long-Term Fiscal Sustainability In Illinois

The last time I blogged about The Civic Federation, an independent, non-partisan government research organization that provides analysis and recommendations on government finance issues for the Chicago region and State of Illinois, was right before the holidays.

The Civic Federation is in the headlines again these days for proposing a five-year plan to balance the Illinois state budget, eliminate its huge bill backlog, and reduce income tax rates. From a March 3 press release:

In a report released today, the Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability proposes a comprehensive plan for achieving long-term fiscal sustainability for the State of Illinois. The five-year plan would fully pay down the State’s $5.4 billion backlog of unpaid bills while gradually reducing income tax rates by 20%, broadening the tax base and building a reserve fund as protection against future economic downturns…

$5.4 billion? That’s a lot of bills.

One part of this financial rescue plan will likely raise the eyebrows of certain Illinois residents. From the press release:

3. Broaden Income Tax Base to Include Federally Taxable Amounts of Retirement Income: Out of the 41 states that impose an income tax, Illinois is one of only three that exempt all pension income and one of 27 that exclude all federally taxable Social Security income. The State should broaden its income tax base to create greater equity among taxpayers and facilitate the gradual rollback of the income tax rates. The broader base will also ensure greater long-term sustainability of the State’s resources by accessing a growing portion of the Illinois economy…

You can read the entire press release here, as well as find a link to The Civic Federation’s 50-page report State of Illinois FY2015 Budget Roadmap: State of Illinois Budget Overview, Projections and Recommendations for the Governor and the Illinois General Assembly.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Thoughts On Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Proposed 2014 Budget

Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled his proposed 2014 budget. From a press release posted on the City of Chicago website:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today presented the proposed 2014 budget to the City Council, an $8.7 billion budget that, for the third consecutive year, balances the City’s finances without introducing new property, sales or gasoline taxes.

In 2011, the City faced a projected deficit of $790 million for 2014. In the last two budgets, that structural deficit has been cut by more than half, to $339 million…

The City began the 2014 budget process with a projected deficit of $338.7 million. The gap was closed through spending reforms and cuts, and improved revenue growth, including: $40 million through reduced technology, equipment and telecom costs; $26 million in healthcare savings; $101 million in additional revenue growth and children’s safety zones; $35 million from sweeping aging revenue accounts and grant funds; $34 million in targeted revenue enhancements; $18.7 million through proper allocation of costs to enterprise and grant funds; and $53.4 million from 2013 surplus captured through spending controls.

Last year around this time I offered up my thoughts about the proposed City budget for 2013. Using that as a backdrop:

• Mayor Emanuel proposed an $8.3 billion budget last year. For 2014, it’s risen to $8.7 billion.
• A big deal was made over no “new taxes, fines or fees” in the 2013 budget. The same can’t be said for 2014, where no “new property, sales or gasoline taxes” is the best Emanuel can do. $34.2 million in tax, fee, and fine increases are included in the proposed budget according to the Chicago Tribune’s Hal Dardick.
• To help plug a projected $369 million deficit last year, the City “identified” $45 million in additional revenue. I noted that was just projected tax revenue on real property transfer, hotel, sales, and electricity taxes until the end of September 2013 (I wonder how much of that projected revenue was actually realized?). For 2014, “the gap was closed” with $101 million in (projected) additional revenue. Time will tell if this is really accomplished.

Even if the projected deficit of $338.7 million can be eradicated, Chicago is still in big financial trouble. I blogged backed on August 7:

The “Windy City” faces a number of financial hurdles in the coming years…

• Growing projected deficits of $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016, according to the city’s annual financial analysis released last Wednesday (blogged about here)
• A total long-term debt of nearly $29 billion, or $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents (blogged about here)
• A pension crisis with the Chicago Public Schools, which Davey and Williams Walsh note draws from the same tax base and where an extra $338 million must be found in 2014.

You can read the entire City of Chicago press release about Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget for 2014 on the city’s website here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Dardick, Hal. “Emanuel uses ‘boatload of ways’ to balance budget.” Chicago Tribune. 22 Oct. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-rahm-emanuel-budget-1023-20131023,0,744928.story). 24 Oct. 2013.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wants More Time To Fix Chicago’s Public Pension Crisis

“Corporations are moving in, and housing prices are looking better across the region. There has been a slight uptick in population. But a crushing problem lurks beneath the signs of economic recovery in Chicago: one of the most poorly funded pension systems among the nation’s major cities. Its plight threatens to upend the finances of President Obama’s hometown, now run by his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

The pension fund for retired Chicago teachers stands at risk of collapse. The city’s four funds for other retired city workers are short by $19.5 billion. At least one of the funds is in peril of running out of money in less than a decade. And starting in 2015, the city will be required by the state to make far larger contributions to the funds, which could leave it hundreds of millions of dollars in the red — as much as it would cost to pay 4,300 police officers to patrol the streets for a year.”

-Monica Davey and Mary Williams Walsh, The New York Times, August 5, 2013

Yesterday I blogged about the Illinois public pension crisis. Today, it’s Chicago.

Hal Dardick and Rick Pearson reported on the Chicago Tribune website late last night:

Faced with the prospect of a major tax hike or severe service cuts just as he stands for re-election a year from now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Tribune Wednesday that his formula for fixing the financially out-of-whack government worker pension system requires “reform, revenue and time.”

Dardick and Pearson noted that Chicago’s mayor didn’t offer any specifics about his formula, and just had this to say:

“I believe, push this back, allow us the time, the foresight, to work through the issues,” Emanuel said. The state requirements have “got everybody focused. Now, (the unions should) come to the table and work with us, push the time out,” he said.

Sounds to me that Mayor Emanuel is trying to “kick the can down the road” on the city’s public pension crisis- something his predecessors did and which got the City of Chicago into trouble in the first place.

I can understand why Emanuel is looking for time. As things stand right now, Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” looks to be fast approaching. I blogged backed on August 5:

The “Windy City” faces a number of financial hurdles in the coming years:

• A projected budget gap of $339 million next year
• Growing projected deficits of $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016, according to the city’s annual financial analysis released last Wednesday (blogged about here)
• A total long-term debt of nearly $29 billion, or $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents (blogged about here)
• A pension crisis with the Chicago Public Schools, which Davey and Williams Walsh note draws from the same tax base and where an extra $338 million must be found in 2014

It’s one thing to stall and “pass the buck” onto a future administration. It’s another to be granted more time and actually work to resolve this pension problem (if it can even done at this point).

If the State of Illinois “concedes” on the funding requirement, I would hope Rahm Emanuel is in that second camp. Although, plenty of other observers would count him in the first one.

Stay tuned…

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Dardick, Hal and Pearson, Rick. “Emanuel trying to buy time as city’s pension crisis escalates.” Chicago Tribune. 25 Sep. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-chicago-budget-reckoning-promo-20130925,0,6194998.story). 26 Sep. 2013.

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Moody’s Analytics: All U.S. States Except Delaware Have Escaped Recession Risk

Just when I thought I had read/seen it all today comes this from Lisa Lambert on the Reuters website late this afternoon:

All U.S. states except for Delaware have escaped the possibility of falling back into recession, as they reap the rewards of strong private-sector employment and a burgeoning energy sector, according to an analysis released on Tuesday.

Moody’s Analytics, which tracks state and metropolitan economies, added Illinois, Wisconsin and Alabama to its list of states in recovery. That left Delaware alone in its “at risk of recession” category.

Moody’s Analytics, a unit of Moody’s evaluates economics and financial risk around the world. A separate unit, the credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service, recently said the outlook for states is now stable, after five years of being negative.

With the U.S. economy being kept afloat by massive federal government intervention, trillion dollar budget deficits, an almost zero percent federal funds rate, attempted reinflating of the housing and financial markets, $85 billion worth of long-term bonds being purchased by the Fed each and every month, job creation dominated by part-time positions, and highly-questionable government reporting of economic data to boot, one could easily argue another recession- measured using “official” figures- is a real and constant threat to the United States.

After I read that recession assessment by Moody’s Analytics, the following sarcastic line from “Gunny” Highway (actor Clint Eastwood) in the 1986 film Heartbreak Ridge came to mind:

Well, I’ll sleep a lot better at night knowing that sir.

Have a good evening everyone.

Source:

Lambert, Lisa. “Recession risk gone in all U.S. states but 1: Moody’s Analytics.” Reuters. 10 Sep. 2013. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/10/us-usa-states-economies-idUSBRE9891BG20130910). 10 Sep. 2013.

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Quote For The Week

“We don’t have an urgent deficit crisis.”

-U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking at a town hall at the State University of New York-Binghamton last Friday, August 23, 2013

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Monday, August 26th, 2013 Deficits, Fiscal Policy, Government, Spending No Comments

Chicagoans: Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

These days, there are times living out here in the northwest suburbs of Chicago that I feel like Henry Hill (played by actor Ray Liotta) at the end of the 1990 film Goodfellas.

No, not that part about Henry living the rest of his life as a “schnook.”

Rather, where previously I could step out my door adjacent to a major city artery and things were generally hopping, this suburban subdivision I now live in can be pretty dull at times (which isn’t entirely a bad thing).

Thank god the Italian food around here isn’t nearly as bad as what the other Hill encountered.

Grazie a Dio.

However, I was just reminded this morning of one of the big reasons why my girlfriend and I moved out of the city of Chicago while reading the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop. “016 Up For Grabs” discussed 5 people getting shot in less than 2 days in the Chicago Police Department’s 16th District, something that kind of hit home considering I used to live in that same district.

Now, it’s not like crime never happened in 016 before. It’s the big city, and the 80 percent of good, law-abiding people are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with the 10 percent of human refuse and remaining 10 percent who play by the rules because they’re forced to. I can recall walking into a convenience store down the street from me just minutes after it had been robbed, having a “welcome to the new home” plant stolen from my building’s entryway shortly after it had been delivered, and finding a big metal Coleman cooler stolen from my underground parking garage space- all within weeks after moving in to my old Northwest Side neighborhood, one of the “nicer” ones in the city.

Funny thing about that cooler. It used to store bottles of antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, engine oil, and more- none of which was taken even though it was inside the cooler. But plenty of which splashed around and/or leaked in that container.

Something tells me those bastards got pretty ill later drinking from those beer bottles/cans because they were too lazy to clean out that cooler before using it.

Karma’s a bitch. Or here’s hoping, right?

Still, armed with “intel” from Second City Cop and other alternative media with a local focus (Chicago mainstream media was hit-or-miss on reporting criminal activity in my neighborhood), Chicago-related research/blog material, and my own local observations, I realized that the 16th District had not only become “grittier” as it concerned crime, but it was occurring at a time when police protection in my area was significantly-reduced from when I first moved in.

Coupled with the City of Chicago’s financial woes that are finally coming home to roost? Chicagoans don’t need to be brain surgeons to figure this one out. Like I’ve been saying for some time now, more fees/fines/taxes and less government services seem to be on the horizon.

I suspect less police protection will be part of that equation, unless Chicago taxpayers pony up more of their hard-earned cash to at least keep the “thin blue line” intact.

And boy is it thin these days.

But I suspect increased revenues will be directed at Chicago’s public employee pension crisis and City Hall’s pet projects (where’s my park, dang it) before it’s steered over to the CPD and public safety.

In other words, Chicagoans had better be prepared to keep hearing “crime is down” for a long time.

In the meantime, City Hall still can’t comprehend that losing Downtown to all the wilding will see the City’s bottom line hit hard as word gets out.

Judging by recent MSM coverage nationwide about such criminal activity here, the word’s already out.

I wonder how hard it is to fudge tourism numbers?

While I would have preferred to have stayed in Chicago, and in particular, our old or the adjacent neighborhood in the CPD’s 16th District, considering what I see is in store for the area and our particular circumstances, my girlfriend and I made the right decision to move when and where we did.

Then again, that might not be the “correct” decision for other Chicagoans. Consider this. We didn’t have much invested in our old location. We didn’t own it (could have, but we steered clear of buying anything until home prices came back down to earth somewhat), we weren’t required to live within the city limits as required by a municipal job, we don’t have kids in the local schools, family and friends didn’t live down the street, the list goes on. So it wasn’t all too painful for us to just pick up and leave when our latest lease ran out.

The same can’t be said for others, and I respect that.

At least I, for one, have given you enough notice of what to expect down the road.

Prepare accordingly.

Is the “Second City” going to get worse? Could get “Third World” when all is said and done, and the ongoing financial storm finally blows completely through.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

SCC. “016 Up For Grabs.” Second City Cop. 13 Aug. 2013. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2013/08/016-up-for-grabs.html). 13 Aug. 2013.

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City Of Chicago Annual Financial Analysis 2013

Since the beginning of the month I’ve been bringing up the latest release of the City of Chicago Annual Financial Analysis and its dismal budget deficit projections.

Initially, I couldn’t find the study on the City of Chicago website. I did eventually locate it, and in case you’re interested in looking over the 98-page document, you can read it here (.pdf format).

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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The New York Times Spotlights Chicago’s Public Pension Crisis

This morning on The New York Times website, the most popular article in their U.S. section being e-mailed is the following:

“Chicago Sees Pension Crisis Drawing Near”

On August 5, Monica Davey and Mary Williams Walsh wrote:

Corporations are moving in, and housing prices are looking better across the region. There has been a slight uptick in population. But a crushing problem lurks beneath the signs of economic recovery in Chicago: one of the most poorly funded pension systems among the nation’s major cities. Its plight threatens to upend the finances of President Obama’s hometown, now run by his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

The pension fund for retired Chicago teachers stands at risk of collapse. The city’s four funds for other retired city workers are short by $19.5 billion. At least one of the funds is in peril of running out of money in less than a decade. And starting in 2015, the city will be required by the state to make far larger contributions to the funds, which could leave it hundreds of millions of dollars in the red — as much as it would cost to pay 4,300 police officers to patrol the streets for a year.

To be fair, Mayor Emanuel shouldn’t shoulder the blame for this fiasco. The public pension crisis in Chicago is something his administration inherited. Davey and Williams Walsh pointed out:

Chicago’s troubles, experts say, were years in the making. They are the result of city contributions under a state-authorized formula that failed to accumulate nearly enough money, two economic downturns in the 2000s that led to heavy investment losses, and an impasse in the State Capitol despite urgent calls to cut costs of the state’s own pension system. Illinois, which has the most underfunded state pension system in the nation, controls Chicago’s benefit and funding levels.

The “Windy City” faces a number of financial hurdles in the coming years:

• A projected budget gap of $339 million next year
• Growing projected deficits of $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016, according to the city’s annual financial analysis released last Wednesday (blogged about here)
• A total long-term debt of nearly $29 billion, or $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents (blogged about here)
• A pension crisis with the Chicago Public Schools, which Davey and Williams Walsh note draws from the same tax base and where an extra $338 million must be found in 2014

Speaking of the CPS pension crisis, from their website under “FY13 Budget” in the “Pensions” section:

Like most public entities, the growing cost of employee pensions is the biggest financial challenge facing Chicago Public Schools (CPS). By FY2014 under existing legislation, CPS will be required to spend $534 million (more than 10 percent of its operating budget) on contributions to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF). This represents an increase of $338 million from the FY2013 contribution, the last year of legislative pension relief. Even at this contribution level, CTPF will still have a funded ratio below 60 percent, considered weak by many observers, and an unfunded liability of approximately $8 billion. Without reform from the state, CPS’s required annual contributions will continue to grow, and by FY 2040 will exceed $1 billion annually. At that point, the funded ratio is still estimated only to be 66 percent. Significant reform is essential to ensure that pension benefits continue to be available to CPS retirees.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Davey, Monica and Walsh, Mary Williams. “Chicago Sees Pension Crisis Drawing Near.” The New York Times. 5 Aug. 2013. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/us/chicago-sees-pension-crisis-drawing-near.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&src=me). 7 Aug. 2013.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ‘Has The Toughest Job In America’

If you haven’t noticed, I find myself blogging about a lot of depressing crap. That’s not my intention- it just goes with the territory of talking about the subject material I do in this day and age. People who know me know that I look forward to when I can blog about brighter days. They’re out there- but there’s an unavoidable storm to be had first. Especially in the city of my birth and former residence- Chicago. And when I talk of the woes the Midwestern metropolis faces, I’m not making this stuff up. As I blogged back on July 24:

There should be no doubt that I predict tough times ahead for the city. But it’s not just me who harbors such suspicion. Even the Chicago FOX affiliate, Channel 32 News, is running a series called “Chicago at a Tipping Point” these days.

When putting together that post, I told myself I’d have to explore this “Tipping Point” series. The FOX 32 website has more information about it, and this is what it says on the sidebar of its designated web page:

The Problems

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has the toughest job in America—rescuing one of the country’s most attractive and largest cities from disaster. Among its problems:

Money: Potentially catastrophic tax increases loom due to hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded public employee pension liabilities. Public employee union leaders have launched increasingly desperate counter-attacks on once-friendly Democratic Party politicians. Those politicians are moving to reduce public employee retirement benefits and other costs because taxpayers cannot afford them.

Schools: One consequence: facing an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall, the Board of Education just voted to close 49 under-performing schools. The vast majority lie within the gang/drug zone that families and business are fleeing as fast as they can. The president of the Chicago Teachers Union routinely denounces the school closings by accusing Mayor Emanuel of being a “racist” and a “murderer.” It might be laughable were it not so disgusting and potentially destabilizing.

Crime: Police claim 80% of the Chicago’s murders are driven by drug-dealing street gangs with billions of dollars in annual revenue and an estimated 100,000 members or sympathizers. Until that contagion is cleansed, those neighborhoods will see little if any private sector investment or job growth and continued residential flight. The street gang population plays into the concerns over crime as well as the closing of schools in gang infested neighborhoods. To many, it appears Chicago Police do not have control over these neighborhoods.

Jobs: Metro Chicago’s dismal 9.5% unemployment rate ranks 315th in the US, just barely ahead of #327 metro Detroit. Factory jobs that remain are increasingly automated and intellect-intensive. Ford Motor Co’s South Side Assembly plant at 126th & Torrence prefers to hire workers with at least two years of college. High school dropouts can’t even find work in a factory any more. It is Chicago’s shame that so few in these dying neighborhoods have sufficient skills to enable them to move Downtown.

Dismal stuff. By the way, on that last point about jobs, the Chicago area unemployment rate has climbed up to 10.3 percent according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Like I said, I don’t make this up.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago Faces $339 Million Budget Deficit In 2014, $1 BILLION Gap In 2015

Last year on this day, I wrote the following about the City of Chicago’s just-released annual financial analysis:

The City of Chicago just released its annual financial analysis. Of no surprise to a number of Chicagoans, the city’s financial health is worrisome. According to an article by City Hall reporter Fran Spielman on the Chicago Sun-Times website last night:

• Chicago is looking at a budget shortfall of $369 million in 2013. Granted, this is better than the $741 million deficit forecast last year, and the Chicago news media is crediting Mayor Rahm Emanuel for this significant reduction…

By early October 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had presented an $8.3 billion budget for 2013 to the Chicago City Council that aimed to balance the City’s finances without introducing new fees, fines, or taxes.

The latest financial analysis is out, and the budget gap in 2014 is projected to be $339 million. Still crappy, but a lot better than what could be in store for the “Windy City” by 2015. Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

The day of financial reckoning for Chicago is not far off, with the city budget shortfall expected to near a record $1 billion in 2015 if major changes are not made to the government worker pension systems, city officials said Wednesday.

That stark assessment, contained in the annual financial analysis prepared by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top budget officials, overshadowed the fact that the city needs to close an expected $339 million budget gap predicted for next year.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

So are Chicagoans going to get slammed with higher fees, fines, and taxes in the coming months? Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will not raise sales or property taxes to close a $338.7 million gap in next year’s budget but all bets are off in 2015, when the shortfall balloons to $1 billion without pension reform, a top mayoral aide said Wednesday.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Spielman noted that 2016 looks to be painful for the City as well. She added:

The deficit will rise to $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016 without a painful mix of employee concessions and new revenues, according to the city’s annual financial analysis released Wednesday.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

What was that Dardick wrote in his article’s introduction?

“The day of financial reckoning for Chicago is not far off…”

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Dardick, Hal. “Absent pension reform, city faces $1 billion hole.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Aug. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-emanuel-budget-hole-0801-20130801,0,468987.story). 1 Aug. 2013.

Spielman, Fran. “City deficit to hit nearly $1 billion soon without pension reform.” Chicago Sun-Times. 31 July 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/news/21642911-418/city-deficit-to-hit-nearly-1-billion-soon-without-pension-reform.html). 1 Aug. 2013.

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City Of Chicago 2012 Audit Shows Debt Continues To Grow

I’ve been wondering when information regarding the latest City of Chicago audit would be released.

And wouldn’t you know it, it happened on a Friday evening.

That bad, huh?

Not really. Just continuing a worsening trend when it comes to the City’s long-term debt.

Thankfully, Chicago Sun-Times City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman picked up on the audit’s release and broke it down for readers when, as far as I can tell, no other Chicago mainstream media outlet is discussing it. Spielman wrote Friday night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2012 with $33.4 million in unallocated cash on hand — down from $167 million the year before — while adding to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers, year-end audits show.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Spielman was all over the 2011 audit release too, and reported back on July 22, 2012:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2011 with $310 million in cash on hand, $167 million more than the year before.

$310 million cash cushion in 2011 (or is $167 million?- will try to clarify with Ms. Spielman) down to $33.4 million in 2012. Not the best news.

(Editor’s note: Ms. Spielman confirmed with me that the cash cushion in 2011 turned out to be that $167 million figure. So, $167 million all the way down to $33.4 million= still not good).

Regarding the “mountain of debt,” the Sun-Times reporter wrote last year that the City amassed an additional $465 million in debt according to the 2011 audit, bringing the City of Chicago’s total long-term debt to just over $27 billion, or $10,000 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.7 million residents.

In Friday night’s piece, Spielman pointed out:

The new round of borrowing brings Chicago’s total long-term debt to nearly $29 billion. That’s $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents. More than a decade ago, the debt load was $9.6 billion or $3,338 per resident.

Around $2 billion more in additional long-term debt- or $780 more per Chicagoan- in just one year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Hall have found themselves in a difficult situation once more, one that I’ve been warning about for some time now. Spielman added:

By July 31, Emanuel must release a preliminary city budget. It’s almost certain to include another massive deficit — strengthening the city’s case in contract talks with city unions — that will have to be closed with more layoffs, service cuts and new revenues.

What’s that I’ve been saying? Expect new/higher taxes and fees, and less government services, as the financial crisis marches on.

Hat tip to Second City Cop for picking up on the Sun-Times article, and a nice job by Fran Spielman for staying on top of these revealing audits.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “2011 audit shows Chicago has more cash and growing debt load.” Chicago Sun-Times. 22 July 2012. (http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/13895641-418/2011-audit-shows-chicago-has-more-cash-and-growing-debt-load.html). 29 July 2013.

Spielman, Fran. “City of Chicago’s cash cushion plummets, debt triples, arrests drop, water use rises.” Chicago Sun-Times. 26 July 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/21552920-761/city-by-the-numbers-cash-cushion-plummets-debt-triples-arrests-drop-water-use-rises.html). 29 July 2013.

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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