City of Chicago

Crain’s Chicago Business: Pension Reform Ruling Could Cost Taxpayers Extra $200 Million A Year Through End Of Decade

In my Sunday post about Chicago’s pension reform legislation being ruled unconstitutional, I blogged:

Chicagoans- let that last line from Dardick and Pearson sink in real good:

“Taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation…”

How many hundreds of millions are we talking about here?

Greg Hinz wrote in his blog on the Crain’s Chicago Business website Monday:

The court decision throwing out a deal to refinance two Chicago pension funds appears to be among the most costly in the city’s history, in some ways ranking right up there with the Great Chicago Fire.

Exact figures are not available and vary some depending on who’s doing the estimating. But based on statements by city officials and documents filed by the pension funds themselves, it’s likely that the decision by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Rita Novak will cost city taxpayers around $200 million a year through the end of the decade—and will keep rising for decades thereafter.

“You’d have to go back to either the Depression or the Great Fire to find a comparable situation in which the city faced either greater challenges or more painful decisions,” Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said. “It’s clearly going to result in increased taxes and reduced services.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Remember, that additional $200 million hit to Chicago taxpayers would come on top of addressing fire and police pensions. And bailing out the Chicago Public Schools, which had its credit rating reduced to junk status today by Fitch Ratings. In May, I noted Moody’s downgraded the Chicago Board of Education (the primary debt issuers of CPS) three notches to junk.

You can read Hinz’s entire blog post on the Crain’s Chicago Business website here. If I were still a Chicago resident, I’d probably find it disturbing. But at least I’d be clued in as to what could be coming down the line.

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

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Judge Rules Chicago’s Pension Reform Legislation Unconstitutional

Here’s the latest on Chicago’s public pension crisis. Hal Dardick and Rick Pearson reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration said it will appeal a Cook County judge’s decision Friday that ruled unconstitutional a state law reducing municipal worker pension benefits in exchange for a city guarantee to fix their underfunded retirement systems.

The 35-page ruling by Judge Rita Novak, slapping down the city’s arguments point by point, could have wide-ranging effects if upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court. Her decision appeared to also discredit efforts at the state and Cook County levels to try to curb pension benefits to rein in growing costs that threaten funding for government services.

The issue of underfunded pensions, and how to restore their financial health, is crucial for the city and its taxpayers. The city workers and laborers funds at issue in Friday’s ruling are more than $8 billion short of what’s needed to meet obligations — and are at risk of going broke within 13 years — after many years of low investment returns fueled by recession and inadequate funding.

Without reducing benefits paid to retired workers, or requiring current workers to pay more, taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Chicagoans- let that last line from Dardick and Pearson sink in real good:

“Taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation…”

And the City’s response to the ruling? Mayor Emanuel’s Press Office countered Friday:

Statement of City of Chicago Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton on SB1922

“While we are disappointed by the trial court’s ruling, we have always recognized that this matter will ultimately be resolved by the Illinois Supreme Court. We now look forward to having our arguments heard there. We continue to strongly believe that the City’s pension reform legislation, unlike the State legislation held unconstitutional this past spring, does not diminish or impair pension benefits, but rather preserves and protects them. This law not only rescues the municipal and laborer pension funds from certain insolvency, but ensures that, over time, they will be fully funded and the 61,000 affected City workers and retirees will receive the pensions they were promised.”

As to the City of Chicago’s credit rating possibly getting whacked after the decision? Timothy W. Martin reported on The Wall Street Journal website Friday afternoon:

Moody’s said Friday’s ruling had no effect on Chicago’s bond grade. But rival Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, which currently has an investment-grade rating for the city, said that “regardless of the ultimate outcome” of Mr. Emanuel’s pension law, it “will likely lower” its Chicago rating in the next six months, unless city leaders chart out a solution to address its pension problems.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Like I’ve been saying for a couple years now, that proverbial brick wall keeps approaching for Chicago.

Since City Hall can’t get its affairs in order, Chicagoans might want to look at straightening out theirs if they intend to stick around for the long haul.

Sources:

Dardick, Hal and Pearson, Rick. “Judge finds city’s changes to pension funds unconstitutional.” Chicago Tribune. 24 July 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-chicago-pension-ruling-met-20150724-story.html). 25 July 2015.

Martin, Timothy W. “Chicago’s Pension Overhaul Plan Tossed Out by Judge.” The Wall Street Journal. 24 July 2015. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-rules-2014-law-to-reduce-chicago-pension-shortfall-unconstitutional-1437754525). 25 July 2015.

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Crain’s Chicago Business: City’s Rising Fees, Fines, And Taxes Look To Continue

Chicago readers of Survival And Prosperity might want to read two articles that recently appeared on the Crain’s Chicago Business website concerning rising fees, fines, and taxes in the city. In a piece entitled “Chicago’s expanding appetite for new taxes,” Thomas A. Corfman wrote Saturday:

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has held the line on property taxes, revenue from other local taxes has climbed nearly 20 percent since he took office.

A strengthening economy explains much of the surge. But Emanuel has fueled the growth by raising taxes on things such as cable TV and parking…

Keep in mind that “line on property taxes” may soon be breached. Significantly. Corfman added:

While property tax revenue has fluctuated slightly since 2011 after accounting for new construction, that’s likely to end soon. The badly undercapitalized police and firefighter pension funds are supposed to receive a state-mandated $550 million payment next year. Property taxes will likely account for the bulk of the increase, says Ald. Roderick Sawyer of the South Side’s 6th Ward

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

This comes on the heels of another Corfman article entitled, “How much could Chicago pension payments jack up your property bill? Try 30%”. He wrote on July 4:

Even as Mayor Rahm Emanuel warns about a property tax hike of up to $250 million for the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools, another big wave of increases likely is coming to rescue the pensions of police officers and firefighters.

A massive payment due to those retirement plans next year could drive up Chicago property taxes by more than 30 percent, according to a Crain’s analysis. And if the current logjam in Springfield continues, it could be a lot worse

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

As I wouldn’t steal Crain’s thunder, you can read Corfman’s July 18 article here and his July 4 piece here.

And as always, my intention is not to scare Chicago residents/businesses by blogging about such material. Rather, as a former Chicagoan this is something I feel my former neighbors should be made aware of, especially if they plan on staying in the “Windy City.”

Got to figure out some way to keep ahead of those rising fees, fines, and taxes and eroding public services.

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

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Latest On Chicago’s ‘Routine Military Training Exercise’ Over The Next Week

This Monday, I blogged about Chicago hosting a “routine military training exercise” over the next two weeks.

Here’s the latest on the event, per the City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications website earlier today:

The City of Chicago is providing continued support for a routine military training exercise in and around the Chicagoland area over the next week. This routine training is conducted by military personnel in cities across the country, designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments overseas, as service members meet mandatory training certification requirements and prepare for upcoming deployments worldwide.

As part of this training, residents can expect to see increased aircraft activity, including helicopter flights. All training activities have been pre-coordinated with federal, state and city officials, and these locations have been carefully selected to minimize the impact on the daily routine of residents.

The training is not open to the public and the sites will be secured to ensure the safety of residents and the participants.

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

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Thursday, July 16th, 2015 Government, Military, Training No Comments

Chicago Hosting ‘Routine Military Training Exercise’ Over Next 2 Weeks

As posted on the City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications website before the weekend:

The City of Chicago is providing support for a routine military training exercise in and around the Chicagoland area over the next two weeks. This routine training is conducted by military personnel in cities across the country, designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments overseas, as service members meet mandatory training certification requirements and prepare for upcoming deployments worldwide.

All training activities have been pre-coordinated with federal, state and city officials, and these locations have been carefully selected to minimize the impact on the daily routine of residents.

The training is not open to the public and the sites will be secured to ensure the safety of residents and the participants.”

The Chicago area is no stranger to these “routine military training exercises.” I’ve blogged about such events in 2012 (April) and twice in 2013 (April and July).


“Military helicopters flying low over Chicago River”
YouTube Video

I wrote back on April 16, 2012:

Now, I’ve heard the U.S. military has been busy developing its urban warfare training program for some time already. Spencer Ackerman wrote in the Wired.com blog Danger Room back on January 18, 2011:

American soldiers spent seven years patrolling the urban neighborhoods of Iraq; its troops battled insurgents there block-by-block and house-by-house. Now that the Army is getting out of Iraq, it wants to make sure its urban combat skills don’t wither away. So it today it gave Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to $287 million to build Urban Operations Training Systems — essentially, giant simulation facilities and modules to help soldiers get ready for life in the big, bad city.

Versions of those training systems can be as simple as shipping containers tricked out to resemble multi-story houses and arranged in village formations, so soldiers can practice how to seize a building without causing needless damage. The Army’s got an entire 1000-acre facility in Indiana it uses to train soldiers in urban combat.

As for the Marines? From the CBS Channel 2 (Los Angeles) website on January 25, 2011:

A 1,560-building mock city has risen in the Southern California desert.

The $170 million Marine Corps urban training center at the Twentynine Palms military base, some 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is roughly the size of San Diego.

The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center facility uses mock cities and role players to prepare Marines and sailors for urban terrain missions.

If our armed forces already have such resources, what’s with the urban warfare training in American cities then?

The question still stands today…

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

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Monday, July 13th, 2015 Government, Military, Training, War No Comments

S&P Cuts Chicago’s Credit Rating Twice In Less Than 2 Months

Surprise, surprise. The City of Chicago’s credit rating was lowered yet again.

This time, it’s Standard & Poor’s that did the cutting.

Karen Pierog and Tanvi Mehta reported on the Reuters website last night:

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services cut Chicago’s credit rating one notch to BBB-plus with a negative outlook on Wednesday, citing the windy city’s nagging structural budget deficit and the lack of a plan to close it.

S&P analyst John Kenward said the U.S.’ third-largest city needs “a credible, public, detailed plan” to deal with budget gaps projected to grow to $588 million in fiscal 2017, largely due to escalating contributions to its police and fire fighter retirement funds.

S&P also warned Chicago’s general obligation bond rating may fall further if a credible plan does not surface within six months…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

According to the S&P website, “BBB” indicates:

Adequate protection parameters. However, adverse economic conditions or changing circumstances are more likely to lead to a weakened capacity of the obligor to meet its financial commitment on the obligation.

It was less than two months ago that Standard & Poor’s last downgraded the City of Chicago’s credit rating. I blogged on May 17:

Standard & Poor’s joined in on the downgrade parade later in the week. From a press release Friday:

Chicago, IL GO Bond Ratings Lowered To #A-# From #A+#, Placed On CreditWatch Due To Short-Term Liquidity Pressure
CHICAGO–15 May–Standard & Poor’s

CHICAGO (Standard & Poor’s) May 14, 2015–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its rating to ‘A-‘ from ‘A+’ on the city of Chicago’s outstanding general obligation (GO) bonds, and placed the ratings on CreditWatch with negative implications…

Stay tuned…

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

Source:

Mehta, Tanvi and Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 1-S&P downgrades Chicago’s GO bond rating to BBB-plus.” Reuters. 8 July 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/08/usa-chicago-sp-idUSL3N0ZO60H20150708). 9 July 2015.

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64 Shot, 10 Killed In Chicago Over Fourth Of July Weekend

It was another violent Independence Day weekend in the city of Chicago. Peter Nickeas reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

Shootings over the long Fourth of July weekend left 10 people dead and 54 others wounded.

Among those killed was a 7-year-old boy shot in the chest during an attack aimed at his father, according to police…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Chicago Sun-Times added this morning on their website:

Police said Sunday the bullet that fatally wounded 7-year-old Amari Brown on the Fourth of July was meant for his father…

The boy’s father, Antonio Brown, is a ranking gang member with 45 previous arrests and was not cooperating with police as of Sunday afternoon as they tried to find his son’s killer, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Sunday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported…

According to a Chicago Crime Commission publication from 2012, there are an estimated 70 to 100 gangs in the Chicago metropolitan area with a membership of between 68,000 to over 150,000.

Nickeas added later on his piece:

Shootings last year, over an 84-hour period, left 82 people shot, 16 fatally…

While some may try to tout this “improvement” from 2014, this year’s carnage is still staggering, particularly as Chicago has strict gun “control” laws on its books.

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

Sources:

Nickeas, Peter. “10 killed, 54 wounded in gun violence over Fourth of July weekend in Chicago.” Chicago Tribune. 6 July 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-violence-20150706-story.html). 6 July 2015.

“Nine dead, 53 injured in Fourth of July weekend shootings.” Chicago Sun-Times. 6 July 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/crime/7/71/742607/police-3-dead-3-wounded-holiday-weekend-shootings-since-thursday-evening). 6 July 2015.

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Chicago Tribune: ‘Chicagoans Should Consider A Modest Property Tax Increase Inevitable’

Coming on the heels of last Thursday’s post and an earlier one about Chicago-area property/other taxes was an article by Chicago Tribune business columnist Melissa Harris entitled “Chicago isn’t Detroit- and it’s not going bankrupt.”

In the June 20 piece, Harris attempted to argue exactly what the title says (critics are panning it as “Machine”/union propaganda). But what interested me were statements like this:

More revenue will be required soon, most likely in the form of a property tax increase.

Not only is Chicago’s property tax rate lower than those in many suburbs, Chicago’s effective property tax rate ranked 49th out of the 50 largest cities in each state, according to 2009 U.S. Census data…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

And this:

Chicagoans should consider a modest property tax increase inevitable, though how much of an increase it will be could be affected by Moody’s decision, which made it more expensive for Chicago to borrow money…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

If one believes claims the Chicago news media routinely carries Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s water, increased tax hike chatter and growing comparisons of the city to other municipalities by the local press could be sending a strong signal to Chicagoans that they’ll be required to bust out their wallets shortly.

You can read the rest of that column on the Chicago Tribune website here (registration required)

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

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Property Tax Blues For Chicago, North Suburban Homeowners

While Chicagoland was preoccupied with the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory parade Thursday, the Cook County Clerk’s office released the following:

Cook County Clerk David Orr released the 2014 property tax rates for the county’s more than 1,400 taxing agencies on Thursday, the final step in the tax process before bills are mailed out. The average homeowner in the city of Chicago and the northern suburbs will see their tax bill increase slightly, while the average homeowner in the southern suburbs will see a slight reduction in their tax bill.

In the south suburbs residential tax bills will on average be 1.0 percent lower. In north suburbs there will be an average increase of 2.4 percent, and most Chicago homeowners can expect an increase in their bill of 2.8 percent.

For the average single family home, this will translate to a decrease of $51.33 for south suburban homeowners, an increase of $155.49 for north suburban homeowners, and a property tax bill that is $89.44 higher than last year’s for Chicago homeowners…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

By the way, that $89 plus change property tax increase is based on an “average home with market value of $199,000″ in Chicago. Good luck finding a decent-sized family home that cheap in my old neighborhood on the northwest side of the city.

That being said, even a low three figure dollar increase in property taxes would likely be welcomed around my old stomping grounds compared to what could be coming down the line. John Byrne reported on the Chicago Tribune website this afternoon:

The threat of much steeper property tax hikes looms in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to find enough money to make police and fire pension payments set to balloon next year, and CPS faces a $1 billion budget hole driven by pension shortfalls of its own…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can read the entire press release on the Cook County Clerk’s website here.

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

Source:

Byrne, John. “Chicago property taxes to rise $90 on average.” Chicago Tribune. 18 June 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-cook-county-property-tax-rates-met-0619-20150618-story.html). 18 June 2015.

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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 Education, Entitlements, Government, Housing, Taxes No Comments

Moody’s Downgrades Cook County’s Credit Rating, Issues Negative Outlook

The following is kind of stale, but the local press didn’t really publicize it and Cook County residents are entitled to know the financial health of the local government unit in these uncertain times. The Global Credit Research division of Moody’s announced on their website back on June 5:

Rating Action: Moody’s downgrades Cook County, IL’s GO to A2 from A1; outlook negative

A2 rating applies to $3.6B of GO debt

New York, June 05, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded to A2 from A1 the rating on Cook County, IL’s general obligation (GO) debt. The county has $3.6 billion in GO debt outstanding. The outlook remains negative…

The Global Credit Research division explained:

The A2 rating incorporates credit pressures associated with Cook County’s unfunded pension liabilities. Based on the Illinois Supreme Court’s May 8 overruling of the State of Illinois’ (A3 negative) pension reforms, we perceive increased risk that the county’s options for reducing unfunded pension liabilities have narrowed considerably. As it currently stands, Cook County-despite its home rule status-has little direct control over its single largest liability. Whether or not the statute that governs Cook County’s pension plan stands, we expect pension-related costs will place increasing strain on the county’s financial operations. Furthermore, approximately half of Cook County’s tax base is highly leveraged by the debt and unfunded pension liabilities of the City of Chicago (Ba1 negative) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) (Ba3 negative). We believe that the revenue demands of these entities could place practical limitations on the county’s ability and willingness to increase revenue to fund its pension costs. Other credit challenges for the county include enterprise risks inherent in operating the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS)…

As for that negative outlook:

The negative outlook reflects our view that Cook County’s credit quality could weaken given continued uncertainty in the county’s future pension funding framework. Our outlook on the county’s credit is also informed by our expectation of growth in the pension costs of the local governments that share half of the county’s tax base. Finally, the negative outlook incorporates continued pressures in the health care sector, improved financial results for CCHHS notwithstanding…

On June 8, the major U.S. credit rating agency also announced a downgrade of the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s general obligation debt to A2 from A1, with a negative outlook as well.

You can read that entire June 5 Moody’s rating action on their website here.

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

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Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 Credit, Debt Crisis, Entitlements, Government No Comments

Chicago, The Taxman Cometh

“Amid comparisons to ‘shuffling the deck chairs’ on the Titanic, the City Council’s Finance Committee agreed Monday to add another $1.1 billion to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers…”

Chicago Sun-Times website, June 15, 2015

While Chicagoans celebrate the Stanley Cup, City Hall is mulling over which taxes of theirs to hike. Derrick Blakley reported on the CBS 2 (Chicago) website before the weekend:

With a huge budget deficit ahead, Chicago city government is desperately searching for new income.

Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be seriously considering an income tax

Emanuel isn’t specifically talking income tax yet. But one of his strongest city council allies, 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore, is speaking up.

“In my ideal scenario, it would be a graduated income tax that would be pegged at peoples’ ability to pay,” he says.
Some of the biggest U.S. cities already tax wages, including New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, San Francisco and Denver.

The tax that would also strike suburbanites who work in the city, Moore says.

The concept drew support Thursday from other mayoral allies who want to avoid a property tax hike…

Last year, the mayor rejected a city income tax. Not Thursday…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board also picked up on Mayor Emanuel’s silence on the city income tax issue, writing Friday on the paper’s web site:

In a major break from the past, Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not immediately shoot it down…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Board added:

Might a Chicago income tax have bad, unintended consequences? Of course. And we’re by no means endorsing the idea here. But so might all the other taxes Chicago needs to consider: a commuter tax, a modest financial transaction, the broadening of the sale tax to cover more services, closing some tax-increment financing districts, congestion pricing and a pay-as-you-go garbage fee, to name some of the biggies.

Each revenue-generator should be vetted and priced out publicly, and the results should be explained far and wide so that the City Council and every Chicagoan come to accept two realities. One is the sheer size of Chicago’s financial crisis. The second is that no single solution will cut it. The pain has to be spread as widely as possible. The question then becomes: Which ingredients, in what proportions, make for the best stew — or at least the one that goes down easiest?

We have long said that raising property taxes — the city’s most stable revenue source, and one of the few it controls directly — is inevitable. But if property taxes are raised too much, both for Chicago and the school system, the city we know and love will cease to exist. An already dwindling middle class will flee.

A property tax hike should only be part of that bigger stew…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Testing the waters? Conditioning Chicagoans for inevitable tax hikes?

All I know is this. Higher fees/fines/taxes. Reduced government benefits/services. That’s what I see coming down the pipeline for not only Chicago but the rest of the nation in due time.

Prepare accordingly.

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

Sources:

Blakley, Derrick. “Chicago Eyes A City Income Tax On Residents, Suburbanites Who Work Here” CBS 2. 11 June 2015. (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/06/11/chicago-eyes-a-city-income-tax-on-residents-suburbanites-who-work-here/). 16 June 2015.

Editorial Board. “Editorial: Mixing up a stew of Chicago revenue solutions.” Chicago Sun-Times. 12 June 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/7/71/685251/editorial-16). 16 June 2015.

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Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes No Comments

Chicago’s Credit Rating Lowered By Fitch Ratings, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s

The three major U.S. credit rating agencies have downgraded the City of Chicago this past week. Last Tuesday, Moody’s announced on its website:

Rating Action: Moody’s downgrades Chicago, IL to Ba1, affecting $8.9B of GO, sales, and motor fuel tax debt; outlook negative

Also downgrades senior and second lien water bonds to Baa1 and Baa2 and downgrades senior and second lien sewer bonds to Baa2 and Baa3, affecting $3.8B; outlook negative

New York, May 12, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded to Ba1 from Baa2 the rating on the City of Chicago, IL’s $8.1 billion of outstanding general obligation (GO) debt; $542 million of outstanding sales tax revenue debt; and $268 million of outstanding and authorized motor fuel tax revenue debt…

In case readers didn’t notice, that was a two-notch downgrade from “Baa2″ to “Ba1.”

According to Moody’s “US Municipal Ratings,” “Ba” indicates “Issuers or issues rated Ba demonstrate below-average creditworthiness relative to other US municipal or tax-exempt issuers or issues.”

In other words, “junk.”

A day later, Moody’s was at it again, lowering the Chicago Board of Education’s credit rating. From their site on May 13:

Moody’s downgrades Chicago Board of Education, IL’s GO to Ba3; outlook negative

Ba3 rating applies to $6.2 billion of GO debt

New York, May 13, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded to Ba3 from Baa3 the rating on the Chicago Board of Education, IL’s $6.2 billion of outstanding general obligation (GO) debt. The Chicago Board of Education is the primary debt issuer for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) (the district). The outlook remains negative…

A three-notch downgrade. And even worse “junk.”

Standard & Poor’s joined in on the downgrade parade later in the week. From a press release Friday:

Chicago, IL GO Bond Ratings Lowered To #A-# From #A+#, Placed On CreditWatch Due To Short-Term Liquidity Pressure

CHICAGO–15 May–Standard & Poor’s

CHICAGO (Standard & Poor’s) May 14, 2015–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its rating to ‘A-‘ from ‘A+’ on the city of Chicago’s outstanding general obligation (GO) bonds, and placed the ratings on CreditWatch with negative implications…

According to the S&P website, “A” indicates:

Somewhat more susceptible to the adverse effects of changes in circumstances and economic conditions than obligations in higher-rated categories. However, the obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation is still strong.

Fitch Ratings was the last of the three major credit rating agencies to the party, releasing the following Friday on their website:

Fitch Downgrades Chicago, IL’s ULTGOs and Sales Tax Bonds to ‘BBB+'; Ratings on Negative Watch

Fitch Ratings-New York-15 May 2015: Fitch Ratings has downgraded the ratings on the following Chicago, Illinois obligations:

–$8.1 billion unlimited tax GO bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘;
–$546.5 million (accreted value) sales tax bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘;
–$200 million commercial paper notes, 2002 program series A (tax exempt) and B (taxable) bank bond ratings to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’.

At the same time, the ratings have been placed on Negative Watch…

According to the Fitch Ratings website, “BBB” indicates:

Expectations of default risk are currently low. The capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered adequate but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity.

You can read the May 12 Moody’s press release on their website here. The May 13 Moody’s release is here. Standard & Poor’s press release can be found here (on thailand4.com) and the Fitch Ratings release on their website here.

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

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Chicago’s Financial, Job Woes Highlighted In Huffington Post Piece

Chicago-area readers are probably getting sick of my negative posts about Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois. I don’t like blogging about all the bad news either. However, I feel compelled to point out the massive challenges facing the city, county, and state I was born in and continue to love in an attempt to help turn them around (unlikely at this point), or at least assist residents survive these entities slamming into that proverbial brick wall (much more probable).

That being said, this past weekend I came across an interesting article about a number of Chicago’s woes by local journalist Hilary Gowins. While there’s plenty of dreadful material being written about the “Windy City” these days, what made Gowins’ piece particularly “interesting” is where it can be found- on The Huffington Post website. From the often left-leaning (in my opinion) online news aggregator and blog:

Behind a veneer of affluence, gilded by the prosperity and staying power of neighborhoods such as the Gold Coast, River North and Lincoln Park, the city’s foundation is crumbling beneath the weight of perilous debt. Chicago and its sister governments are officially on the hook for more than $32 billion in unfunded pension debt. With just over a million households in the city, that staggering figure means each Chicago household is on the hook for $32,000 to cover these liabilities. Chicago’s pension debt exceeds the state’s total proposed operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

At the same time the city’s obligations are skyrocketing, its population is growing at a snail’s pace, gaining just 6,000 residents in 2013 after a decade of population decline. With 2.7 million residents as of 2013, Chicago’s population is the same as it was in 1920

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Gowins added this as well:

But today, despite activity on the tech front, job opportunities are scarce. The Chicago area has 46,000 fewer people working compared to before the Great Recession, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

There’s plenty of people around these parts who would be quick to blow smoke up your behind and tell you the economy in Chicagoland area and beyond is in full-blown recovery, and quit worrying about the larger financial picture.

Sorry, but the numbers (such as the above) show otherwise.

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

Source:

Gowins, Hilary. “Chicago’s Problems Run Much Deeper Than a 76-foot Hole.” The Huffington Post. 1 May 2015. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hilary-gowins/chicagos-problems-run-muc_b_7131348.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592). 5 May 2015.

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Chicago Warned By Moody’s About Pension Liabilities

In early April, Standard & Poor’s warned the City of Chicago:

If the city doesn’t find structural solutions, a downgrade of more than one notch is possible.

In our view, if the city fails to articulate and implement a plan by the end of 2015 to sustainably fund its pension contributions, or if it substantially draws down its reserves to fund the contributions, we will likely lower the rating.

Now Moody’s has fired a shot across the city’s bow in 2015. From their Global Credit Research unit on Friday:

Chicago’s (Baa2 negative) pension plans face an uncertain future. Statutes that govern the city’s pension funding requirements have come under legal and political fire, particularly during the last year, as pensioners, politicians, taxpayers and investors have questioned the laws’ constitutionality and affordability, Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report.

Regardless of the ultimate answers, one outcome is certain: Chicago’s unfunded pension liabilities and ongoing pension costs will grow significantly, forcing city officials to make difficult decisions for years to come.

If current laws stand, Chicago’s annual pension contributions are projected to increase by 135% in 2016; by an average annual rate of 8% in 2017-21; and by an average annual rate of 3% in 2022-26.

The 2016 increase alone equals a significant 15% of the city’s 2013 operating revenue, Moody’s says in “Chicago’s Pension Forecast — Tough Choices Now or Tougher Choices Later.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Touch Choices Now or Tougher Choices Later.” That pretty much sums up the situation not only in the “Windy City,” but in the state of Illinois as well.

Blame Emanuel? Blame Rauner? Whatever. As is if these guys have been around long enough to help put Chicagoans and Illinoisans in their respective financial messes.

You can read the rest of the Moody’s news release on their website here.

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

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Chicago Uber Driver With Concealed-Carry Permit Shoots Man Firing Into Crowd In Logan Square

I’m guessing some members of the anti-concealed-carry crowd in Illinois and beyond aren’t too pleased that news of the following makes its way into the mainstream media. Greg Ziezulewicz reported on the Chicago Tribune website Monday morning:

Authorities say no charges will be filed against an Uber driver who shot and wounded a gunman who opened fire on a crowd of people in Logan Square over the weekend.

The driver had a concealed-carry permit and acted in the defense of himself and others…

Glad to hear this Illinois Concealed Carry License holder was at the right place at the right time.

While I haven’t heard any comment on the incident by City Hall or a high-ranking representative of the Chicago Police Department, I’ll make the following prediction. Undoubtedly, they’ll be a time when an Illinois CCL holder screws up royally. And when that individual does, the anti-CCW crowd will scream bloody murder in an attempt to convince anyone who will listen that legal concealed-carry of a firearm by the citizenry is a huge mistake and should be rescinded. Mark my words.

You can read the entire piece on the Tribune website here.

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

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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