In another case of it not being official until the Delaware County Daily Times prints it, we learn today that a Receiver has been approved to usher Chester through receivership. Nevermind that it’s the same person named in my May 27th post (https://wp.me/p2kkJO-7jF).
Based on the 18-views and 7-people who commented on that post, you didn’t care then and you probably don’t care now.
Yet, I’ll break down today’s front page article just in case you’d like a better understanding of where Chester City is in the receivership journey. I’ll keep it short. I go through the article from top to bottom and use quotes from the article to frame a mini-commentary.
(Firstly, I went to delcotimes.com for the story and it wasn’t on their homepage. How is today’s front page story not on their homepage? I had to do a search to find it. Shows you how significant this story is to their readers).
On June 22, Commonwealth Court Judge J. Andrew Crompton signed the order establishing Michael Doweary as Chester’s receiver.
First of all, today is July 18. This news is already a month old. He may have been established on June 22, but I know he’s been on the job since early May. And, please notice it’s a Commonwealth Court judge, not a Delaware County Common Pleas judge. This is State business we’re dealing with here.
“My decisions will be made based on the answer to this question: Is it in the best interest of Chester residents?”
Mr. Receiver says his decisions are in the best interest of Chester residents. Has anyone asked you what your interest are? Have you prioritized your interests? Do you know how to contact the Receiver to express your interest?
Chester has been in Act 47 since 1995 and previously adopted recovery plans in 2006, 2013 and 2016.
Remember this for later in the post.
Under Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, Chester has crafted a string of balanced budgets…
What is a balanced budget? You predict the revenues the city will receive for the year and layout all the things you’re going to spend that money on until all the money is gone. If you are left with some money in the end, that’s a surplus. If not, you’re in a deficit. The goal of a balanced budget is to end up with $0.00.
It’s one thing to propose and approve a balanced budget at the start of the year and a far different thing to end up with a balanced budget when all the money is accounted for at the end of the year. No one knows for sure if Chester’s balanced budgets represents the approved budgets or the end-of-year reconciliations.
The easiest way to describe a balanced budget is to compare it to your checkbook. You know the money you have coming in every month and you can easily balance your checkbook based on the things you spend your money on. Since we can’t spend negative money, our plan is to not go beyond a $0 balance at the end of the month. One way to accomplish that is to not pay a few bills. Yes, you can have a balanced budget and still be in a lot of debt because you can’t pay your bills.
So, is a balanced budget a sign of a fiscally healthy city? Not if there’s a lot of unpaid bills laying around.
The mayor has said the city remains in “dire straits” particularly in funding police and fire department pensions.
Oh, look. An unpaid bill.
Chester Chief Financial Officer Nafis J. Nichols said the city has not met its monthly municipal obligation to the police pension fund since 2013.
Oh, wait. We’ve had some unpaid bills laying around since 2013?
The police pension balance was approximately $2 million, which was “likely not sufficient to make beneficiary payments over the next four months.”
Retired police officers receive a pension payment every month from an account the city contributes to. However, the city hasn’t been paying that bill and there’s only 4-months worth of money left. Oh, but don’t worry retired police officer. The Governor came to the rescue and put us in receivership.
The current unfunded liability of the police pension alone is more than $25 million.
The police pension fund should have $25 million in it. There’s only $2 million in it. For some, this is the first you heard it’s as bad as it is. I tried to get y’all to pay attention. I was told I was lying, told to shut up, and considered the bearer of bad news.
Kirkland previously stated his hope that the governor’s declaration of fiscal emergency for Chester in April would allow the city to renegotiate its deal with Harrah’s, something he said was costing the city nearly $500,000 annually.
I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but doesn’t Harrah’s kick in $10-$11 million dollars to the city budget and allow our residents to attend Delaware County Community College at a deep discounted price? How is that costing the city anything?
Maybe Kirkland is referring to the additional revenue from Harrah’s gaming revenue the state could approve to come to Chester if they wanted to.
Casinos seem to the the only business that can set up in your city and the state determines what portion of their revenue can come to you. Since Harrah’s has been here they have added table games and sports betting to the original slot machines and horse racing. I don’t think Chester get’s any of the revenue from anything other than the slots.
It’s like if a hoagie shop only paid taxes on the hoagies they made and later started making cheese steaks but didn’t have to the pay city taxes on the steaks. That’s how casinos work.
The city will be insolvent, or unable to pay its debts, in October.
Humm. We broke. Some of us have been saying this for quite some time, but now it’s official. Balanced budgets or not, we broke.
Can anyone say, Bankruptcy?
As we all work collaboratively to ensure perpetual financial stability for this community, I am confident that (the receiver’s) efforts will move us onto that trajectory.
In other words, ‘Bro-man gonna get us out of this mess.’
In crafting and implementing a recovery plan, Doweary will receive support from a multi-disciplinary team.
Oh, damn! Another recovery plan? What about the other recovery plans? We’re not good at recovery plans. Can you call it something else just for confidence sake.
Campbell Durant as counsel; PFM Group Consulting as financial advisor; The Kapoor Company as Chief of Staff and Workforce Advisor; Fox Chase Advisors for operational audit assistance; The Quarks Group with communications and community engagement; and Shilvosky M. Buffaloe Consulting & Resources LLC with economic development.
Here’s our problem all along. Econsult, who have been the city’s consultant for the past ‘a lot’ of years, wasn’t enough. We needed to circle the wagons with at least 6 specialty consultants. But, isn’t Econsult still consulting? Okay, 6 specialty consultants and 1 general consultant. I’m sure these guys aren’t free. I just hope there’s some money left for Chester after paying all those guys.
“But I am not just concerned about the financial state,” Doweary said. “Chester’s murder rate is among the highest in the state. Several children were shot and killed this year and we are only halfway through 2020. Our youth poverty rate is among the highest in the state. Almost half of … Chester’s kids live below the poverty line. All of this must change. The children and the families of Chester deserve the same opportunities that any other Pennsylvania child and family have.”
Right now, I just need the receiver to be concerned about the financial state of Chester. Somehow, we’ll try to handle the rest.
Under Act 47, the receiver must have an advisory board to review any actions he wants to take and Delaware County Council unanimously appointed Kelly Diaz as the county appointee…
And from where else will this advisory board pull people from?
“There is no one clear answer on a way out,” Doweary wrote in an open letter to the community.
What letter? What community? Anybody seen this letter?