A few people have asked me what receivership means. Now I can say, read the report, and you’ll have all the answers you need.
Although it incorporates many elements from the former recovery and exit plans, the big difference with this new Receiver’s Recovery Plan for Chester City is that it isn’t a bunch of recommendations. This time, Mr. Receiver says if things aren’t moving the way he says they should go, he has the power to make decisions himself.
The report basically tells the story of how Chester’s finances went real bad starting in 2011 and only got worse from then on. It features years of bad budgets that didn’t balance, bad contract agreements with the police and fire fighters the city couldn’t afford, years of not paying into pension plans, years of being late on bills, years behind in audits, years of passing on debt to future years, and years of not following important recommendations from the previous recovery and exit plans.
My favorite line in the whole 84 page plan confirms my experience whenever I try to share city financial information…
…some do not fully understand the severity of this situation.
Mr. Receiver has reworked the city budget for the rest of 2020 and redid the 2021 proposed budget. He’s making sure the city can pay for the lawyers to try to get the Chester Water Authority situation settled so Chester can have some money to get out of some immediate trouble. He seems just as anxious to get the parking authority situation settled with Widener which doesn’t appear to bring much money to the city, but maybe it’s a priority to make an agreement with Widener so the city won’t be hit with a massive penalty from the people they contracted with to handle the parking thing.
Mr. Receiver will decide when people will come back to work for the city who have been laid off/furloughed. It looks like they’re going to be out for quite some time. Mr. Receiver is very interested in making sure the police and fire disability pensioners are accounted for and looks to revamp the entire pension formula, overtime formula, salary formula, and consolidate the two firehouses.
Mr. Receiver wants to pursue getting some of that Harrah’s sports betting and interactive gaming money paid directly to Chester which now goes elsewhere to be decided if Chester receives any of the money. Much of the other stuff he wants have been recommended in the other recovery plans like boosting economic development efforts, cost sharing with the Stormwater Authority, fixing up downtown, and so on.
Primarily, Mr. Receiver seems laser focused on getting the money right. That $20 some-million they’re in debt to the pension accounts is expected to almost double to $40 some-million with interest and penalties by next year. There’s a bunch of old bills not paid and the health insurance is always an unknown. And, Mr. Receiver mentions the complications with COVID-19 and how revenue coming into the city is a virtual unknown until later this year when the numbers come in.
Mr. Receiver seems to want to see the city change its form of government which never made any sense to me anyway. Why do city council people run departments instead of being responsible for a slice of the city and represent the people who live there? Mr. Receiver must be asking the same question.
With 84 pages, there’s a lot to get through and I’ll be back to focus in on certain parts of the report if you tell me you’d like to know more (otherwise, I’ll leave it alone).
Overall, I really like Mr. Receiver’s report. It destroy’s a few myths, answers a few questions, confirms some rumors, provides a few ‘a-ha’ moments, and leaves me with a few questions of my own.
I encourage you to read it for yourself and I’ll know if you did if you can give me the page numbers of at least 3 obvious typos.
You can find the report on the ChesterCity.com homepage.