Chad Livengood, Detroit News, May 12, 2013
Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr says the city of Detroit’s cash-flow crisis makes it “insolvent” and unable to borrow more money to mask over debts being made worse by skipping millions in payments for retiree pensions and health care.
After 45 days on the job, Orr’s initial assessment of Detroit’s perilous finances is laid bare in a 41-page report to be delivered today to state Treasurer Andy Dillon.
Calling it “a sobering wake-up call about the dire financial straits the city of Detroit faces,” Orr said he will use the report as a baseline for paring down the city’s $15.6 billion in debt and long-term liabilities.
Orr, a Washington, D.C., bankruptcy attorney, did not use the word “bankruptcy” anywhere in his report but said the city is “insolvent” and has “effectively exhausted its ability to borrow” after years of issuing long-term debt to pay its bills. Previously, he has said he hopes to avoid a Chapter 9 filing.
The report hints that city employees who were not hit by last year’s wage reductions could face pay cuts in the near future and that Wall Street bondholders will be asked to take a haircut to relieve a city that shelled out $133 million in debt payments last year on a $1.23 billion budget.
“No one should underestimate the severity of the financial crisis,” he said Sunday in a statement.
Despite budget cuts adopted by the City Council and Bing before his appointment, Orr said the city’s $326 million deficit is expected to grow by $60 million before the fiscal year ends June 30. When another $70 million in borrowing is accounted for, the city’s deficit is at least $456 million, Orr spokesman Bill Nowling said.
The emergency manager’s spokesman put the city’s predicament in more blunt terms. “We’re going to be out of money by the end of the year,” Nowling said Sunday. “If all we did was collect taxes and pay our debt, we couldn’t pay it off in 20 years. That’s the situation that we’re in now.”