Sun-Times reports Chicago has more cash and growing debt

According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, the city has more cash, but is still dealing with growing debt. The 2011 audit shows that the year ended with “$310 million in cash on hand, $167 million more than the year before, but added $465 million to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers.”

This balance was attributed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “aggressive cost-cutting efforts” and is “a marked turn-around from the precarious financial condition the city was in during the close of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 22-year reign,” according to the article.

The report noted that Chicago’s total long-term debt is a little more than $27 billion. “That’s $10,000 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.7 million residents. More than a decade ago, the debt load was $9.6 billion or $3,338-per-resident,” the article stated.

“Chicago’s 159 tax-increment-financing districts had a collective balance of $1.4 billion.”

“…Our fiscal position is getting better every year,” the article quoted City Comptroller Amer Ahmad saying, noting that he said this the same day that “Moody’s Investor’s Service downgraded $6.8 billion in O’Hare Airport bonds.”

O’Hare Airport continues to struggle in the ongoing effects of the recession. The article stated that “the number of passenger ‘enplanements’ dropped by a modest 25,545 – to 33.2 million. But the number of international boardings declined dramatically – from 5.1 million in 2010 to 4.4 million last year.” But the airport is staying on track with an increase in domestic enplanements even though “total passengers declined by three-tenths of 1 percent,” the report said.

Midway, on the other hand, might be in for some good news, financially. The airport can be privatized “if Mayor Emanuel chooses to revive the $2.5 billion deal.” Boardings at Midway rose 6.8 percent last year “from 8.8 million in 2010 to 9.45 million,” according to the report.

The mayor “has been relentless in pursuing deadbeats,” the report said. “…even to the point of siphoning their state income tax returns.” But according to Ahmad, outstanding debts such as overdue parking tickets leave hundreds of millions of dollars uncollected.

“We need to think about whether we’ll ever collect it or need to write it off,” said Ahmad as he was quoted in the article.

We’ll see a preliminary city budget by the end of this month, and according to the article it is “almost certain to include another massive deficit.” Mayor Emanuel’s budget is due before July 31.

Information gathered from a July 22 article by Fran Spielman, “2011 audit shows Chicago has more cash and growing debt load”