Moody’s: Undoing Retiree Cuts Would Spell Bankruptcy For Flint

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Detroit isn’t the only Michigan city having a hard time financially. Flint, a smaller but similarly distressed city, has toyed with the idea of bankruptcy for months.

The city cut retiree benefits in an attempt to improve its fiscal condition, but a lawsuit over those cuts is waiting in the wings.

Moody’s has now said that the city is unlikely to face bankruptcy – but if retirees win their lawsuit against the city, that outlook could change. From Michigan Live:

Flint and Detroit have many similarities, but bankruptcy isn’t likely to be among them, according to an analyst with Moody’s Investors Service.

David Levett, writing in the Sept. 11 issue of U.S. Public Finance Weekly Credit Outlook, says Flint is unlikely to follow Detroit’s path into bankruptcy in the near term, especially if the courts allow the city to keep benefit cuts to retirees in place.

[…]

Earlier this year, Earley himself raised the possibility of bankruptcy for Flint if it loses a lawsuit filed by city retirees, which seeks to maintain the health benefits that workers retired with.

Levett’s analysis credits Flint’s emergency managers with having “substantially improved financial operations with dramatic changes, including restructuring pension benefits, outsourcing services, eliminating 20 percent of the city’s workforce and reducing total employee compensation equivalent to 20 percent of wages.”

He says Flint’s financial progress “would be derailed” if cuts to retiree benefits are overturned.

“The city would face substantial financial pressure should the benefit cuts not stand, increasing the likelihood of a bankruptcy filing … If the city ultimately loses the challenge, annual expenditures would increase by $5 million, equivalent to 8 percent of 2013 revenues,” the report says.

Flint Councilman Joshua Freeman was not so optimistic. In an email to Michigan Live, he said he sees “no clear path forward that does not include bankruptcy”.

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