The City Council is voting on a revised redevelopment plan tonight for the undead Wonderful Development. This new plan not only gives the developer $29 million, but also loans him an additional $7 million because he couldn’t get all the private financing he needed.
So the question is, where is this $7 million coming from? I mean, did you know that the City had $7 million sitting around in a pot somewhere? Well, they do … in a retiree benefits fund. According to the council communication: “the City will provide the developer with a 25-year $7 million loan (the ‘Project Loan’) at 7% interest from the City’s Post Employment Benefits Reserve.”
The City is required to keep this Post Employment Benefits Reserve by an accounting regulation known as GASB 45. The idea is that the City should be socking away money now for the health benefits they are obligated to pay in the future to retirees. Of course, the City doesn’t fully fund the reserve. They can’t afford it. So they’re listing an increasingly large unfunded liability on their balance sheet each year.
Now, to make matters worse, they’re going to take what money they do have in reserve and loan it to Gary Matthews to build a hotel downtown — at no interest for the first two years or so, then at 7% interest after that. But here’s the kicker: this loan would be in the third position for repayment. In other words, if the project were to go bankrupt, the banks would get paid back first, then the owners of Big Al’s (who are loaning Matthews money as well), then the City. The City’s loan is subordinate to two other creditors, so the odds of the City getting paid back in the event of default are nil.
Of course, this is just the latest injustice regarding this deal. There still is going to be a $29 million gift to the developer, courtesy of your future tax money. This publicly-subsidized hotel will be competing with other private hotels downtown, giving it quite a competitive advantage. Meanwhile, our taxes (or “fees,” if it makes you feel better) are going up and the City is going deeper in debt, even as our city faces serious public safety issues and its infrastructure deteriorates.
Peoria, your tax dollars are being misused. Does anyone care? Anyone? If the Occupy Wall Street supporters really don’t like money being taken from the 99% and given to the 1%, they should be against this deal. If the Tea Party supporters really don’t like bigger government and support the free market, they should be against this deal. Where are they? Where are you? Rome is burning while you’re fiddling.ikoni