Report: Detroit's finances crumbling; future bleak

DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 24: The former Michigan Central Station is seen on February 24, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. The city of Detroit has faced serious economic challenges in the past decade, with a shrinking population and tax base while trying to maintain essential services. A financial review team issued a finding on February 19 identifying the city as being under a 'financial emergency.' Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has 30 days from the report's issuance to officially declare a financial emergency, which could result in the governor appointing an emergency financial manager to oversee Detroit's municipal government. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)
J.D. Pooley

DETROIT Detroit is broke and faces a bleak future given the precarious financial path it's on, according to a new report out by the city's state-appointed emergency manager.

The report was released late Sunday by bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr and is his first on Detroit's finances since officially taking the job in March.

Under state law, the report was due within 45 days of Michigan's newest emergency manager law taking effect. Orr's spokesman Bill Nowling had warned last week that the report was an early look at Detroit's fiscal condition and would not be glowing.

The summation is the latest blow to the city which came under state oversight in March when Gov. Rick Snyder selected Orr to handle Detroit's finances. Then, the city estimated its budget deficit to be about $327 million. Detroit also has struggled over the past year with cash flow, relying on bond money held by the state to pay some of its bills.

But Orr reports that Detroit's net cash position was negative $162 million as of April 26 and that the projected budget deficit is expected to reach $386 million in less than two months.

He also warns that the city's financial health might change as more data is collected and analyzed.

"What is clear, however, is that continuing along the current path is an ill-advised and unacceptable course of action if the city is to be put on the path to a sustainable future."

Detroit is the largest city in the country under state control and the city's wallet is now Orr's to command. He dictates how Detroit spends its money, something that had been the responsibility of first-term Mayor Dave Bing and the nine-member City Council.

The Associated Press was unable early Monday to reach Bing's office for comment on the report.

But the city's problems preceded Bing, a former steel supply company owner and professional basketball Hall-of-Famer.

"The city's operations have become dysfunctional and wasteful after years of budgetary restrictions, mismanagement, crippling operational practices and, in some cases, indifference or corruption," Orr wrote. "Outdated policies, work practices, procedures and systems must be improved consistent with best practices of 21st century government. A well run city will promote cost savings and better customer service and will encourage private investment and a return of residents."

The report also looked at attempts officials have made to fix problems.

"Recently, tens of millions of dollars of pension funding and other payments have been deferred to manage a severe liquidity crisis at the City," Orr wrote in the report. "Even with these deferrals, the City has operated at a significant and increasing deficit. It is expected that the City will end this fiscal year with approximately $125 million in accumulated deferred obligations and a precariously low cash position."