In late February, cash-strapped Detroit received a $1 million check from the local school system that wasn’t deposited. The routine payment wound up in a city hall desk drawer, where it was found a month later.
This is the way Detroit did business as it slid toward bankruptcy, which it entered July 18. The move exposed $18 billion of long-term obligations in a city plagued by unreliable buses, broken street lights and long waits for police and ambulances. Underlying poor service is a government that lacks modern technology and can’t perform such basic functions as bill collecting, according to Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager.
“Nobody sends million-dollar checks anymore — they wire the money,” said Orr spokesman Bill Nowling. Except in Detroit.
“We have financial systems that are three, four, five decades in the past,” Nowling said. “If we can fix those issues, then we’ll be able to provide services better, faster, more efficiently and cheaper.”