CHICAGO — Chicago Comptroller Amer Ahmad will leave city government next month to return to the private sector after serving for a little over two years in a key fiscal role in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration.
Emanuel announced Ahmad's departure in a statement, thanking him for his service.
"Amer has played an integral role in my efforts to reform government, strengthen the city's finances, and professionalize our approach to fiscal management," Emanuel said.
Ahmad left public finance banking to join the administration after Emanuel took office in May 2011. During his tenure, Emanuel credited him with managing the implementation of the city's first wellness program that reduced healthcare costs and improved collection processes which last year generated an additional $70 million. The comptroller's office also helps manage city debt issues.
Emanuel called Ahmad "a leading voice in the overall strategy of the city's finances." The statement said Ahmad would be returning to the private sector but did not disclose where he might be heading.
Prior to taking the city position, Ahmad, 38, was head of the public sector group at KeyCorp Bank. He previously had served as deputy treasurer and chief financial officer for the Ohio treasurer and held investment banking positions at Wasserstein Perella and William Blair & Co.
Ahmad also led a special committee that reviewed the city's retiree healthcare benefits issuing a finding that the city could not continue to afford the subsidies at their current rates. If left intact, the current $108 million annual bill was projected to grow to $307 million in 2018 and $541 million in 2023. The city decided earlier this year to phase out the subsidies for most city employees through 2016, shifting those not eligible for Medicare to the state's healthcare exchange that is in the works.
Ahmad will help finalize work on the city's preliminary 2014 budget before leaving. The preliminary budget traditionally is released in late July. First deputy comptroller Andrew Sheils will serve as acting comptroller until a replacement is named after a search. The city's finance team is led by chief financial officer Lois Scott. The city's budget director is Alexandra Holt.
Though Chicago has in the last two budgets implemented management efficiencies that cut expenses and improved the budget's structural balance, Ahmad leaves as the city's books are under severe stress from its growing unfunded pension liabilities and a looming $600 million spike in payments in 2015.
The city's $19 billion of unfunded pension obligations drove a three-notch downgrade in the city's general obligation rating to A3 by Moody's Investors Service last week. The looming spike in payments drove the assignment of a negative outlook. The city has a $6.5 billion budget.