CHICAGO — The Chicago Board of Education on Tuesday tapped veteran corporate executive Peter W. Rogers to manage the cash-strapped district’s finances as it struggles with a looming $1 billion deficit and must find the cash to pay for a $300 million, four-year teachers’ contract.
Rogers served as president and chief executive officer of Diners Club International, formerly a subsidiary of Citibank, for 15 years. He also previously served as executive vice president andregional marketing director for Citibank’s Consumer Group European Division in London and has held management positions with Wilson Sporting Goods and Procter and Gamble.
“I am pleased to add Peter Rogers to our senior leadership team. His experience and expertise in financial matters from years in the private sector will serve us well as we navigate our way through the difficult fiscal challenges which face Chicago Public Schools,” board CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement.
Rogers replaces David Watkins who also came from the private sector and left before his one-year anniversary in late October. A press release on Rogers’ appointment made no mention of Watkins. Public finance sources said his departure was mutual. He had wanted to move on and the district had not been satisfied with his performance.
Watkins, who previously was chief financial officer of a pharmaceutical wholesale company, last year filled the position left vacant by another private sector financial executive — Diana Ferguson — who resigned after only a year on the job due to relocation and marriage plans.
The district’s deputy CFO Melanie Shaker left this summer to take over as CFO of City Colleges of Chicago.
Rogers will manage the district’s $5.2 billion operating budget, financial planning and analysis, financial reporting, and accounting and cash management.
“I am extremely eager to apply the experience I have gained in successfully managing complex private-sector organizations to the challenges faced by the public sector, particularly in an organization of such critical importance as Chicago Public Schools,” Rogers said in a statement.
He faces the difficult task of steering the district through a growing fiscal crisis. The district must identify $74 million to cover the costs of the first year of a new, three-to-four-year teachers’ contract that was reached last week between CPS and the Chicago Teachers’ Union.
The agreement ended a seven-day strike, the district’s first in 25 years. Rank-and-file teachers will vote on the deal early next month.
Officials have not said how they will cover the costs, but have warned that a restructuring to “right-size” the district with its number of students is needed.
CPS nearly drained all its reserves to close a $665 million gap in its fiscal 2013 budget, driving a round of negative credit action. The district also raised its property tax levy to the maximum allowed under state law and cut administrative expenses.
Next year, the district faces a sea of $1 billion in red ink as its pension payment will jump by $330 million due to the expiration of a three-year pension holiday. The district is expected to seek pension reforms at the state level, but no additional operating aid is expected given Illinois’ own budget woes. Its ability to raise property taxes is limited by state caps.
The district is planning a $100 million debt restructuring for relief in the fiscal 2014 budget and could increase that amount but analysts could also punish it for using non-recurring revenues.
Fitch Ratings assigns the district’s $6 billion of debt an A-plus with a negative outlook. Moody’s Investors Service rates it A1 with a negative outlook. Standard & Poor’s rates CPS A-plus with a stable outlook.
The district is the nation’s third largest and operates 681 schools and serves around 402,000 students.