The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority on Monday announced that it would likely cut about 20% of its employees to help trim a budget shortfall estimated at nearly $29 million.
MetPier — which manages McCormick Place convention center and the tourist attraction Navy Pier — said an early retirement offer and layoffs would generate savings of about $16.5 million. The authority is grappling with a drop in convention and hotel revenues and falling tourism-related taxes.
For a second year in a row, the agency is expected to draw on Illinois sales taxes to cover a shortfall in its tourism taxes on restaurants, car rentals, hotels, and taxi rides from the city’s airports that go to repay $2.3 billion of outstanding bonds.
MetPier needed $18.8 million of state sales taxes when it closed the books on fiscal 2009. The state’s sales tax revenue can be used as a backup pledge — subject to appropriation — on the bonds.
The fiscal pressures spurred Fitch Ratings to downgrade the authority’s credit one notch to A-plus over the summer. Moody’s Investors Service rates the bonds A2 and Standard & Poor’s rates them AA-minus. MetPier is seeking state legislative approval to restructure its debt and avoid dipping into state sales taxes.