Jefferson County bankruptcy

Birmingham Business Journal

Jefferson County has emerged from one the largest municipal bankruptcies in U.S. history. After two years of meeting with creditors and countless days in court the county commission can operate with more ease. But how did they get to this point? Alabama Public Radio’s Ryan Vasquez talked with Brian Hilson who is President and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance about his organization's involvement in helping Jefferson County emerge from bankruptcy and what's next.

Jefferson County has closed the sale of nearly $1.8 billion in new debt and emerged from the nation's second largest municipal bankruptcy.

Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington said the paperwork on the new debt was signed Tuesday. Commissioner Jimmy Stephens said a great weight has been lifted.

A federal judge has approved Jefferson County's plan to exit the second-largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Bankruptcy Court Judge Thomas Bennett said Thursday he's approving the county's plan to cut and refinance its debt.

The county filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, citing more than $4 billion in debt. It was the nation's largest municipal bankruptcy until Detroit filed this year for $18 billion.

The bulk of Jefferson County's debt was more than $3 billion from sewer construction.

The effort to sell $1.7 billion in refinanced Jefferson County sewer warrants begins this week with presentations by local officials in Birmingham and New York.

Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens says the milestone means that the county "is alive and well and beginning to kick again."

The presentations come one week after the Jefferson County Commission approved modified deals with sewer creditors. The county's path to exit Chapter 9 bankruptcy relies on the sale of new sewer system warrants to replace soured debt.

The Birmingham News/Tamika Moore

Jefferson County commissioners have approved a more than $463 million budget presented by County Manager Tony Petelos.

   The commission approved the budget on Tuesday.

   WBRC-TV reports ( that it includes more money to purchase equipment which has been neglected for years because of the county's money troubles.

   The budget will include a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for county workers for the first time in years. Petelos said the county needs to do more to keep workers from leaving.

According to county records, nearly $3 million in Jefferson County business property taxes haven't been collected because there aren't enough agents on staff to recoup the money.

Tax collector J.T. Smallwood says the bankrupt county has no tax agents in Birmingham and has one in the Bessemer Division.

According to the tax collector's office, Jefferson County has missed out on $570,000 in 2013 because of uncollected taxes. The county did collect $560 million during the last fiscal year.

Attorneys for Jefferson County have filed a 101-page plan to exit the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

The plan calls for cutting the county's $4.2 billion debt by more than $1.2 billion and raising sewer rates annually by 7.41 percent for four years. Rates would rise by 3.49 percent annually for an undetermined amount of years after that.

The plan must be approved by Thomas Bennett, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of Alabama. / Jefferson County Commission

Jefferson County commissioners have approved a plan to exit the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The panel approved the plan on a 4-1 vote Thursday. It's due to be filed with a federal judge Sunday.

Most of the $4.2 billion debt stems from bonds that funded sewer system repairs, and the plan includes sewer fee hikes of 7.4 percent for four years and 3.4 percent for 40 years.

Commissioner George Bowman opposed the plan, which he says puts too much of a burden on people in his district.

An Alabama county hopes to end the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history by the end of this year.

WBRC video

(Information in the following story is from: The Birmingham News,

A state representative from Birmingham has proposed a plan that he says will allow Alabama's largest county to escape from bankruptcy.

Democratic Rep. John Rogers told The Birmingham News that he will introduce a bill in the Legislature to reinstate the Jefferson County 0.5 percent occupational tax and generate as much at $65 to $70 million. Rogers is co-chairman of the Jefferson County legislative delegation.

The Birmingham News

This could be an important week in Jefferson County's attempt to emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. ( ) reports that the county commission president and another commissioner will be in New York for meetings with hedge fund managers as they try to negotiate a deal.

On Wednesday, a federal bankruptcy judge in Birmingham will begin a hearing on a request by creditors who want to go to state court seeking rate increases for sewer service in Jefferson County.