When the Greensboro City Council recently discussed the proposed 2021 bond referendum, the city’s longtime expert on bonds and financing Rick Lusk was absent.
Things are different in this pandemic world and, as it turns out, Lusk, who had been director of the Financial Services Department since 1992, retired at the end of March. Before being named director Rusk was a financial planning manager for the city from 1986 to 1991, which means he had a 35-year career with the City of Greensboro.
City employees are in the state retirement program and can retire with full benefits after 30 years. Lusk started his career with Forsyth County as an internal auditor in 1976, which would have made him eligible for full retirement benefits in 2006. In other words, Lusk worked for city for 15 years after becoming eligible to retire with full benefits.
Greensboro has for the last three or four decades had one of the highest bond ratings possible – a fact that isn’t very sexy but has saved the taxpayers millions of dollars when the city borrows money. For the past 19 years Lusk has been the man behind the scenes and sometimes in front of City Council making certain that the city’s financial decisions were sound.
Every year during Lusk’s tenure as director of the financial and administrative services department the city received an “unqualified audit opinion” on the city’s annual financial statements which for those not in the financial services business means the city got an A+.
Lusk often appeared before the City Council to speak about bond refinancing or some other financial move that most city councilmembers didn’t understand and because Lusk spoke the language of high finance his explanations often went right past many councilmembers.
After explaining what he was doing Lusk would often be asked by a councilmember something along these lines – “So this is a good idea and will save the city money.”
Lusk would answer yes and whatever he wanted to do would be passed unanimously.
Once Lusk appeared before Council to get approval to borrow money at an interest rate of .01 percent which is about as close to zero percent financing as you can get. This being Greensboro, there was actually a speaker at the meeting who objected to the city borrowing money at that interest rate. The City Council wisely heeded the advice of Lusk and not of the speaker.