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Majority of U.S. cities ill-prepared for COVID-19 pandemic

January 26, 2021

Contact: Courtney Fox

cfox@truthinaccounting.org

312-589-5104

CHICAGO — The 2021 Financial State of the Cities (FSOC) surveys the fiscal health of the 75 largest municipalities in the United States. This data is released today by Truth in Accounting (TIA), a think tank that analyzes government financial reporting. TIA analysts draw their data from the fiscal year 2019 audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports on file in city halls across the country, which are not analyzed on this scale by any other organization. The fiscal year 2019 audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports show cities financial data prior to the coronavirus pandemic. This new data comes as the federal government is considering additional aid for states and cities. 

The 2021 FSOC report found that 13 of the largest cities had more assets than obligations, a key indicator of long-term financial health. The remaining 62 cities carried varying levels of debt, many of them in the billions of dollars range prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

These 62 cities went into the coronavirus pandemic in poor fiscal health, and they will probably come out of the crisis worse. Even the fiscally healthiest cities are projected to lose millions of dollars in revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty surrounding this crisis makes it impossible to determine how much will be needed to maintain government services and benefits, but these cities’ overall debt will most likely increase. 

Irvine, California had the best city finances in the U.S. with a $370.3 million surplus. If you were hypothetically to divide that figure by the number of Irvine taxpayers, each Irvine taxpayer’s share is $4,100.

Not every city in the United States is so lucky. Many larger and older cities owe billions of dollars to unfunded retirement plans for public sector employees. New York City claimed the prize for worst municipal finances in the United States for the fifth year in a row. Every taxpayer in the Big Apple would have to pay $68,200 in order for the city to pay off all its bills. Chicago (second-worst in the nation) would need each taxpayer to pay $41,100. The average taxpayer burden across all 75 cities in the report works out to $7,355. 

“The bottom line is that the majority of cities went into the pandemic in poor fiscal health and they will most likely come out of it even worse,” says Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of Truth in Accounting. 

The full Financial State of the Cities report can be found online here. The full 75 city ranking is also included below:

Full Ranking

Alphabetical

 

1. Irvine Taxpayer Surplus: $4,100

2. Washington, DC Taxpayer Surplus: $3,400

3. Lincoln Taxpayer Surplus: $3,400

4. Stockton Taxpayer Surplus: $3,000

5. Charlotte Taxpayer Surplus: $3,000

6. Aurora Taxpayer Surplus: $2,400

7. Fresno Taxpayer Surplus: $2,300

8. Raleigh Taxpayer Surplus: $2,200

9. Plano Taxpayer Surplus: $2,000

10. Tampa Taxpayer Surplus: $1,400

11. Oklahoma City Taxpayer Surplus: $400

12. Wichita Taxpayer Surplus: $100 

13. Tulsa Taxpayer Surplus: $17

14. Long Beach Taxpayer Burden: $100

15. Minneapolis Taxpayer Burden: $100

16. Arlington Taxpayer Burden: $200

17. Colorado Springs Taxpayer Burden: $700

18. Greensboro Taxpayer Burden: $1,000

19. Corpus Christi Taxpayer Burden: $1,100

20. Chula Vista Taxpayer Burden: $1,100

21. Orlando Taxpayer Burden: $1,300

22. Bakersfield Taxpayer Burden: $1,400

23. Fort Wayne Taxpayer Burden: $1,600

24. Henderson Taxpayer Burden: $1,700

25. Las Vegas Taxpayer Burden: $1,800

26. Atlanta Taxpayer Burden: $1,900

27. Saint Paul Taxpayer Burden: $2,900

28. Riverside Taxpayer Burden: $3,100

29. Louisville Taxpayer Burden: $3,200

30. Toledo Taxpayer Burden: $3,200 

31. Columbus Taxpayer Burden: $3,300

32. Cleveland Taxpayer Burden: $3,400

33. Seattle Taxpayer Burden: $3,400

34. San Antonio Taxpayer Burden: $3,500

35. Sacramento Taxpayer Burden: $3,700

36. Virginia Beach Taxpayer Burden: $3,900 

37. Indianapolis Taxpayer Burden: $3,900

38. Los Angeles Taxpayer Burden: $4,000

39. Memphis Taxpayer Burden: $4,300

40. San Diego Taxpayer Burden: $4,700 

41. Mesa Taxpayer Burden: $4,900

42. El Paso Taxpayer Burden: $5,200

43. Santa Ana Taxpayer Burden: $5,400

44. Albuquerque Taxpayer Burden: $5,600

45. Denver Taxpayer Burden: $5,800

46. Detroit Taxpayer Burden: $6,100

47. Anaheim Taxpayer Burden: $6,200

48. Anchorage Taxpayer Burden: $6,400

49. Phoenix Taxpayer Burden: $6,500

50. Omaha Taxpayer Burden: $7,500

51. Austin Taxpayer Burden: $7,600

52. Tucson Taxpayer Burden: $8,400

53. Lexington Taxpayer Burden: $9,200 

54. Fort Worth Taxpayer Burden: $9,400

55. Jacksonville Taxpayer Burden: $10,100

56. San Jose Taxpayer Burden: $10,300 

57. Kansas City, MO Taxpayer Burden: $11,300 

58. Houston Taxpayer Burden: $11,600

59. Boston Taxpayer Burden: $12,000

60. Milwaukee Taxpayer Burden: $13,500

61. Dallas Taxpayer Burden: $13,500

62. Miami Taxpayer Burden: $14,200 

63. St. Louis Taxpayer Burden: $14,600 

64. Cincinnati Taxpayer Burden: $15,200

65. Pittsburgh Taxpayer Burden: $16,000 

66. San Francisco Taxpayer Burden: $16,300 

67. Oakland Taxpayer Burden: $17,000 

68. Baltimore Taxpayer Burden: $18,000

69. New Orleans Taxpayer Burden: $20,000

70. Portland Taxpayer Burden: $20,400 

71. Nashville Taxpayer Burden: $22,000 

72. Philadelphia Taxpayer Burden: $25,700 

73. Honolulu Taxpayer Burden: $29,600 

74. Chicago Taxpayer Burden: $41,100

75. New York City Taxpayer Burden: $68,200 

 

44. Albuquerque Taxpayer Burden: $5,600

47. Anaheim Taxpayer Burden: $6,200

48. Anchorage Taxpayer Burden: $6,400

16. Arlington Taxpayer Burden: $200

26. Atlanta Taxpayer Burden: $1,900

6. Aurora Taxpayer Surplus: $2,400

51. Austin Taxpayer Burden: $7,600

22. Bakersfield Taxpayer Burden: $1,400

68. Baltimore Taxpayer Burden: $18,000 

59. Boston Taxpayer Burden: $12,000

5. Charlotte Taxpayer Surplus: $3,000

74. Chicago Taxpayer Burden: $41,100 

20. Chula Vista Taxpayer Burden: $1,100

65. Cincinnati Taxpayer Burden: $15,200

32. Cleveland Taxpayer Burden: $3,400

17. Colorado Springs Taxpayer Burden: $700

31. Columbus Taxpayer Burden: $3,300 

19. Corpus Christi Taxpayer Burden: $1,100

61. Dallas Taxpayer Burden: $13,500 

45. Denver Taxpayer Burden: $5,800

46. Detroit Taxpayer Burden: $6,100 

42. El Paso Taxpayer Burden: $5,200

23. Fort Wayne Taxpayer Burden: $1,600

54. Fort Worth Taxpayer Burden: $9,400

7. Fresno Taxpayer Surplus: $2,300

16. Greensboro Taxpayer Burden: $700

24. Henderson Taxpayer Burden: $1,700

73. Honolulu Taxpayer Burden: $29,600 

58. Houston Taxpayer Burden: $11,600

37. Indianapolis Taxpayer Burden: $3,900 

1. Irvine Taxpayer Surplus: $4,100

55. Jacksonville Taxpayer Burden: $10,100 

57. Kansas City, MO Taxpayer Burden: $11,300 

25. Las Vegas Taxpayer Burden: $1,800

53. Lexington Taxpayer Burden: $9,200 

3. Lincoln Taxpayer Surplus: $3,400

14. Long Beach Taxpayer Burden: $100

38. Los Angeles Taxpayer Burden: $4,000

29. Louisville Taxpayer Burden: $3,200

39. Memphis Taxpayer Burden: $4,300

41. Mesa Taxpayer Burden: $4,900

62. Miami Taxpayer Burden: $14,200 

60. Milwaukee Taxpayer Burden: $13,500

15. Minneapolis Taxpayer Burden: $100

71. Nashville Taxpayer Burden: $22,000 

69. New Orleans Taxpayer Burden: $20,000

75. New York City Taxpayer Burden: $68,200 

67. Oakland Taxpayer Burden: $17,000

11. Oklahoma City Taxpayer Surplus: $400

50. Omaha Taxpayer Burden: $7,500

21. Orlando Taxpayer Burden: $1,300

72. Philadelphia Taxpayer Burden: $25,700 

49. Phoenix Taxpayer Burden: $6,500

65. Pittsburgh Taxpayer Burden: $16,000 

9. Plano Taxpayer Surplus: $2,000

70. Portland Taxpayer Burden: $20,400 

8. Raleigh Taxpayer Surplus: $2,200

28. Riverside Taxpayer Burden: $3,100

35. Sacramento Taxpayer Burden: $3,700

27. Saint Paul Taxpayer Burden: $2,900

34. San Antonio Taxpayer Burden: $3,500

40. San Diego Taxpayer Burden: $4,700

66. San Francisco Taxpayer Burden: $16,300 

56. San Jose Taxpayer Burden: $10,300 

43. Santa Ana Taxpayer Burden: $5,400

33. Seattle Taxpayer Burden: $3,400

63. St. Louis Taxpayer Burden: $14,600 

4. Stockton Taxpayer Surplus: $3,000

10. Tampa Taxpayer Surplus: $1,400

30. Toledo Taxpayer Burden: $3,200 

52. Tucson Taxpayer Burden: $8,400

13. Tulsa Taxpayer Surplus: $17

36. Virginia Beach Taxpayer Burden: $3,900 

2. Washington, DC Taxpayer Surplus: $3,400

12. Wichita Taxpayer Surplus: $100 

The Financial State of the Cities report is an in-depth study of the financial condition in America’s largest cities. Data for this report was derived from cities’ 2019 comprehensive annual financial reports. As of January 19, 2021, Tucson, AZ and New Orleans, LA had not released their 2019 annual financial reports. Therefore, we were forced to use fiscal year 2018 information for these two cities.

Founded in 2002, Truth in Accounting is dedicated to educating and empowering citizens with understandable, reliable, and transparent government financial information. Sheila Weinberg is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 40 years of experience in the field.

 

 
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