70% of Largest U.S. Cities on Verge of Bankruptcy

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70% of Largest U.S. Cities on Verge of Bankruptcy

70 percent of the largest cities in the United States did not have enough money to pay their bills in fiscal 2022.

According to a Truth in Accounting analysis of the latest annual comprehensive financial reports, 53 out of 75 cities did not have enough money to pay all of their bills.

TIA found that the 75 largest cities in the U.S. had $307.4 billion worth of assets available to pay bills, but their debt totaled $595.3 billion.

The analysis also noted that Pensions and healthcare accounted for the majority of the debt.

Center Square reported:

All 75 cities are required by law to have balanced budgets. For those with debt, in order to claim their budgets were balanced, TIA argues elected officials didn’t include all government costs in budget calculations, thereby pushing costs onto future taxpayers. Instead, they used “accounting tricks,” including “inflating revenue assumptions, counting borrowed money as income, understating the true costs of government, and delaying the payment of current bills until the start of the next fiscal year so they aren’t included in the budget calculations.”

“The most common accounting trick” used to understate costs is excluding “true compensation costs” of employee benefits like health care, life insurance, and pensions, the report explains.

“While pension and other post-employment costs, such as health care, will not be paid until the employees retire, they still represent current compensation costs earned and incurred throughout their tenure.” Cities should include these contributions in their budgets, TIA says.

TIA discovered that some elected officials “have used portions of the money owed to pension and OPEB funds to keep taxes low and pay for politically popular programs. Instead of funding promised benefits now, politicians have charged them to future taxpayers” appearing to have balanced budgets as debt soars.

The market value of pensions has also contributed to the financial woes.

According to the report:

“In 2022, the cities continued to receive and spend federal COVID-19 relief funds, and as the U.S. economy reopened, they took in additional tax revenue. Such economic gains were offset by increases in their pension liabilities, which were caused in large part due to decreases in the market value of pension investments.”

“Over the past few years, investment market values have swung dramatically. In 2022, this volatility negatively impacted most cities’ pension investments and their financial condition, which demonstrates the risk to taxpayers when cities offer defined pension benefits to their employees.”

Center Square noted:

To show how taxpayers are impacted by cities not having enough money to pay their bills, TIA divides the amount of revenue needed to cover unpaid costs by the estimated number of taxpayers. This calculates “a taxpayer burden.” When cities have funds left over after paying their bills, TIA divides the amount by the estimated number of taxpayers to calculate “a taxpayer surplus.”

Cities are also graded according to their fiscal health, taxpayer burden or surplus, balanced budget requirements, and other factors.

Of the 75 cities evaluated, only 1% received an A grade for fiscal health. The majority received D grades, followed by C and B grades, according to the analysis.

The five cities with the greatest surpluses included:

Washington, D.C. ($10,700)

Irvine, California ($6,100)

Plano, Texas ($5,100)

Lincoln, Nebraska ($4,100)

Oklahoma City ($2,900).

Out of the cities with the greatest taxpayer burden, unsurprisingly, nine are run by Democrats; these included:

New York City(-$61,800)

Chicago (-$42,900)

Honolulu (-$24,200)

Philadelphia (-$20,400)

Portland (-$20,100)

New Orleans (-$18,200)

Miami (-$15,500)

Milwaukee (-$15,300)

Baltimore (-$14,100)

Pittsburgh (-$13,000)

READ: AOC: There Will Be ‘Grave Impacts’ on Democracy If Trump Becomes President

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