by Jon Styf
Nashville ranked 68th out of the 75 largest cities in the U.S. in total debt per taxpayer, according to Truth in Accounting’s new Financial State of the Cities report.
TIA’s analysis examined the financial health of America’s 75 most-populous cities and calculated how much each resident would have to pay to cover all of their city’s bills. The calculations were based on fiscal year 2020 audited financial reports.
The analysis found debt increased during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic despite federal funding being available. The total debt in the 75 cities increased $23 billion in 2020 to $357 billion total.
The report showed 61 cities, including Nashville and Memphis, did not have enough money on hand to cover their bills before the pandemic. Memphis ranked 39th in total debt per taxpayer.
“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,” said Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of Truth in Accounting.
Nashville taxpayers have a burden of $19,800 per taxpayer, and Memphis had a burden of $4,800 per taxpayer.
Memphis was given a grade of C for its financial health with its total $934.7 million in debt.
“The city had set aside only 90 cents for every dollar of promised pension benefits and 35 cents for every dollar of promised retiree health care benefits,” the report said.
Overall, the report showed the city had $1.9 billion in funds available but carried $2.8 billion in debt.
Nashville, meanwhile, was given a grade of D in the report and ranked in the bottom 10 for financial health.
“Nashville’s financial problems stem mostly from unfunded retirement obligations that have accumulated over the years,” the report said. “While the city had set aside 93 cents for every dollar of promised pension benefits, only four cents had been set aside for every dollar of promised retiree health care benefits.”
Nashville had $4.4 billion in funds available but carried $8.4 billion in debt.
Fourteen cities had enough money to cover their debt, led by a $1.3 billion budget surplus in Washington, D.C. The other end of the spectrum was New York City, which had the worst debt of any city ($71,400 per taxpayer) for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Chicago and it’s $43,100-per-taxpayer debt. The average burden for the 75 cities was $7,731 per taxpayer.
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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for The Center Square, Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.
Photo “Nashville, Tennessee” by Derrick Brutel. CC BY-SA 2.0.