Analysis: Tucson ranks 22nd among largest U.S. cities lacking funds to pay debts


Tucson, Ariz. ranks 22nd worst among the 75 largest cities in the United States for the handling of its finances, according to a Truth in Accounting (TIA) analysis of municipal data released this month. 

The nonprofit group, which promotes financial transparency in government, gave Tucson, Ariz. a grade of "D" for its fiscal policies. The amount of revenue the city needs to pay its bills is $1.3 billion, or $8,900 per taxpayer, according to the analysis.

The numbers are based on audited annual financial reports filed in the 2017 fiscal year. Altogether, the 75 largest cities have a cumulative shortfall to pay off all their debts amounting to $7,500 per taxpayer, according to TIA.

Sixty-three of the 75 cities studied by TIA lack sufficient funds to pay off all their debts, including promised pension benefits for public employees.

“Over the last year, we found that many city leaders have failed to address the structural problems weakening public financial systems, instead plugging the holes with short-term fixes,” said TIA CEO Sheila Weinberg in a prepared statement. “When the bills come due, these cities are going to face a lose-lose dilemma: renege on promised benefits to public servants, or else fix the problem on the back of future taxpayers.” 

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Grading the Fiscal State of the Largest U.S. Cities

RankCityMoney Available (or Needed) to Pay Bills (in Billions)Surplus (or Debt Burden) per TaxpayerGrade
1New York City-$185.5-$64,100F
2Chicago-$32.5-$36,000F
3Philadelphia-$15.0-$27,900F
4Honolulu-$2.8-$23,000F
5San Francisco-$6.3-$22,600F
6Dallas-$7.8-$21,600F
7Oakland, Calif.-$2.9-$21,100F
8Portland, Ore.-$4.4-$20,300F
9Pittsburgh-$1.9-$17,800D
10New Orleans-$1.8-$17,100D
11St. Louis-$1.6-$16,700D
12Baltimore-$3.2-$14,600D
13Miami-$2.1-$14,200D
14Nashville, Tenn.-$2.9-$14,000D
15Atlanta-$1.7-$12,800D
16Boston-$3.3-$12,800D
17Fort Worth, Texas-$3.1-$12,500D
18Houston-$7.4-$11,300D
19San Jose, Calif.-$3.4-$10,200D
20Cincinnati-$0.9-$9,200D
21Kansas City, Mo.-$1.4-$9,100D
22Tucson, Ariz.-$1.3-$8,900D
23Jacksonville, Fla.-$2.6-$8,800D
24Milwaukee-$1.7-$8,200D
25Omaha, Neb.-$1.1-$7,300D
26Anaheim, Calif.-$0.8-$7,200D
27Detroit-$1.5-$6,900D
28Lexington, Ky.-$0.6-$6,900D
29Memphis, Tenn.-$1.3-$6,600D
30Los Angeles-$7.7-$6,000D
31Phoenix-$2.7-$5,900D
32Virginia Beach, Va.-$0.9-$5,900D
33Mesa, Ariz.-$0.8-$5,800D
34Columbus, Ohio-$1.7-$5,500D
35Toledo, Ohio-$0.5-$5,500D
36Orlando, Fla.-$0.5-$5,300D
37Albuquerque, N.M.-$0.8-$5,200D
38Santa Ana, Calif.-$0.6-$5,100D
39San Diego-$2.2-$5,000D
40Seattle-$1.3-$4,900C
41Cleveland-$0.6-$4,700C
42Denver-$1.1-$4,600C
43El Paso, Texas-$0.9-$4,500C
44Austin, Texas-$1.2-$4,300C
45Sacramento, Calif.-$0.6-$4,000C
46Indianapolis-$1.1-$3,800C
47Riverside, Calif.-$0.4-$3,700C
48San Antonio-$1.4-$3,200C
49Chula Vista, Calif.-$0.3-$3,000C
50Louisville, Ky.-$0.6-$2,900C
51St. Paul, Minn.-$0.3-$2,900C
52Las Vegas-$0.6-$2,800C
53Henderson, Nev.-$0.2-$2,200C
54Anchorage, Alaska-$0.2-$2,100C
55Minneapolis-$0.3-$2,100C
56Colorado Springs, Colo.-$0.3-$2,000C
57Bakersfield, Calif.-$0.2-$1,500C
58Fort Wayne, Texas-$0.1-$1,400C
59Long Beach, Calif.-$0.2-$1,300C
60Corpus Christi, Texas-$0.1-$1,100C
61Oklahoma City-$0.2-$1,000C
62Greensboro, N.C.-$0.05-$600C
63Tulsa, Okla.-$0.1-$500C
64Arlington, Texas$0.0$100B
65Raleigh, N.C.$0.1$600B
66Wichita, Kan.$0.1$800B
67Plano, Texas$0.1$1,800B
68Aurora, Ill.$0.3$2,300B
69Tampa, Fla.$0.3$2,300B
70Fresno, Calif.$0.4$2,500B
71Stockton, Calif.$0.3$2,500B
72Lincoln, Neb.$0.3$2,900B
73Washington, D.C.$0.9$3,300B
74Charlotte, S.C.$0.9$3,400B
75Irvine, Calif.$0.4$4,400B
Source: Truth in Accounting

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