Greatest Texas taxpayer burdens in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio

Of the ten most populous cities whose residents have the greatest taxpayer burdens, three are in Texas, according to a new report published by the nonprofit organization, Truth in Accounting.

The worst financially run cities in Texas – Dallas, Houston and San Antonio – rank seventh, eighth, and ninth out of the ten most populated cities analyzed.

The ten most populous cities with the highest combined taxpayer burden are Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Jose, San Diego, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix.

Taxpayer burden is defined as the amount of money each taxpayer would owe in future taxes to pay off combined government debt for which they would not receive any related services or benefits.

Each taxpayer in the 10 cities faces an average combined per-taxpayer burden of more than $46,000, including county, state, and “off balance-sheet” city government entities, the report states. This compares to an average per-taxpayer burden of $18,900 for their city governments alone, according to the report.

These cities’ financials are highlighted in a report released earlier this year in which fiscal year 2019 annual financial reports of the 75 largest U.S. cities were analyzed. The report surveyed their balanced and unbalanced budgets, and total debt including unfunded retirement benefits promised, such as pension and retiree health care debt, excluding capital assets.

While San Antonio reported the greatest year-over-year percentage change of worsened financials of 200%, its combined taxpayer burden was less than that of taxpayers in Dallas and Houston.

San Antonio taxpayers would owe less than their Houston and Dallas neighbors, although still greater than many of its residents’ annual salaries of $19,200 to pay off state, city, county and underlying governments’ unfunded debt. In all three cities, taxpayers would owe $11,300 each to cover the state’s debt.

In addition to pay off the state debt, taxpayers would need to pay $3,500 to the city of San Antonio, $1,500 to Bexar County, $1,100 to North East Independent School District, and several hundred dollars to each of four other school districts, and the city’s transit and river authority.

Houston’s debt burden is worse – each taxpayer would owe $24,400 to pay off state, city, county and underlying governments’ unfunded debt. Houstonians would owe $11,600 to the city of Houston, $600 to Harris County, and several hundred dollars each to three ISDs, Houston Community College, and Harris County’s transit authority. The only government entity carrying a surplus is the Port of Houston Authority of Harris County.

In fiscal 2019, Houston had $5.65 billion available to pay $13.16 billion worth of bills. Officials running the state’s largest city “repeatedly made financial decisions that have left the city with a debt burden of $7.5 billion,” the report states.

Debt largely comes from $19.4 billion in unfunded retirement benefits ($4.1 billion in pension and $2.3 billion in retiree health care benefits), resulting in a taxpayer burden of $11,600.

Dallas taxpayers would owe the most: $26,000 to pay off state, city, county and underlying governments’ unfunded debt. They would owe $13,500 to pay off their city’s debt and $1,500 to pay off Dallas ISD’s debt. Unlike Harris and Bexar counties, however, Dallas County and Dallas County Community College District debt is zero, and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport carries a taxpayer surplus.

The reason why Dallas taxpayers owe the most is because their elected officials “repeatedly made financial decisions that have left the city with a debt burden of $5.1 billion,” the report states. Dallas had $2.79 billion available in revenue to pay $7.84 billion worth of bills.

To pay off its $5.1 billion shortfall, or debt burden, each taxpayer would owe $13,500, TIA calculates.

Dallas’ financial position worsened by 36% from the previous fiscal year mostly because the city’s pension liability increased by $1.5 billion due to a change in the discount rate and depletion of assets, the report notes. Of its $10.6 billion worth of retirement benefits promised, $4.7 billion worth of pensions and $565.4 million worth of retiree health care benefits, remain unfunded.

This article was originally posted on Greatest Texas taxpayer burdens in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio

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