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Report: Fort Wayne finances better, Indianapolis’ worse

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(The Center Square) – Two Indiana cities among the nation’s largest are going in opposite fiscal directions.

Fort Wayne’s financial condition improved while Indianapolis got worse based on a new report that measures the country’s top cities’ ability to pay their bills. Truth In Accounting, a think tank that analyzes government financial reporting, on Thursday released the 2024 Financial State of the Cities report.

Fort Wayne ranked 19 out of 75 of the nation’s largest cities on a scale from 1 being the most healthy to 75 being the worst.

The city received a grade of B.

It’s the second consecutive year the state’s second-largest city showed a surplus after having a taxpayer burden of more than $1,000 in the previous five years.

Fort Wayne had $784.6 million to pay $748.4 million worth of bills.

However, Indianapolis taxpayers carry a burden of $3,800, slightly more than a year ago and continuing a trend of eight consecutive years of failing to have enough money available to pay its bills.

The new report shows Indianapolis had $1.2 billion available to pay $2.3 billion worth of bills. The city ranked 42nd.

The report ranked cities based on data from the fiscal year 2022 Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports from the nation’s 75 largest municipalities and ranked them with this grading scale:

A grade: Taxpayer Surplus greater than $10,000: one city.B grade: Taxpayer Surplus between $5,000 and $9,999: 21 cities.C grade: Taxpayer Burden between $0 and $4,999: 26 cities.D grade: Taxpayer Burden between $5,000 and $20,000: 22 cities.F grade: Taxpayer Burden greater than $20,000: five cities.

Despite cities having some form of a balanced budget requirement, at the end of the fiscal year 2022, 53 cities didn’t have enough money to pay all of their bills – costs that will be pushed onto future taxpayers.

Washington, D.C., which ranked No. 1 among the 75 largest cities, had a surplus of $2.8 billion. Hypothetically, if divided by the number of the district’s taxpayers, each taxpayer’s share is $10,700.

Many larger and older cities owe billions of dollars to underfunded retirement plans for public sector employees.

New York had the worst municipal finances for the seventh year, with a taxpayer burden of $61,800.

“Cities should focus on overfunding their retirement plans so they can weather market downturns,” Truth In Accounting founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg said in a statement. “If elected officials choose to ignore this perpetual issue, then taxpayers will be on the hook to pay higher taxes to cover the benefits promised to past government employees.”

The 75 cities had $307.4 billion worth of assets available to pay bills; their debt, including unfunded retirement benefit promises, amounted to $595.3 billion. Pension debt totaled $175.9 billion, and other postemployment benefits, mainly retiree health care, totaled $135.2 billion.

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