A new report based on city financial reports nationwide ranks Fresno second among the 50 largest U.S. cities for financial health, in terms of unfunded taxpayer burdens for entitlement liabilities.
Truth in Accounting, a government finance watchdog organization based in Chicago, said its analysis of Fresno’s annual comprehensive financial report shows that the city is one of seven with a surplus of about $2,100 per taxpayer for future liabilities for retiree pensions and other obligations.
“The vast majority of the cities we examined don’t have enough assets to meet all their future obligations,” Sheila Weinberg, founder/CEO of Truth in Accounting, said in a written statement announcing the rankings. “But Fresno is in great shape when compared nationally. Hopefully they will be a model for California sinkholes like Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Truth in Accounting considers a taxpayer surplus to be “the city’s money after its bills have been paid, divided by the number of taxpayers.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
“Cities across America are sinking in debt as they attempt to support promised but unfunded entitlement programs,” the organization said in its report. “On average, the 50 most populous cities carry $5.9 billion of unfunded debt.”
Charlotte, North Carolina was the only city with a larger surplus, $3,300 per taxpayer.
By contrast, other large California cities had significant unfunded burdens on a per-taxpayer basis in the organization’s estimates:
▪ San Diego, $2,900.
▪ Sacramento, $4,800.
▪ Los Angeles, $7,400
▪ San Jose, $9,100.
▪ San Francisco, $16,400.
▪ Oakland, $17,100.
The results are similar to an analysis last year by Transparent California reporting that Fresno’s employee retirement system is the only major pension program in California, and one of only a few in the U.S., that has a surplus rather than unfunded pension liabilities. That report estimated the total surplus of the Fresno Fire and Police Retirement System and the Fresno Employees Retirement System at a combined $289 million.