BREAKING THE BANK
Compared to many of Texas' big cities, San Antonio is making the grade fiscally.
That’s according to a recent report from nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank Truth in Accounting. San Antonio earns a C grade for its financial health in Truth in Accounting's new Financial State of the Cites 2021 report, a comprehensive analysis of the fiscal health of the top 75 most populated cities in the U.S. Based on fiscal year 2019, and therefore reflecting a pre-pandemic economy, the report examines a variety of financial factors to determine each city’s “taxpayer burden” or “taxpayer surplus” to determine cities’ rankings and grades.
As for the grading, the report may assign a municipal government a C grade if it comes close to meeting its balanced-budget requirement, which is reflected by a small taxpayer burden. An A or B grade means governments have met their balanced-budget requirements and have a taxpayer surplus, while governments receiving D and F grades have not balanced their budgets and have significant taxpayer burdens, according to the report.
San Antonio is in the best financial shape out all of Texas' four biggest metros, earning a C and ranking 34 out of 75 cities. The report notes that San Antonio entered the pandemic in “mediocre fiscal health,” despite the city’s debt load of $1.5 billion and a taxpayer burden of $3,500.
“San Antonio’s financial position worsened by more than 200 percent, or $1 billion, from the previous fiscal year, mostly because the city’s pension plans experienced investment losses, which resulted in a larger liability,” the report says, indicating that San Antonio is likely to be worse off financially after the pandemic.
Elsewhere in Texas, the report says not only is Austin not making the grade fiscally, the city may be even worse off post-pandemic. With a ranking of 51 out of 75 cities, Austin went into the COVID-19 pandemic in poor fiscal shape, the report claims, with the city’s fiscal year 2019 audited financial report indicating Austin has a taxpayer burden of $7,600. And any government with a taxpayer burden of $5,000 to $20,000, according to the Truth in Accounting scale, earns a D grade.
Like Austin, a slew of other Texas cities earned a D grade in the report, including Dallas (ranked No. 61 out of 75 cities), Fort Worth (No. 54), Houston (No. 58), and El Paso (No. 42).
Despite the distressing news, the Texas metros are not alone in receiving less-than-stellar fiscal grades. In fact, most cities analyzed in the report did not have enough money to pay all their bills. Based on Truth in Accounting’s grading methodology, no cities received an A grade, 13 received a B grade, 28 received Cs, 28 received Ds, and six cities received failing grades.
Elsewhere in Texas, Arlington (No. 16), with a taxpayer burden of only $200, received a financial grade of C, as did Corpus Christi (No. 19), which had a taxpayer burden of $1,100. The top-ranking Texas city in the report is the Dallas suburb of Plano (No. 9), which received a B grade, reflective of its $2,000 taxpayer surplus.