Each Taxpayer in the City of Chicago Owes $126,000 in City Debt

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Most people know about the national debt, how it’s ever-increasing, currently at about $28 trillion. Few know how much debt their state and city are sitting on that falls to them as taxpayers.

The national debt per American citizen is almost $85,000 and debt per taxpayer is around $225,000.


While those are eye-popping numbers that keep growing ever larger, residents of major cities in New York, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois might also like to know how their leaders are spending money and driving them into more debt.

Truth in Accounting, a nonprofit think tank that analyzes government finances on the city, state, and federal level, recently released an analysis of the 10 most populous cities and how the debt of their underlying government units impacts taxpayers in those cities.

The “underlying governments” — school districts, transit and housing authorities — act as subsidiaries of the city and most of their debt falls on all city taxpayers.

But most of these cities, except New York City, do not include those units in their annual financial reports the finances, so their debt is essentially hidden to the taxpayer.

From least to most, here is how much each taxpayer owes in each city:

  1. Phoenix ($10,400)
  2. San Antonio ($19,200)
  3. Houston ($24,400)
  4. Dallas ($26,000)
  5. San Diego ($34,100)
  6. San Jose ($41,800)
  7. Philadelphia ($45,300)
  8. Los Angeles ($47,600)
  9. New York City ($85,400)
  10. Chicago ($126,600)

If city leaders are going to spend taxpayers into debt, they should at least make the figures readily available on their annual financial reports.

The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.

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