The City of Chicago is more than $34 billion in debt, with each taxpayer theoretically on the hook for more than $38,000, according to a Truth in Accounting (TIA) annual report on the city's fiscal crisis.
The government watchdog group adds that much of the debt can be traced to unfunded pension liability for a growing number of retired municipal workers.
“We found that Chicago’s leaders have failed to address the structural problems weakening its financial system, instead plugging the holes with short-term fixes,” TIA founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg said in a press release. “When the bills come due, Chicago politicians are going to face a lose-lose dilemma: Reduce services and benefits, or fix the problem on the backs of future taxpayers.”
Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of Truth in Accounting | http://www.truthinaccounting.org/about/page/staff
TIA analysts said their findings are based on the city’s audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and retirement plans’ reports for the 2018 fiscal year. According to state law, Chicago’s CAFR is due within six months of the fiscal year-end on Dec. 31, but it was only made publicly available on the city’s website over the last several days.
TIA defines the amount of debt owed by each resident as Chicago’s Taxpayer Burden, highlighting that the number spiked by $2,100 from the previous fiscal year, largely due to increases in pension liabilities. Founded nearly two decades ago, Truth in Accounting is a “nonprofit dedicated to educating and empowering citizens with understandable, reliable and transparent government financial information,” according to the group's website.