A 2018 report evaluating financial situations of populous American cities placed Philadelphia’s financial health as the third worst in the country.
Truth in Accounting’s Financial State of the Cities report, which was released earlier this year, found that Philadelphia's taxpayers would need to contribute more than $20,000 per person to pay all of the city’s bills, which amount to $16.2 billion.
According to the study, which utilized data from Philadelphia's 2016 audited Comprehensive Annual Financial report and retirement plans' actuarial reports, Philadelphia ranks 73rd out of the 75 studied cities; only Chicago and New York City have poorer financial health.
Truth in Accounting is a nonprofit organization that aims to "educate and empower citizens with understandable, reliable, and transparent government financial information," according to its official website.
The analysis also stated that the City of Philadelphia has only $3.9 billion in assets available to pay $20.1 billion worth of bills.
A separate study performed in 2017 by the Pennsylvania Economy League found that the high debt burden has a negative impact on the public health services that the government can provide, and has an effect on how well a state can attract and keep businesses and residents.
The report by Truth in Accounting also revealed that public officials often hide significant amounts of accounting debt from their balance sheets, creating a skewed image of the city’s financial health.
Truth in Accounting attributes much of Philadelphia's poor financial health to long-term debt and financial obligations in pension and retiree health care benefits. The state of Pennsylvania also ranks poorly overall in financial health, receiving a ‘D’ grade.
Senior policy analyst at Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation Bob Dick told the Pennsylvania Watchdog that one of the potential solutions to the debt problem is to reduce the overall tax burden in the city.
However, he added that this goal is complicated by the objectives of policy makers and special interests.