According to a new study dedicated to financial transparency in the public sector, Irvine is the financial healthiest big city in America. The “taxpayer burden” – what each resident would have to pay to eliminate a city’s debts – in averages out to $7,200 per person in Anaheim, $6,000 in Los Angeles, $5,100 in Santa Ana, $5,000 in San Diego, $3,700 in Riverside, and $1,300 in Long Beach. In Irvine, however, the opposite is true and there is a “taxpayer surplus” of $4,400 per person.
In Northern California, the burdens are much higher. San Francisco is in the worst position of California’s big cities with a taxpayer burden of $22,600 per person followed by Oakland at $21,100 and San Jose at $10,200. On the other hand, cities like Stockton and Fresno both have a surplus of $2,500 per person.
These figures reflect what cities owe their workers for public pensions and retiree health benefits that are guaranteed, but not funded. In other words, old cities with their own police and fire departments are charged with more unfunded debt than newer cities like Irvine, which contract out for many services. Irvine did however experience a 25 percent increase in unfunded pension debt because employer contributions and income earned from the pension plan asset did not keep up with the increase in benefits promised. Nonetheless, Irvine is one of the very few U.S. cities free of bonded debt and is proud to be working on the next budget from a place of strength.