It’s one thing to be in financial straits individually, but imagine waking up one morning to the news that your city, as in the place in which you live, is in such bad shape as a whole that it‘s been forced to declare for bankruptcy.
Until the recent recession, most people probably didn’t realize that a city filing for bankruptcy was an actual possibility, but today, there are plenty of US cities that unfortunately identify with game show contestants that have fallen victim to this sound.
5 Central Falls, RI
15 minutes north of Providence, Central Falls is a city of 19,000 that was forced to file for bankruptcy back in 2011. Things had gotten so bad in Central Falls, that at one point the high school was forced to fire every single teacher in one fell swoop. Bankruptcy was a last resort for sure, but with $80 million in unfunded pension and benefit obligations, it was either that, or start sending retirees I.O.U.’s in lieu of checks.
4 San Bernardino, CA
Back in August of 2012, San Bernardino, a California city roughly an hour east of Los Angeles and home to 210,000 residents, joined the ranks of cities forced to turn to bankruptcy. The city’s troubles came to a head when they declared more than $1 billion in financial liabilities; a number so massive that it’s a wonder no one had showed up to break San Bernardino’s kneecaps yet.
3 Stockton, CA
In March of 2013, Stockton became the most populous (at that time) city in US history to file for bankruptcy. Home to 300,000 residents, Stockton owed as much as $900 million to cover its pension obligations alone, so things weren’t looking too promising. Pair that with the fact that they’re consistently listed as one of the nation’s most dangerous cities, and the Stockton tourism board is facing quite the uphill battle.
2 Jefferson County, AL
The entire county of Jefferson, Alabama, which is home to Birmingham, the state’s most populous city, was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2011. The county came to this conclusion after an agreement between elected officials and investors to refinance $3.1 billion in sewer bonds fell apart. It’s bad enough when a city struggles financially, but when an entire county goes under over an issue with the sewers, it makes for a whole lot of jokes about how “s#!tty things have gotten in Jefferson.”
1 Detroit, MI
Move over proud US cities that once laid claim to being the largest ever to file for bankruptcy, because here comes Detroit. The Motor City, which has been a financial and literal mess for the better part of the last decade, was finally forced to file this week, facing unfathomable debts that are said to total more than $18.5 billion. Motown has certainly fallen on hard times, so much so that they’ve started posting signs to warn anyone who’s about to enter their Thunderdome-like environment.