From the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
As Detroit faces bankruptcy and other U.S. cities address an ongoing crisis in municipal finance, a new interactive database allows for the first time meaningful comparisons of city finances — from spending on schools, police, and public works to revenues from the property tax and other sources.
With a few exceptions, the database [dincludes all the nation’s largest central cities. It allows users to compare local government finances for 112 large U.S. central cities across more than 120 categories of revenues, expenditures, debt and assets. Based on U.S. Census data, the database provides 34 years of data (1977-2010), with more years to be added as data become available.
“Until now, making meaningful fiscal comparisons among the nation’s central cities has been virtually impossible because of major differences in how cities deliver public services, with some city governments providing a full array of public services while others share the responsibility with a variety of overlying independent governments,” says [Professor Emeritus Andrew] Reschovsky, who created the methodology behind the database with Howard Chernick, Hunter College and City University of New York, and Adam H. Langley, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, where Reschovsky is a visiting fellow.
The database allows for apples-to-apples comparisons of local government finances at the city level, whereas comparing the finances of city governments alone is like comparing apples and oranges and thus is misleading, Reschovsky says.
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