New Tool Makes City Spending and Revenue Comparisons a Cinch

Want to know how your city's spending on schools, police, and public works compares to others? The Lincoln Institute has created a new interactive database that for the first time allows apples-to-apples comparisons of city finances.

"The Fiscally Standardized Cities (FiSC) database 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 data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, the FiSC database provides 34 years of data (1977-2010), with additional years to be added as the data become available."

"Until now, it has been virtually impossible to make meaningful fiscal comparisons among the nation’s central cities 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."

But by utilizing a unique methodology that accounts for revenues and spending by overlying governments, "[t]he FiSC 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 completely misleading."

Full Story: A better way to compare city finances

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