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Wisconsin Wit

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Evansville City Expenditures Highlighted

Every year the nonprofit, nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance publishes a booklet  of financial information on Wisconsin cities and villages between 2,000 and 150,000 in  population. These 243 municipalities account for nearly half the state’s population and  nearly two­thirds of all municipal spending. Simply looking at per capita comparisons does have limitations since each municipality is unique. But it really is a helpful tool to get a quick gauge on how Evansville compares to  similarly sized municipalities as well as tracking trends over the last few years. Our peer group includes 28 municipalities from 5,000 to 7,500 in population. It includes Cottage Grove, Delafield, Edgerton, Lake Mills, Milton, Mount Horeb, and Mukwonago. Here at City Hall, we recently received our copy of the 2012 report. And I would like to  share the highlights for Evansville.  The nature of assembling so much data results in a  year­and­a­half lag; so all the figures are actually from the year 2010. The report focuses on four categories comprising Basic Spending: General Government, Street Maintenance, Fire/Ambulance, and Police.  It also provides a less detailed  perspective on other operating costs such as library, recreation, and development. Water, sanitary sewer, and electric departments are also very significant city services but are not  included in the report since they are enterprise funds, relying primarily on user charges rather than general revenues. The General Government category includes city council and committee expenses, office  employees, attorney and assessor fees, and upkeep and maintenance of city hall. On a per  capita basis, Evansville spent $80.87 on General Government. Ranking 16 out of the 28  municipalities, we were below our peer median of $86.50 and slightly below the  statewide median of $85. Note that the median is the amount where half of the  municipalities spent more and half spent less. Evansville has shown a downward trend  over the last few years, as we used to rank among the most expensive per capita in this category. The Street Maintenance category includes maintenance wages, snowplowing, and road  repair and maintenance expenses. On a per capita basis, Evansville spent $80.19 on  Street Maintenance. Ranking 22 out of 28, this was well below our peer median of $95.35 and the statewide median of $116. As its name implies, the Fire/Ambulance category includes firefighting and ambulance expenses. The report’s calculations for this category combine the fire and ambulance expenses. On a per capita basis, Evansville spent $146.77 on Fire/Ambulance. Ranking  5 out of 28, this was over double our peer median of $62.96 and well above the statewide  median of $85. Evansville is a member of an area fire district with the Towns of Union, Magnolia, Porter, and Brooklyn. Each of the members contributes based on its proportional share of the equalized assessed value of all properties in the district; Evansville’s share is approximately 57% of the fire district’s expenses. Due to the structure of the fire districtand the standardized reports for financial reporting, Evansville’s share of the debt service on the new fire hall is counted as an operating expense rather than debt service; this is a  major factor in our expenses being so much higher than the median  Evansville operates its own emergency medical services department. Under contract we  also provide service in the Towns of Union, Magnolia, Porter, and Brooklyn. The last  four years, EMS has been supported with equally per capita charges for town and city  residents, currently at $21. The Police category includes traffic enforcement and criminal investigations. On a per  capita basis, Evansville spent $179.26 on Police. Ranking 20 out of 28, this was below  both our peer median of $199.82 and the statewide median of $204. Some cities contract  with neighboring townships to provide law enforcement; netting out those revenues would result in a slightly reduced figure for the peer and statewide medians than if they  were entirely locally supported like Evansville.  Added all together, on a per capita basis, Evansville spent $487.09 on Basic Services. Ranking 11 out of 28, this is more than our peer median of $466.93 and less than the  statewide median of $500. When we add in library, park and recreation, and other miscellaneous activities, on a per  capita basis, Evansville spent a total of $707.32 on net Governmental Operating  Expenses. Ranking 13 out of 28, this was above our peer median of $678.76 and below  the statewide median of $763. The numbers are only benchmarks, and they are a bit dated. But they do provide some  perspective into the city’s financial position, level of service, and general cost of providing services. And, since we are just starting our budgeting for 2013, they are all  the more important to review now as benchmarks for comparison. A variety of current and historical financial information can be found on the city website  http://www.ci.evansville.wi.gov/city/fiscal/index.html. While you’re reviewing the city’s fiscal information, we encourage you to submit your 2013 budget suggestions to budget@ci.evansville.wi.gov.

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