Classic IS IT TRUE City Budgets????? by Reader Request from 5/16/2011


IS IT TRUE? PART 2 May 16, 2011 City Budgets?????

IS IT TRUE that the 2010 budget for the City of Evansville was $214,612,824 and that every one of those dollars should have been spent for the benefit of the 117,429 citizens that make the City of Evansville their home?…that simple mathematics reveals that the City of Evansville spent $1,827.60 on each citizens behalf in 2010?…that the budget for Vanderburgh County for 2010 was $91,832,809?…that the unincorporated part of Vanderburgh County was home to 62,274 people?…that the same simple math reveals that the County spent $1,474.65 for each citizen?…that it seems that the spending to population ratio of the City of Evansville is 24% higher than it is for Vanderburgh County?…that if the spending per person that Vanderburgh County does per person was used by the City of Evansville that consolidation would save $41.5 Million?…that if the consolidation committee could identify that kind of savings that they may actually be taken seriously for their financial projections?

IS IT TRUE that this budget to population ratio curiosity was inspired by a concerned citizen who pointed out a discrepancy in the spending per person between Evansville and Fort Wayne?…that the City of Fort Wayne has a budget of $134.9 Million to spend on behalf of 253,691 citizens?…that the spending per person in Fort Wayne calculates to only $531 per person per year?…that if Evansville would spend at that rate that it could save $151.8 Million?….that Fort Wayne is apparently 70% more efficient than Evansville at the delivery of government services?

IS IT TRUE that the City of South Bend has a budget of $63.3 Million to spend on behalf of 101,168 citizens?…that the spending per person in South Bend calculates to only $625 per person per year?…that if Evansville would spend at that rate that it could save $141.2 Million?….that South Bend is apparently 66% more efficient than Evansville at the delivery of government services?

IS IT TRUE that the City of Terre Haute has a budget of $30.3 Million to spend on behalf of 60,785 citizens?…that the spending per person in Terre Haute calculates to only $498 per person per year?…that if Evansville would spend at that rate that it could save $156.4 Million?….that Terre Haute is apparently 73% more efficient than Evansville at the delivery of government services?

IS IT TRUE that it is quite disturbing to see that the level of spending by the City of Evansville per person is so much higher than it is in comparable Hoosier cities?…that when the same calculation is done for the City of Indianapolis that the spending is still only $1,515 per person or 17% lower than Evansville’s spending?…that the same calculation for Louisville reveals spending of $1,482 per person that is 19% lower than Evansville’s spending level?

IS IT TRUE that going out of state to the City of San Jose that was smaller than Evansville in 1950 but has grown to be nearly 1 Million people with an intellectual property based economy we found a budget for the City of San Jose that spends only $871 per person per year?…that the delivery of government services in San Jose cost each citizen less than half of what it costs in Evansville, Indiana?…that growth and vibrancy has its benefits but that South Bend has neither yet still spends at a small fraction of the spending rate in Evansville?

IS IT TRUE that we did find one rapidly shrinking city that spends more than double the dollars per citizen than Evansville does?…that the City of Detroit that lost more than a quarter of a million people in 10 years has a bloated budget of $2.91 Billion to serve the 713,777 citizens left behind?…that our simple calculation yields a spending per person of $4,081 for the City of Detroit?…that Evansville is apparently 55% more efficient than Detroit and that Detroit could save $1.61 Billion if it would just do things the way they are done in Evansville?

IS IT TRUE that bloated spending per person figures seem to be an artifact of shrinking populations that lack the political will to downsize spending to match the population losses?…that any business that operates by the principles of growing government with declining revenues and population would not be in business any longer?…that people should expect corporate level oversight and stewardship from local government?…that if Evansville were vibrant and growing with pristine parks and a prosperous economy that maybe the extra money would be worth it?…that to spend this way for what we have just makes no sense?…that department by department analysis needs to be done to identify areas for rightsizing and that a competent consolidation committee should have been all over these large differences?

IS IT TRUE that we would appreciate as much readership help identifying the areas of bloat as we can get?


  1. You can play silly games with dollar figures all day long. Fact is, the City gets the lion’s share of it’s money from the county tax collection system, and spends it on facilities and services inside the city limits (excluding water and sewer facilities paid in trumps by county residents, and the few parks located outside, but then there’s the countywide parks district to consider).

    The County spends its dollars countywide for all residents of Vanderburgh County, including for a jail inside the city limits, bridges inside the city limits, sheriff services also inside the city limits, on and on.

    CCO needs to get a bit more detailed in its analysis before breaking it down to dollars per citizen inside and outside corporate boundaries. Too simple. Not applicable really. Just an excuse for pro-consolidation propaganda.

    • … forgot to mention the County’s financial support of courts system and county clerk services paid by the county council with the majority going to service crimes, criminals, single moms (deadbeat dads), traffic violations, alcohol violations, etc., committed inside the city limits.

    • Actually our biggest curiosity is why both the City of Evansville and Vanderburgh Co. seem to be so much higher than other places. The dollar savings were thrown in for reference. We will dig a little deeper but are hoping for reader help with some specifics. You must know by now that the CCO is very skeptical of consolidation.

      • I’d guess we might have been closer to the averages before we got hooked on crack. (i.e. pre-Aztar)

        Down that line, watch out for “leveraged” pre-payments of Aztar monies in these figures.

        We’re an open gambling community! A better comparison would be Atlantic City or Vegas. After all, we were sold the boat on how much additional city-wide benefits all the “FREE” money would get us!

        At least part of those extra expenditures are supposed to be fighting the additional crime element, right? And cleaning up any needle problems in our parks – Oooops.

  2. If you want to do some useful calculations, how about an analysis of where money is spent that is collected under the heading of “County” on the property tax bills. Dr. Dan’s favorite mantra to justify consolidation is that city residents are subsidizing rural residents with their “County” taxes. I doubt this is true but how about proving it one way or another so the matter can be resolved?

    I keep hearing this contention repeated but have yet to see anyone provide any proof to back it up. Is it because they are too lazy to compile the figures or because they simply are telling a lie that they believe no one will take the time to disprove?

    • I’d like to see Dr. Dan’s presentation regarding the city highway department vs the county highway department. For example, dollar for dollar, let’s see how many miles of road are pre-treated with beet juice and subsequently plowed clear in the county jurisdiction compared with miles of road serviced to the same high standard inside the city during the same snow storms. Then we might have some clue as to Dr. Dan’s rationale for consolidation at least on one vital service.

      • To the best of my knowledge, he doesn’t have a “presentation”. He just makes the statement that city residents subsidize rural residnts with their taxes and then sits there and grins. You know that grin of his? It’s the one that says, “I know everything. You know nothing. Trust me.”

  3. after a five minute google, i found the utility budget for fort wayne is $139,000,000.

    not sure what the total city budget is but i would venture to guess it is much more than the city of evansville.

    someone needs to spend a little more time comparing apples to apples before jumping to conclusions with inaccurate ratios.

    • That was a capital budget that did not require City Council approval. The article looks as though Fort Wayne has a public utility to do the job of Vectren. A capital budget and an operating budget are not to be confused. The City of Evansville does not own Vectren and has zero budget for electricity capital expenditures. Talk about apples to apples?

      Here is a link to their provider Indiana Michigan Power. The residential rate is 8.33 cents/KWh or just over half of what we pay to Vectren so it is safe to assume that the electric bill for the City of Fort Wayne is much less than it is for the City of Evansville.

      “The Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved the $139.6 million budget for the city’s water, sewer, electric, storm and other utilities for next year. It’s a nearly $3 million increase over the 2010 budget. The budget does not require City Council approval.”

      • here’s the link to the proposed 2011 fort wayne utility budget:

        your power point link appears to be a revenue source presentation. no budget at all.

        i would guess the fort wayne city budget to be around $180,000,000 and their utility budget to be the aforementioned $139,000,000. in any case, your budgets and ratios are way off.

        if i find time, i will do some more research.

  4. While I have no doubt that Evansville is not as efficient as Fort Wayne, the difference is not as bad as posted. From what I can see at just a quick glance is that FW has no water or sewer service in their city budget. Evansville’s cost for that in 2010 was roughly $53 million. What budget accounts for that in FW? I’m sure there are other differences in the budget that account for more differences.

    I tried to attach the 2010 Evansville budget, but couldn’t figure it out.

  5. This 2009 budget for FW shows a $201 million budget along with a separate utility budget of another $65 million in addition to that. That’s 266 million for 2009. Further shows that they don’t include their utilities in their city budget. Also how did they go from a $201 million budget to a $134 million budget in 2011? Doesn’t add up unless something else got eliminated from the budget and moved to another budget.

    • Thanks for the link. We also provided a link to the 2011 budget of $134M in an earlier response. Even if your $266 M is apples for apples it will work out to only $1,000 per person or $827(45%) less than Evansville per year.

      • That is the point. Without a thorough analysis, there is no way to know if it is apples to apples. 20 minutes of research almost doubled FW’s budget. Who knows if there is more out there that they report differently than Evansville does. You and I don’t. You are just assuming its apples to apples. That is why it is irresponsible to report it without actual facts and research.

        • We did rule out several high cost places because we noticed that the school budget was part of the overall budget. If this leads to a dialog that exposes overspending and leads to efficiency it was a good move. What is really needed to identify areas of waste is a department by department analysis. It is not irresponsible to report what governments publish as fact. In only a few hours it seems as though you have helped identify a hole in what Fort Wayne posted as their budget. It still is much less per person than Evansville reports though.

          • Does the end justify the means? If it leads to that dialog and exposes overspending, great. But what if it leads to readers doubting the validity of future articles? What if leads to citizens having an unnecessary negative attitude towards their city government because they only read the original story and didn’t come back later to read the comments and see that your original numbers were way off. Truly comparable budget numbers for Fort Wayne that you reported look to be around 100% off. (134m vs. 266m) John Kish seems to be only 50% off in his estimates for hotel demo. While that’s unacceptable, its better than your published numbers.

            The government published budgets are fact but are only half of the article. The irresponsible part is reporting that Fort Wayne is 70% more efficient than Evansville and that several other cities are as well, when in reality you don’t know that at all. The efficiency numbers that you report are no where near fact. They are very loose based assumptions. Do other news organizations report this way? Would you allow them this leeway?

            • Thus we did choose to use the term apparently. The number differentials were staggering on a per person basis. Do you not find it somewhat disturbing that even after the discovery that Fort Wayne posted the utility budgets separately that Evansville is still 70% higher per person on a dollar for dollar basis.

  6. The CCO and its concerned citizen might need to do a little more research and analysis of all of these various cities’ budgets before reporting how inefficient Evansville is. Seems like Ready, Report, Research is the method sometimes used, similar to the ready, fire, aim method that you accuse so many others of.

    • jc has it right.

      the fort wayne operating budget is around $200 million and the utility budget is $139 million, which includes a capital budget of $85 million.

      they appear to have gone from a population of 198,000, to over 250,000 by extending the city limits to a large portion of the county, rather than consolidation.

      would be interesting to compare the total city and county budgets with both counties.

      • The total budget for Evansville Vanderburgh excluding the EVSC is $306,445,633. EVSC is a little over $200M per year. If you divide the $306M by the entire population of Vanderburgh Co. of 179,703 the resulting expenditure per person is $1,719. These numbers exclude capital budgets but include debt service on capital projects. Even with all of this detail combined Evansville-Vanderburgh is much more expensive per person than Fort Wayne-Allen, apparently by some 70% when all things are considered.

        • allen county also has a pretty hefty budget greater than vanderburgh county:

          i would suggest taking the total allen county budget and the total fort wayne budget and divide by the total county population. the same for evansville and vanderburgh.

          surprisingly, they are becoming more and more similar as we do our research.

          i can think of a few areas where fort wayne is more efficient than evansville, specifically, in their cost of labor.

          • Actually the Allen Co. budget on your link is $91,563,101 and Vanderburgh Counties is $91,832,809. They are almost identical. The real difference is that Allen Co. excluding Ft. Wayne has 101,638 people and unincorporated Vanderburgh has 62,274.

            Considering all of the digging now and excluding the capital budget from the Ft. Wayne utility numbers it looks like: $281 M is the published Ft. Wayne + Allen Co. + utilities – capital projects total. The 2010 census has the population of Allen County at 355,329 so the total spending per person now calculates to $791.54 per person. As previously shown Evansville Vanderburgh’s total is $1,719 per person. We certainly appreciate the research help but must point out that the numbers are still quite substantially cheaper per person in Allen-Ft. Wayne. Is there anything else that we are missing?

            Shall we proceed to other cities or dig into departmental budgets?

          • Even using the 2009 budget from JC and adding your Allen budget the total spending there is $358M for 355k people. That works out to $1,008 per person. At $1,719 per person Evansville Vanderburgh is still 70.5% more expensive on a per capita basis. We thank you both for your diligence in refining the cost of government model between us and them. Can we agree at this point that there is a wide per capita gap in spending that is worth looking into?

          • there are departments listed past the $91 million for allen county, but hey, million here, million there, soon you are talking about a lot of money.

            in response to the original this is true posting, the answer is no, this is not true. it is more complicated than taking partial budgets and running ratios without all the facts.

            i think a thorough analysis would take more than the time either of us have for a “special report”.

            by all means, please proceed with other cities. take your time. no hurry.

    • EVSC is a separate budget and is not included in the City or County published budgets. They school referendum was passed because Dr. Bertrum did a good job of selling it.

      • That’s because the EVSC is merged with the county (gasp!). A city/county expense is a city/county expense regardless of what budget it goes under.

        The fact of the matter is that most people are just complaining about this budget because their paranoid to death of the city/county merger and they’re scared to death for their precious little pennies even though they just went to the polls and agreed to tax themselves to a referendum that went well over 100 mil (what was it $156 mil?) and ended up building schools way out in the boondocks and not downtown (That really helped Eville!).

        You can’t take a budget in general and just start complaining about it (that indicates clearly that you’re just out there to complain about whatever the gov’t does), you have to break it down.

        For instance, why do we have to contribute to a teamsters scholarship fund? Why can’t they pay for theirs and their own families education just like the rest of us who pay for it by the hours we work? What a complete waste. And surprise, surprise all of these roads that everyone thinks turns a profit ISN’T free. In fact, they waste more money than just about any other form of transportation (That parking garage expense is just amazing).

        On the other hand, we’re sitting here putting innocent animals to sleep in our kill shelters because we’re not allocating enough money to animal control. I’d gladly pay higher taxes to fix that problem. It is abs, positively unacceptable. And we also need to allocate more money to the parks dept ONLY if they are fully committed to cleaning them up.

        And I couldn’t care any less about other cities budgets being lower. Do they have a greenway? Are they spending money on their riverfront and other capital improvement projects? What is the state of their parks? How many public facilities do they have? Just because your $ spent per person is lower does not in any way mean that you’re a more efficient or higher quality city. I want to know where the money is going specifically!

        But again, it isn’t about that. It’s about the county unwilling to stop enjoying the city of Evansville (which is the main attraction for local businesses) without having to pay for it. And the county certainly doesn’t want to start controlling their out of control urban sprawl which is just ridiculous. The county needs to commit itself to growing smartly, then worry about striking it rich.

        • Do you even know what you’re squawking about?

          At least 90% of the residential, commercial, and industrial growth for the past 20 years occurred in the county jurisdiction, and the city simply annexed it after the fact. Period. About the only economic development that’s happened inside the city in the past 20 years has been Berry Plastics, Walmart West, and EVSC’s taj mahalization of the high schools.

      • EVSC is the largest consumer of tax dollars in the city/county. Bertram was furious that the VCTA filed a remonstrance petition against planned school omnibus build-out plan.

        He backed out of the petition and remonstrance process and according to statute he was not allowed to introduce a similar plan for another year, as the penalty for backing out of the process.

        Wiping his posterior with the paper that statute was written on, he proceeded to offer, in a mere 3 month, the same plan as a referendum item in that fall’s election.

        Why did the VCTA remonstrate? Because of the amount of fat in Dr. Bertram’s plan! Omnibus is the only way to describe it. It had something in it for everyone whether they needed it or not.

        Now that the kids are beginning to make use of the new buildings we are getting reports of how huge they are. Couple that expense with a push to offer vouchers, which will result in fewer and fewer EVSC students, and you will soon see that maybe, JUST MAYBE, the Vanderburgh County Taxpayers Association knew what they were talking about.


  7. Checked out the Henderson budget vs. the population and it looks as though the money saving bridge works for government too. $878 per person over there! Nearly $1,000 each less than Evansville but in line with other places. Evansville is insane on its costs.

    • Henderson is the place to be if you don’t want to do anything, but if you want to do something you have to go someplace else. I can’t think of one thing in downtown Henderson (or even on the strip) that would make me want to go there.

    The unchecked striving for more, for endless growth, is a dysfunction and a disease. It is the same dysfunction the cancerous cell manifests, whose only goal is to multiply itself, unaware that it is bringing about its’ own destruction by destroying the organism of which it is a part.

    • Agreed… some point it becomes unsustainable, for most of the US we arrived there years ago but they just keep on spending, one only needs to look at California or Washington DC for a prime example.

  9. fox 3 thinks that this has been an excellent bi-partisan dialogue … thanks everybody.

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