Per capita, Janesville among lowest spenders

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Marcia Nelesen
Friday, July 13, 2012

— Janesville's operating costs continue to compare favorably to those in communities of similar size, according to a Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance report.

The alliance, a private research organization, compared operating costs from 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Janesville spent $818 per capita, one of the lowest rates when compared to peer communities. In that group, Racine spent the most at $1,204 per capita, and Oshkosh spent the least at $750 per capita.

Operating costs are defined as a broad spending measure that sometimes includes capital items, such as equipment, if it's not funded by borrowing, according to the alliance newsletter.

Overall, Wisconsin's 231 largest cities and villages spent $3.5 billion, or $964 per person, to operate in 2010, according to the alliance.

Per capita, Milwaukee spent $1,492, and Madison spent $992.

Average operating costs per capita were somewhat lower in smaller municipalities—those with populations ranging from 2,000 to 30,000, according to the newsletter. The median amount spent on operations was $802 per capita, but amounts varied widely.

Per capita spending was tops in Lake Delton and Wisconsin Dells at $3,957 and $2,209, respectively. The number of people served in the two tourist destinations swells in the summer, but tourists are not counted in per capita calculations.

Redgranite, spending $294 per capita, and Howards Grove, spending $258, ranked the lowest.

Two-thirds of municipal spending usually comes in four areas: police, fire/ambulance, street maintenance and administration, according to the newsletter.

In the cities studied, police accounted for about one-quarter of spending. Fire and ambulance services accounted for about 16 percent, street maintenance about 12 percent and administration 10 percent.

Milwaukee residents spent the most per capita for police services at $447. Madison spent $266 per capita.

Smaller municipalities spent 40 to 50 percent less per capita, according to the report.

The amount of borrowing does not vary much by municipality, but data show cities are beginning to rely more on borrowing because property tax levies are capped by the state, according to the release.

Last updated: 4:57 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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