Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's only money but...

Amidst arguments of waste and want, I thought it might be informative to compare New Albany’s financial situation with those of other, similarly populated Indiana cities with particular regard for labor expenditures. Why labor? Because it’s commonly understood that if you want something done in a professional environment, you have to pay for someone to do it. And, currently in New Albany, things aren’t being done. Revenues and fines that could be collected aren’t. Codes that should be enforced aren’t. The list goes on.

Let me first say that I’m not a statistician. This isn’t a comprehensive report but a legitimate attempt at a quick snapshot to spur conversation about community expectations and values. I did not adjust for specific anomalies that may or may not be present owing to my ignorance of them. I chose comparative cities based solely on their populations’ proximity to New Albany’s 36,973 using 2003 data from the Internet. Those populations range from 43,083 to 30,609. Besides New Albany, cities included are: Carmel, Columbus, East Chicago, Greenwood, Lawrence, Marion, Michigan City, Portage, and Richmond.

Basically, I used Internet data, most from 2004 but some from 2002, to compare how much the various cities spend on employees. Below are the results, showing the mean and median for each category and how New Albany compares.

Notes: New Albany’s figures, from March 2004, include 33 sanitation employees at $74,446 per month. Granger and Merrillville, with populations of ~31,000 and 30,990 respectively, were not included because of a lack of reliable data.

City Population – Indiana
City Data – Indiana’s Bigger Cities

A quick refresher on mean and median calculations is available from Robert Niles here.

If one does some quick math, there’s an indication that several cities of our approximate size spend much more money for many more employees to complete tasks and provide services. Using the median scores, New Albany is “down” 48 full-time employees, 12 part-time employees, and $210, 990 in monthly payroll ($2,531,880 per year).

I’ll leave it to readers to determine what that means.


New Alb Annie said...

We'd need to know the distribution of employees, the areas of understaffing, the other cities' overall staffing in each dept versus New Albany's, and many other variables, to be able to intelligently interpret these statistics. Gathering that info would take way more time than any of us most likely have.

Do you know if the Indiana Association of Ciites and Towns provides staffing guidelines for various classes of cities/towns?

Highwayman said...


You are correct that it takes an inordinate amount of an individual's time to do the research. However, it appears to me to be the only way to get factual information that one can document, stand behind, and base intelligent decisions on.

We have no other choice when our elected officials continually spout the mantras of "I don't know", "This is the first I've heard of it", "We don't have time for this right now", and on and on!

At the risk of repeating myself and boring the hell out of everyone else, I want facts based on something real as opposed to speculation and personal feelings.

jon faith said...

Amen, cher Lloyd

bluegill said...

The City Data link provides some of the information Annie asks about, although not perfectly due to some vague categorizations. If IACT provides staffing guidelines, I've yet to find them on the web.

Even without that breakdown, though, I think New Albany's variance from the medians is significant enough to show a strong difference in expectations and values. It would be different if the amount of variance was much lower, but over $2.5 million a year on average is substantial.

I think the realization of the general comparison results is important to local discussion, if only to get people to ask more specific questions.

Citizens often speak of New Albany's police-heavy budget and assume the police are being paid too much. What happens, though, when one realizes that we spend much less than other comparable cities for labor in general? One has to ask if we're shortchanging other departments rather than just overpaying for police protection.

The Daisy Lane condo situation also comes into play. As some Daisy Lane area residents were praising the Council for their recent decision, it was revealed that they'd been promised Dasiy Lane improvements for years. I wonder if those residents realize that the Council has refused to make such road improvements a part of the city's budget.

Projects like improving existing roads generally fall under the purview of Redevelopment. How many staff positions and accompanying resources does the City of New Albany provide via local funds? Zero. Literally, none. As CM Kochert has said, "The city doesn't do sidewalks."

Instead, we rely totally on whatever Federal funds we can beg for both staff and projects in that area and are hamstrung by all the bureaucratic stipulations that accompany those funds.

While I'm certainly in favor of operating as efficiently as possible, I think it may be more important to ask how much it would take individually and/or collectively to generate additional funds, what we could realistically accomplish with those funds (perhaps some projects could eventually be self-funding) and if it would be worth it. Currently, that question is being totally ignored while political powers concentrate their efforts on taking advantage of anti-government sentiment.

edward parish said...

I think it is called, keep them guessing Lloyd, which is one of the oldest tricks in politics.

Good research Jeff!

East Ender said...

I must agree with Annie.
Because she's right.
Roger's right too...he's not a statistician.
There is nothing that can be shown with these numbers that could be considered statistically relevant.
The relationships between the data sets are ambiguous.
Bring up the matter for discussion if you must, but don't even pretend to have some sort of statistical evidence to support your theory. Because you don't.

The New Albanian said...

Uh, EE ...the post was Bluegill's, not mine.

And, of course it's relevant for discussion, more so than the bottomless ephemera being debated by nameless ghosts over at the spitwad blogyard.

However, I'm told you finally came out in favor of Linden Meadows. If true, that took a bit of gumption. Did you devote the marquee to it, or did you hide it in comments?

Some of your fans will be annoyed -- and with as few fans as you have, that could be a problem.