The 10 Best and Worst Cities for Police, Schools and Parks
Policy + Politics

The 10 Best and Worst Cities for Police, Schools and Parks


There are many ways of judging a city, from its ambience and beauty to the health of its local economy to the quality of its schools and other public services.

Major cities and metropolitan areas frequently are put under the microscope by scholars, think tanks and watchdog groups to evaluate, among other things, whether taxpayers are getting the most bang for their tax buck.

Related: States Are Spending More as Economy Improves

Smarter spending has always been important, but it took on added significance in recent years as states and municipalities faced widening budget gaps as a result of the economic downturn. In recent years, local and state government spending has run ahead of revenues, resulting in the ballooning of public debt at those levels from $2.4 trillion in 2007 to $2.9 trillion in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Local governments accounted for 61.1 percent of the total.

“The best cities often turn out to be ones that most efficiently spend their public resources in order to satisfy the needs and priorities of most — if not all — members of the community,” notes a new  analysis by WalletHub, a social media company designed to assist consumers in making  financial decisions and purchases.

With tax season upon us, WalletHub assessed how efficiently 65 of America’s largest cities spend taxpayer dollars on three key services: schools, police and parks and recreation.

No system for evaluating city services is fool proof, and this one has its shortcomings. For example, in rating police service, the survey’s finding on police efficiency is different from determining overall safety.

In terms of methodology, WalletHub calculated the return on the investment of taxes on education by dividing each city’s aggregated standardized test scores in reading and math for grades 4 and 8 by its total education spending per capita. The data was “normalized” by a number of socioeconomic factors.

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Similarly, the return on investment in policing was based on crime rates and per capita expenditures on the police force after normalizing the data for the poverty rate, unemployment rate and median household income. The return on investment for parks and recreation is a function of total parkland acreage within the city limits and total parks and recreation expenditures.

Here are the findings of the “Best Run” and “Worst Run” cities among the 65 evaluated by WalletHub:

Best Run Cities in America Worst Run Cities in America
1 Lubbock, TX 56 St. Paul, MN
2 Philadelphia, PA 57 Santa Ana, CA
3 El Paso, TX 58 Los Angeles, CA
4 Dallas, TX 59 San Jose, CA
5 Pittsburgh, PA 60 Oakland, CA
6 Corpus Christi, TX 61 Kansas City, MO
7 San Antonio, TX 62 New York, NY
8 Garland, TX 63 Riverside, CA
9 Houston, TX 64 Long Beach, CA
10 Fort Wayne, IN 65 Fremont, CA

For the full report and to see where your city ranks, please see the WalletHub report here
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