Thursday, April 30, 2009

T-U's Editorial on Audit Needed More Research

Here's a rather odd editorial from the Times-Union (no byline):

The category is: Bad government

Like the popular game "Jeopardy,'' a state audit of the city of Rensselaer's finances gives a bunch of answers. The trick is to guess the questions.
This relatively young community was founded in 1897 after breaking away from Albany. It's small by city standards, with just 7,500 people. But it spends like a bigger city. It has a $10.5 million budget that translates to $345 for every resident, the 8th highest per capita government tab among cities in the state, and the highest rate in the Capital Region. The next closest is 20th-ranked Saratoga Springs at $233, followed by Albany, in 23rd place, at $225.

I've never seen any evidence of Rensselaer "breaking away from Albany" (see Albany maps from 1770 and 1790's). Rensselaer was created by merging Greenbush and Bath-on-the-Hudson (1893 map). The northern part of Greenbush, (town boundaries defined in 1801), was commonly referred to as East Albany, but was not related by government.

I was more concerned that they didn't bother to give attribution for these government spending figures. Here's where you can go to see them yourself: See Through New York - Benchmarking New York. There are many other interesting numbers to compare (some of which certainly need improvement, both in Albany and Rensselaer). The "government tab" mentioned in the editorial is defined in See Through New York as:
"General Government Per Capita - Total amount of expenditures for services provided by the governmental entity for the benefit of the public or governmental body as a whole divided by population. This subcategory may include the following subcategories: administration, zoning and planning, operations, judgments, county distribution of sales tax, and miscellaneous general government."
The editorial does provide an indirect link for the audit (via Tinyurl). I don't like this practice (except perhaps in Twitter), as it disguises the actual address of the destination page (you can always right-click my links and check their Properties before following). Here's a direct link to the City of Rensselaer audit (it's a 23-page PDF file).

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