Tag Archives: Census of Governments Finance Data

Bureaucracy: Census of Governments Data

This post will complete my series on different government functions based on finance data from the 2012 Census of Governments, a more long-term analysis aside. It includes data on the most governmental of government functions: the kind of activities one might expect to find taking place in city and town halls, county seats, county courthouses, and state capitals. Reviewing applications, keeping records and doing inspections, rather than providing services. The functions included are, as delineated by the U.S. Census Bureau, Judicial and Legal, Financial Administration, Inspection & Regulation, Central Staff, General Public Buildings and, at the state level, Social Insurance Administration (state Departments of Labor). I have grouped them under the title “Bureaucracy.”

When I first started compiling Governments Division data from the Census of Governments, I noted that the cost of New York’s state and local government bureaucracy per $1,000 of state residents’ personal income was about average. So was its bureaucratic employment level per 100,000 residents. In addition the cost and employment level of local government bureaucracy was about the same in different parts of New York State, broadly defined. All that made it much less interesting. There are some differences, however, and in any event I want this compilation to be comprehensive. And besides, if you add them all up at both the state and local level the cost of these government functions is substantial. In New York State it averages about 1.7% of all of the personal income of all state residents not including, in many cases, employee benefits and pensions. A brief discussion follows.

Note:  this post based on data from the 2012 Census of Governments has been updated by a new post based on the 2017 Census of Governments, which should be read instead.


The older post as written continues below.

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Uniformed Services: Census of Governments Data

Over the past 20 years there has been an ongoing debate about the high cost of welfare, social services and Medicaid (for the non-elderly) in New York, occasional complaints about the cost of special education in the city’s schools, and objections to spending on and allegedly low productivity of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Since these services are funded by a mixture of federal money, state money and user fees, however, as well as local taxes, their impact on the high tax burden imposed by the City of New York is less than press reporting would have one believe.

What is more expensive, far more expensive, for city taxpayers is the cost of the so-called uniformed services – the Police Department, Fire Department, Department of Corrections, and Department of Sanitation. According to the NYC Office of Management and Budget, these agencies cost city taxpayers $16.3 billion in FY 2012, compared with $10 billion for health and welfare spending, $14 billion for public education, and $7.6 billion for most other agencies. And yet New Yorkers are faced with demands for even more money for the uniformed services, and threats if it isn’t received. So how did New York’s spending on the uniformed services compare with other places, according to the latest comparable data available?

Note this is an obsolete post, and a new one is available based on data from the 2017 Census of Governments, rather than 2012.


Continuing with the older post as originally written.

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State Government Higher Education Expenditures: Census of Governments Data

The news media has reported that more and more students are priced out of college or going deep in debt to pay for it, diminishing their prospects for the rest of their lives. Higher education debts have been blamed for constricted career choices and deferred homeownership, marriage and parenting. Based on that reporting, the story I had prepared to tell was that soaring tuition at private colleges may be explained by an arms race for extraneous amenities, extra administrators and increasingly cosseted faculty. But in public higher education, which accounted for 73.1% of higher education enrollment in 2012, cutbacks in taxpayer subsidies are the greater factor.

This is the story told by the public colleges and universities themselves. According to a recent report from Demos cited here,


“Cuts to higher education funding by state governments accounted for 79% of tuition increases at public research universities between 2001 and 2011 and 78% of the growth in college costs at public bachelor’s and master’s universities.” “Some have argued that universities’ penchant for hiring more administrators and constructing more buildings are the primary culprits behind skyrocketing tuition” according to this source. “While this so-called administrative bloat is an issue worth some attention, the report argues that it hasn’t played as large a role in tuition hikes as state funding cuts or the rising cost of health care for university employees.”

The data is a bit more complicated.

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Taxes: 2012 Census of Governments Finance Data

It should be no surprise to anyone that the state and local tax burden is high in New York State in general, and New York City in particular. But it may surprise most just how uniquely high that burden is, even compared with other places that otherwise might be considered to be similar. According to 2012 Census of Governments, state and local taxes equaled 15.7% of the income of NYC residents that year, compared with 13.2%, on average, for the rest of the state. The national average was just 10.0%. NYC’s state and local tax burden was thus 56.9% higher than the U.S. average that year, the largest gap since 1987 and the second highest since 1977, at least among the years available. Some believe that Mayor DeBlasio will be another Mayor Lindsay. But in 1972, during the Lindsay Administration, NYC’s state and local tax burden was just 38.6% higher than the U.S. average. It was much higher than that in NYC before DeBlasio even took office.

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