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Hey big spenders -- comparing local government spending

Yao ming OK, for starters, we know taxes and spending are high here in New York State. So the comparisons I'm about to make are akin to comparing the heights of all the centers in the National Basketball Association -- i.e., they're all big.

That said, the Empire Center for New York State Policy has come out with an interesting online tool that allows taxpayers to compare how local governments -- counties, cities, towns and villages -- are spending money. And by spending money, I mean, to quote the center, "effective property tax rates and per-person (i.e., "per-capita") values for the spending, debt and tax levels." Locales outside of New York City are included.

You can do a lot of different sorts, and I encourage you to play in this sandbox.

Me, I took a look at total spending per capita, and here's what I found out.

Counties: Most of the costliest spending is in Long Island and in rural counties, where economies of scale suffer. Erie and Niagara counties are a little below the median, which is to say spending per capita is a little lower here, about $1,600, vs. about $1,900.

Cities: Buffalo, at about $1,700 per head, is just about in the middle. Salamanca and Jamestown are sky-high, Niagara Falls somewhat high. Lackwanna is on the low end.

Towns:The median is about $580. Ellicottville spends the most of the locals, $1,343. Yipes! A lot of other towns in Erie and Niagara counties are well above the median, including Niagara, Amherst, Tonawanda, West Seneca, Grand Island, Cheektowaga, Wheatfield, Evans, and my good friends in Brant. Bringing up the rear, and I mean this is a good way, is Attica, at $134. Yeah, it's not in our immediate metro area, but I wanted to report some good news.

Villages:  The big spenders locally include Arcade ($4,650) and Ellicotville ($3,578). The median is about $1,000, which has me wondering what they're doing in Arcade and Ellicottville.

Again, I urged you to explore. I don't dare use the word "crowdsource," as my last effort fell flat. But feel free to share your findings with the class.

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Local Government | Taxes
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