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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Woodbury Shuffle

This recent (12/29/2007) editorial in the Star Tribune really caught my attention. The editorial highlights a study conducted by the City of Woodbury, How Does The Cost Of City Services Stack Up?, which compares the cost of several core basic city services to everyday expenditures of an average Woodbury resident. The nut of the report is delivered so:
On average, a Woodbury homeowner would spend roughly the same amount for cable TV service as the combined cost of police and fire protection, snow plowing and street maintenance, and parks and recreation services.
Product/service Annual price/tax per household*
Police protection $249
Fire protection $76
Parks and recreation $108
Snow plowing/street repair and maintenance $198
City water $104
Sanitary sewer services $198
Street lights $24


Cable TV (digital service) $628
Cell phone (most popular plan) $810
Trash collection (65 gal.) $227
Dinner for two "out" once per month $420
Large Caribou coffee twice a week $194
Daily newspaper subscription $208
Broadband Internet service
(non-cable subscribers)

The Star Tribune's conclusion?:
To us, it seems like the good people of Woodbury are getting a deal on city services -- not to mention daily newspaper subscription costs -- but they deserve a break on cable TV, cell phone and Internet costs.
I frankly think it's absurd to make these comparisons. Money spent on police and fire protection should reflect how much those services are used, not their perceived level of importance. Last I checked, Woodbury isn't exactly a high crime area. It would be more instructive to compare the cost of police protection to the level of crime - how does Woodbury stack up against Minneapolis, for example? It could very well be the case that the citizens of Woodbury are getting a bad deal on police protection, given the low crime level in the city. That's the comparison that needs to be made, not a comparison to the cost of lattes.

Here's an additional angle to this story. The table lists what most would consider THE services that a city should provide and their cost to each citizen. Naturally, of course, the Star Tribune showed no interest in what residents are paying to the city for these services.

The cost of police, fire, parks, streets and lights - these are paid for out of city taxes - is $655.

According to the City of Woodbury, the average citizen pays approximately $810 in city taxes.

Where are the other $155 dollars going? That's nearly 20% of the revenue collected by the city going to non-essential services. Maybe the City of Woodbury could explain to their citizens how they're squandering 20% of their tax payments.

Cable TV might be expensive, but at least it's an honest exchange. You can't say the same about government.


Blogger Force50 said...

The article in question actually insulted me. I don't have cable, cell phone or broadband internet. I look at these things as non-essential luxuries and sacrifice those for more important things. This is something governments are less willing to do. Public service used to mean dedication and sacrifice ... not a gravy train with benefits fit for a king.

1/02/2008 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

As to cable being a free and fair exchange, in many areas people have little or no choice in choosing a cable provider so there is no free and fair competitive market. This situation is normally established by the city granting a monopoly to a specific company. Further in Virginia where I live this decision is sometimes made by developers who decide which company will be allowed to provide cable and telephone services in the new neighborhood. We actually have neighborhoods being built where Verizon service is not available. I am certain that these developers are getting a kick back for this monopolistic practice.

1/22/2008 4:28 AM  

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