As a polar vortex pummels the northeast with arctic temperatures and endless snow, we can’t help but long for warmer climates. While most of the nation has been experiencing icy weather over the past few weeks, there remains one state where it is a tropical paradise year-round: Hawaii!

Hawaii not only has a unique climate when compared with the rest of the country, but also a unique governing structure. It is the only state to have no municipal governments below the county level; there are no towns, villages, or school districts in the State of Hawaii.


Even the City of Honolulu, home to about 375,000 and 41% of the county’s residents, does not have its own government.  Rather, it is governed by the City and County of Honolulu, an entity that is coterminous with the entire island of Oahu.


In lieu of municipal services, the state has taken on some of the responsibilities that mainland cities, towns, and villages usually provide.  This includes education, as the Hawaii Department of Education oversees all public and charter schools throughout the state.  The state spends nearly a third of its total budget on education each year, even with spending for social services.

hawaii state spending

So while warm weather and sunnier days are still months away for many of us mainlanders, we can still yearn for the beaches of Hawaii and maybe learn a thing or two about their distinctive approach to government.

It’s that time of year again! In past years, Govistics has brought you public finance data based on a variety of America’s favorite Thanksgiving Day motifs, ranging from the main course to the first voyage of the pilgrims. This year, we pay homage to a time-tested turkey-day staple: football.

Beginning in 1934, the Detroit Lions have hosted a game every year on Thanksgiving and were joined in this tradition by the Dallas Cowboys in 1966.  Earlier this year, we profiled Detroit’s descent into bankruptcy. Adding insult to fiscal injury, Detroit has not won a Thanksgiving Day game since 2003 (Dallas last won in 2011).

Though the Cowboys have outplayed the Lions over the last decade, Detroit in 2011 outspent Dallas on a per resident basis by 41%.

 dallas spending 2

 detroit spending2

Dallas, with about 1.2 million residents, spent around $2,500 per resident in 2011. This compares to the $4,200 spent per resident in Detroit, home to just under 917,000 residents.

While it often tempting to look at municipalities side by side, varying structures and functions can make comparisons tenuous, especially among cities in different states. For example, Detroit provides residents with a rail and bus transit system, while Dallas’ residents have access only to transportation provided by a private company. Keeping in mind inherent differences between municipalities can make data analysis more meaningful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

How many students were in your graduating class? Most likely, there were more students in your graduating class than there are currently in the entire Greeley County High School. In 2012, about 50 students were attending high school in Greeley, and the total county population was 1,298.  Since 1997, the population of Greeley County has declined 28%, illustrating what the Wall Street Journal calls the “prairie problem”.

greeley graphic

As shown above, Greeley County has seen a slight population increase of 4% since 2010, possibly due to both state and county initiatives geared toward luring young people to the area. Greeley County is a designated Kansas Rural Opportunity Zone, meaning that people who move to Greeley are eligible for both income tax waivers and student loan repayment (up to $15,000). Beyond becoming a ROZ, the county has tried consolidating government, overhauling the local school, and mobilizing volunteers to keep the movie theater open, among other strategies, to draw new residents to the county and retain current residents.

While Greeley’s population declined almost a quarter between 1997 and 2007 before rising in 2012, government spending increased at a higher rate than inflation.

greeley spnd

Similarly, Greeley’s revenue increased by 80% over the same time period.  A higher proportion of revenue came from taxes in 2007 (84%) than in 1997 (78%), while proportions of revenue from transportation and interest declined.

greeley rev

While Greeley County’s “prairie problem” is far from resolved, the recent population gains and steady rise in spending in Greeley provide other struggling rural communities with hope for a sustainable future.


cook co graphic

In Cook County, IL, the jail population rose to over 10,000 inmates in September of 2013—making Chicago home to the most populated single jail site in the nation (according to the Chicago Tribune).  Observers attribute this increase to the closure of the state’s mental health facilities and subsequent arrest of previous mental health patients for new crimes.

Corrections (defined as facilities for the containment and rehabilitation of persons convicted of crimes) cost Cook County nearly $440 million in 2011, or 12% of the total county budget.

cook co


Find out more about crime, corrections, and public finance in Cook County and other counties in Illinois at Govistics.



The name of Michigan’s largest city has been on the minds of many leaders over the past few weeks. CGR’s own Chief Economist, Kent Gardner Ph.D., examined what killed Detroit in a recent blog post.  Govistics data also help tell the story of Detroit’s tumultuous struggle to regain fiscal stability over the decade—a story we know led to current headlines on bankruptcy.

Both revenue and spending have been below the inflation benchmark since 2005.

 Detroit rev

Detroit spending

Fifteen Years of Detroit Revenue and Spending

detroit chart

The above chart (created using Govistics excel downloads) shows that while Detroit’s problems began before 1997, the city’s most recent downward turn began in earnest between 2005 and 2006, when spending and revenue dropped 43% and 38% respectively.  Total revenue plummeted in 2009 due to losses in insurance revenue before recovering slightly in 2010 and 2011.

Can Detroit recover? Stay tuned!