Unveiling the Community Comparison Report
Municipal Data Management and Technical Assistance Bureau
With the introduction of a new application, local officials and others will now have the ability to create customized community comparison reports directly from the DLS website. Developed by Lisa Juszkiewicz and Mike Briggs of the Municipal Databank, the application is an easy-to-use means of extracting comparative municipal finance and demographic data for multiple communities. Unlike previous sources, the application draws data by direct query of the information that resides in DLS’ Gateway system. As a result, users will have ready access to the most current data available.
Among the strengths of this reporting tool, users can quickly collect and view data for any number of cities and towns they select or regard as peer communities. These selections can be based on traditional peer communities, proximity, county boundaries, or the search can be narrowed by selecting minimum and maximum data ranges for certain criteria. For example, a search can identify all communities with a population between 10,000 and 20,000 people and with an annual budget between $30 million and $50 million. In addition, other available criteria include average single-family tax bill, EQV per capita and DOR income per capita. The user can set data ranges in one or all criteria.
The community comparison application automatically extracts extensive pre-selected information for each city and town identified by the search. Eliminated is the often frustrating exercise of opening numerous spreadsheets and sorting, cutting and pasting data from each into a single spreadsheet. With over 65 data elements, the report includes data on assessed valuations, levies and tax rates by class, revenues by source, actual spending, receivables, reserves, debt levels and bond ratings. After the report is generated, the user can export it to Excel with the click of a button. There, it can be refined, sorted and analyzed or the information can be displayed in charts or graphs and pasted into documents or other spreadsheets for presentation.
For local leaders, the community comparison application can be valuable tool for identifying peer communities, measuring performance and establishing benchmarks. For DLS, the ability to directly query Gateway data will eliminate regular, labor intensive updates to static Excel spreadsheets. Looking ahead, DLS hopes to use the underlying community comparison programming as a foundation to produce additional web-based data reporting tools for the benefit of internal and external customers.
Click here to access the Community Comparison Report application on the DLS website. If you have any questions or comments, please contact the Municipal Databank at firstname.lastname@example.org.