In a new study of the best- and worst-run large cities in the United States, Columbus ranks a highly respectable No. 24 overall and one of the best in the Southeast.
The study by WalletHub, a Washington, D.C.-based personal finance website, took a look at American cities from coast to coast to determine which are best managed and serving their taxpaying citizens well.
“The larger the city, the more complex it becomes to manage,” WalletHub financial writer Adam McCann wrote in a synopsis on the study. “In addition to representing the residents, local leaders must balance the public’s diverse interests with the city’s limited resources. That often means not everyone’s needs can or will be met. Leaders must carefully consider which services are most essential, which agencies’ budgets to cut or boost and whether and how much to raise taxes, among other decisions.”
The top 150 cities came from a study of six areas, which added up to an overall “quality of services” score, with those being gauged against the community’s per capita budgets. Those six areas scrutinized were financial stability, education, health, safety, economy and a combined category of infrastructure and pollution.
On July 1, Columbus entered the 2019 fiscal year in which its City Council approved an annual budget of $268,031,916, which is a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year. It also leaves the city with just under 64 days of reserve funds, essentially a savings account.
“We have been in the top 50 for the last three years,” Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer. “We score high in Financial Stability and Infrastructure and other categories. We score low in various health component parts like Infant Mortality, which has been an issue we have struggled with for many years. On balance, we have a strong city, with opportunities for improvement.”
The six specific areas of the study show a mixed bag for Columbus. It ranks highest in “financial stability” at No. 47, followed by No. 55 in “infrastructure and pollution.” Its “safety” rank is down at No. 96, while it registers a much lower No. 124 in the area of “economy” and nearly bottoms out the list of cities at No. 149 on “health.” But, with the methodology used by WalletHub, it all adds up to No. 121 in “quality of service.”
From a comparison standpoint in overall rankings, Columbus stands above most other major cities in the Southeast, according to the survey. Only the North Carolina communities of Durham (7), Greensboro (12) and Raleigh (16) rate higher.
Other Southeast cities in the top 100 include St. Petersburg Fla. (42), Charleston, S.C. (46), Mobile, Ala. (48), Little Rock, Ark. (56), Fort Smith, Ark. (57), Columbia, S.C. (67), Montgomery, Ala. (72), Baton Rouge, La. (77), Tallahassee, Fla. (82), Hialeah, Fla. (83), Orlando, Fla. (89), Shreveport, La. (91), Jacksonville, Fla. (92), Miami, Fla. (93) and Tampa, Fla. (98).
The top 10 “Best-Run Cities in America,” the survey said, are Nampa, Idaho (1), Provo, Utah (2), Boise, Idaho (3), Lexington-Fayette, Ky. (4), Missoula, Mont. (5), Sioux Falls, S.D. (6), Durham, N.C. (7), Lewiston, Maine (8), Nashua, N.H. (9) and Oklahoma City, Okla. (10).
WalletHub, in general, is known for its ubiquitous surveys on everything from cities’ pace of growth and business startups to entrepreneurship and the most innovative states. In April, it ranked Columbus the No. 62 best large city to start a business.