HOW DO THE LARGEST NEW YORK STATE COUNTIES AND CITIES PERFORM?
The Maxwell School Government Performance Project in 2002 rated 40 counties in the United States in five management areas. Five of the counties were in New York State. At the top end, the Project overall rated Erie and Westchester Counties C+, which is a failing grade in graduate school. At the low end, Nassau County rated the lowest, at D-, which is the next grade up from failure even for undergraduates. Since the data were collected in 2001 and Nassau has undergone some reforms, an update might carry Nassau County out of the cellar.
Two years before, the Project rated 35 cities, included two cities in NY State – New York City and Buffalo. The city ratings were published in 2000, based on data collected in 1999, when Rudy Giuliani was New York City's mayor.
Combining the New York State county and city numbers together in a single table - not something we asked the Project permission to do - New York City outperformed all of the NY counties in every area with only three exceptions. Westchester excelled in capital management, with a grade of A-, exceeding New York City’s B+. Also, Westchester equaled New York City in financial management, while Buffalo equaled New York City in information technology.
Large County (2002) and City (2000) Performance, New York State
The Project rates U.S. counties rated highly on financial reporting. All but one county received the Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. Most of the county budgets are viewed as having a good structural balance (i.e., avoiding deficits on a year-to-year basis) and as having strong rainy day funds. Only 15 percent of the counties have a legally required rainy day fund. Nassau County, NY received the only F.
HUMAN RESOURCES: U.S. County Average C+
Many counties lack a unified county personnel system, meaning that departments may bid against one another for potential employees. The tight job market of the 1990s forced many counties to improve their salaries and merit pay policies.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: County U.S. Average C+
The decentralized nature of county government has hampered introduction of technological efficiency. Different county offices may use different IT systems. Counties are improving their web sites for two-way transactions. The only A’s received in any management area were the IT grades of Fairfax (Va.) and Maricopa (Az.) Counties. Allegheny and Monroe, N.Y. Counties tied for the lowest information technology grade, with a D.
CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: U.S. County Average B-
New standards from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement 34 (GASB 34) requie counties to add information on assets and their maintenance needs. Almost all counties have long-term capital improvement plans and solicit citizen input. Baltimore, Fairfax, San Diego, and Westchester, NY Counties tied for the high score of A-. Nassau County’s D- grade was the lowest of the 40 counties.
MANAGING FOR RESULTS: U.S. County Average C+
Only one-fourth of the counties evaluated have formal overall strategic plans, although more counties have departmental strategic planning. Budgets tend to be the main way that counties convey their goals and measure results. Fairfax, Maricopa, and San Diego Counties received the highest grade of A-, while Nassau and Suffolk, NY Counties received the lowest grade of F.