Press release from the Kansas Policy Institute
WICHITA – A new study, “Kansas County Budget Analysis – In Search of Efficient Government,” from Kansas Policy Institute compares 2009 per-resident spending across all 105 counties and creates a benchmarking tool for county officials and Kansas citizens.  The findings suggest hundreds of millions of dollars in potential savings from improved efficiency and transparency.  The full study can be found here, with complete data set here.

“Benchmarking is standard practice in the business world,” said study author and KPI president Dave Trabert.  “From the corner grocery store to the largest manufacturer, employers do their very best to know how much it costs their competitors to build a widget, deliver a service, or conduct back office support.  Governments also need to know what their competitors charge.”

The study groups counties by population to provide similar-sized comparisons and spending is broken out into nine categories, including general government, law enforcement, court services and emergency services.  Stevens County budgeted $5,415.66 per-resident for the highest while Wyandotte spent the least per-resident at $449.52; median spending per-resident was $1,262.61.  Some additional noteworthy findings;
* Johnson County spent $4.42 per-resident on County Commissioners, or nearly three times the $1.50 spent by Sedgwick County;
* The high total spender among counties with less than 5,000 residents was four times greater than the low spender;
* The high law enforcement spender among counties with population between 5,000 and 10,000 was six times greater than the low spender.

Trabert continues, “There may be good reason for certain cost variances but some of these numbers beg further analysis.  Why does it cost one county $259.37 per resident to fund county commissioners, but the four counties with the closest population only spend $13.14?  Certainly, there are differences in quality, demographics, and other factors but that cost difference is absolutely worth exploring.  More transparency and clearer reporting will only give taxpayers and officials better information on which to base decisions.”

“This study should be viewed as a tool to address government budget challenges without raising taxes or unnecessarily eliminating services.  The state and local tax burden is already costing jobs and prompting people to leave Kansas; we must find creative ways to lower the tax burden and reverse those trends.”  Trabert finishes with, “Bottom line, benchmarking allows for better decision making.”