Lexington Is Voted Fourth Best Run City In America

Running a city is a tall order. The larger the city, the more complex it becomes to manage. 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.

But how do we measure the effectiveness of local leadership? One way is by determining a city’s operating efficiency. In other words, we can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget.

Using that approach, WalletHub compared the operating efficiency of 150 of the largest U.S. cities to reveal which among them are managed best. We constructed a “Quality of Services” score made up of 35 metrics grouped into six service categories, which we then measured against the city’s per-capita budget. Read on for our findings, expert insight and a full description of our methodology.


Source: WalletHub


In order to determine the best- and worst-run cities in America, WalletHub compared 150 of the most populated cities across six key categories: 1) Financial Stability, 2) Education, 3) Health, 4) Safety, 5) Economy and 6) Infrastructure & Pollution.

We evaluated those dimensions using 35 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest quality of service.

Next, we calculated an overall “Quality of City Services” score for each city based on its weighted average across all the metrics. Finally, for each city, we divided the Quality of City Services score by the “Total Budget per Capita” (dollar amount) in order to construct a “Score per Dollar Spent” index — displayed as “Overall Rank” in the Main Findings table above — which we then used to rank-order the cities in our sample.

The metrics used do not create a disadvantage for DC, despite its unusual status as a city/state, with the exception of the Long-Term Debt Outstanding per Capita metric. However, even with that metric removed, DC still ranks last. Thus, the District was included in this report.

Financial Stability – Total Points: 16.67

  • Moody’s City Credit Rating: Triple Weight (~12.50 Points)

  • Long-Term Debt Outstanding per Capita: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)

Education – Total Points: 16.67

  • K–12 School-System Quality: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of public schools rated by GreatSchools.org with above average score.

  • High School Graduation Rate: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)

Health – Total Points: 16.67

  • Infant Mortality Rate: Quadruple Weight (~6.67 Points)

  • Average Life Expectancy (in Years): Quadruple Weight (~6.67 Points)

  • Hospital Beds per Capita: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)

  • Quality of Public Hospital System: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ ranking of public hospital systems.

Safety – Total Points: 16.67

  • Violent Crime Rate: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)

  • Property Crime Rate: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)

  • Motor Vehicle Fatalities per Capita: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)

  • Percentage of Sheltered Homeless Persons: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)

Economy – Total Points: 16.67

  • Unemployment Rate: Triple Weight (~2.38 Points)

  • Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~0.79 Points)

  • Median Annual Household Income (Adjusted for Cost of Living): Quadruple Weight (~3.17 Points)

  • Median Annual Income Growth Rate: Double Weight (~1.59 Points)
    Note: Growth compares the rate in 2016 versus in 2015.

  • Annual Job Growth Rate (Adjusted for Population Growth): Double Weight (~1.59 Points)

  • Share of Population Living Below Poverty Level: Triple Weight (~2.38 Points)

  • Economic Mobility: Double Weight (~1.59 Points)

  • Growth in Number of Businesses: Full Weight (~0.79 Points)
    Note: Growth compares the number in 2016 versus in 2015.

  • Change in Housing Prices: Full Weight (~0.79 Points)
    Note: Change compares the price in 2017 versus in 2010.

  • Zillow Home Value 1-year Forecast: Full Weight (~0.79 Points)
    Note: The Zillow Home Value Forecast is Zillow's prediction of what the Zillow Home Value Index will be one year from now.

  • Building-Permit Growth: Full Weight (~0.79 Points)
    Note: Growth spans 2015 to 2017.

Infrastructure & Pollution – Total Points: 16.67

  • Quality of Roads: Triple Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of pavements in poor condition.

  • Average Commute Time (in Minutes): Full Weight (~0.83 Points)

  • Transit Access Shed: Full Weight (~0.83 Points)
    Note: “Transit Access Shed” is the total area of land that is easily accessible from any point via public transportation.

  • Traffic Congestion: Full Weight (~0.83 Points)

  • Walk Score: Double Weight (~1.67 Points)
    Note: “Walk Score” measures pedestrian friendliness by analyzing population density and road metrics such as block length and intersection density.

  • Bike Score: Full Weight (~0.83 Points)
    Note: “Bike Score” measures whether an area is good for biking. The Bike Score is calculated by measuring bike infrastructure (lanes, trails, etc.), hills, destinations and road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters.

  • Transit Score: Full Weight (~0.83 Points)
    Note: “Transit Score” is a patented measure of how well a location is served by public transit.

  • Recreation-Friendliness: Quadruple Weight (~3.33 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Recreation” ranking.

  • Water Quality: Full Weight (~0.83 Points)

  • Air Pollution: Full Weight (~0.83 Points)

  • Greenhouse-Gas Emissions per Capita: Full Weight (~0.83 Points)

  • Share of Parkland: Triple Weight (~2.50 Points)


Sources:Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Council for Community and Economic Research, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Moody's Investors Service, GreatSchools.org, County Health Rankings, Health Resources and Services Administration, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Chmura Economics & Analytics, Zillow, The Equality of Opportunity Project, The Road Information Program, Center for Neighborhood Technology, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Walk Score, The Trust for Public Land, INRIX, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development and WalletHub research.



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