Data Explanations

The Taxpayers Accountability & Transparency Project (TATP) presents rankings for Florida cities and counties in five distinct categories: government spending, government debt, government size, crime and education. Each category is made up of two or more individual factors (as follows):


  • 6-year average per capita debt
  • Total dollar increase in debt

Source: Local Government Financial Reporting

Data: “Government Debt Per Resident September 30, 2019 to September 30, 2014”


  • 6-year average per capita spending
  • Total dollar increase in spending

Source: Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research - Local Government Financial Reporting

Data: “Government Spending Per Resident Local Fiscal Years 2019-20 to 2014-15”


  • Percent government spending on salaries and benefits,
  • Full-time government employees per 100,000 residents
  • Average public employee salary

Source: Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research - Local Government Financial Reporting

Data: “Salary, Benefits, and # of Employees - FY 2019-20 Final Adopted Budget Regular or Permanent Employees # of FTE Employees,” “# of Active Dependent & Independent Special Districts,” “# of Active Special Districts, per 100,000 persons,” “Avg. Salary of Regular or Permanent Employees,” “% of Budget Spent on Salaries & Benefits,” “# of FTE Employees per 100,000 persons.”


  • Violent crime rate
  • Property crime rate (including arson)
  • Total crime clearance rate

Source for city-level data: FBI Florida, Crime in the United States

Source for county-level data: Florida Crime Report, FDLE

Data: “Violent crimes per 100k persons,” “Property crimes (incl arson) per 100k persons,” “Clearance rate (any crime).” Note that clearance rates were not available at the city level and therefore not included in city grades.


  • Average school grade
  • Graduation rate

Source: Florida School Accountability Reports

Data: “Numerical School Grade 2019” and “Graduation rate”


The master data file is available for download here.


Data was collected from counties and municipalities throughout the latter half of 2019; all publicly available data was collected during January 2020. Only raw and per-capita data was considered with no value judgments made regarding the relative importance of any one factor over any other.

To calculate overall rankings, each factor in a category was ranked. These were then averaged together and ranked again. Grades were then assigned where “A” represents the top quartile of performers, “B” the second highest, “C” the third highest, and “D” represents the bottom quartile of performers. “F” was reserved for counties and cities that failed to deliver their data. For this project, 100% of counties delivered their data, so no counties received an “F” grade.

Some cities are too small to have certain data points – for instance, a small beach town might not have any schools within its borders. This comparison process does not penalize any city that may lack some of the data points being addressed. Instead, such a community is left ungraded and unranked in the category for which it is missing data, and the information shows up as “N/A” on the report card.

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