Frequently Asked Questions

The Taxpayers Accountability & Transparency Project and the Local Government Report Card will empower Floridians with real data about the performance of local governments and help people compare their city and county governments with others across the State of Florida. The collected data provides a visual representation of the overall performance of your city and county governments as well as an opportunity to see how you stack up against 400 plus other cities and 66 other counties. To keep the rankings fair, cities and counties have been grouped into “small” or “large” categories.

The Taxpayers Accountability and Transparency Project is designed to show residents exactly how effective, both in performance and cost, their local government is when compared with other counties and cities – in areas like government spending, debt, and size. We hope the project will inform taxpayers about how their local governments are spending, saving — and more.

The grades and rankings uses data submitted to the state by counties and municipalities or collected from other official public sources. Raw and per-capita data was considered without any value judgments regarding the relative importance of any one category over another.

The government spending category includes data on a county’s six-year average per capita spending and total dollar increase in spending.

The government debt category includes data on the county’s six-year average per capita debt and total dollar increase in debt.

The government size category includes data on the percent of government spending on salaries and benefits, full-time employees (FTEs) per 100,000 residents, and average public employee salary.

The crime category includes data on violent crime rate, property crime rate, and total crime clearance rate.

The education category includes data on average school grade and graduation rate.

The grades (A-F) are used as comparative scales to help Floridians understand a city or county’s overall performance in each category. In this ranking system, not every city or county can get an “A,” because grades A through D are evenly distributed based on how cities and counties compare against others of their size. 

  • “A” represents the top-performing 25% of ranked cities or counties 
  • “B” represents the second-best performing 25% of ranked cities or counties 
  • “C” represents the third-best performing 25% of ranked cities or counties 
  • “D” represents the lowest-performing 25% of ranked cities or counties

An “F” grade does NOT indicate “failing,” but rather that the county or city did not fully report its data to the state. These cities are labeled non-compliant in the data. For this project, 100% of counties delivered their data, so no counties received an “F” grade. 

Small cities that are compliant but do not have data to report are labeled data unavailable.

Large city = at least 25,000 residents; Small city = less than 25,000 residents
Large county = at least 150,000 residents; small county = less than 150,000 residents

No, only cities and counties are included in this project.

This project was directed by The Florida House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Jose R. Oliva.

Data on spending, debt, public employment and public salary and benefits is already submitted to the state directly by cities and counties. Crime and education data has been collected from additional public sources, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Education.

That type of comparison – showing how any individual jurisdiction compares with the state average for that type of jurisdiction – can be provided through this data. However, the specific comparisons included in this Report Card show taxpayers precisely where their city or county stands against others of its size.

This project does not attempt to rate or compare the quality of life, infrastructure, or any other qualitative factor for cities or counties. Rather, it is up to local residents to view how their city or county compares with others of its size with those types of value judgments in mind. If local residents are satisfied with their county’s or city’s spending and debt levels and believe funds have been properly and effectively spent, that is a positive outcome for this project. On the other hand, if residents believe their county’s or city’s spending is relatively high and believe their quality of life or infrastructure is unfavorable, this analysis may influence future funding decisions and choices moving forward. We provide the data and make value judgments such as; high crime is negative, high debt and spending is negative, great schools are positive, and others. But this is a transparency project so the data is available for you to examine. Make your own judgments and hold elected officials accountable.

Category - one of five areas that we looked at to rank local governments on their performance. The categories are: government spending, government debt, government size, crime and education.

Factor - individual data points that make up each category. For more information about what factors were included in each category, click here.

Ranking - a ranking is a position, order, or standing within a group. In this project, a letter grade represents the ranking of the county or city in each of the five categories. Learn about how rankings work here.

Grades - the grades are rankings, and the rankings are grades in this project. The grades represent where a city or county falls among others: “A” represents the top-performing 25% of ranked cities or counties; “B” represents the second-best performing 25%; “C” represents the third-best performing 25%; “D” represents the lowest-performing 25%.

Non-compliant - counties or cities that did not fully report their data to the state received an “F” grade and non-compliant labeling on the website.

To calculate rankings for each category, first, each factor that makes up the category was ranked. The ranking of each of the factors were then averaged together, and then that average (which makes up the score for the category) was ranked.

Grades were then assigned to the final ranking so that “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 or “data unavailable” on the website.

Learn more about our methodology here.

Education Rankings FAQ

The TATP Education grades and DOE's School and District Grades are different, and they have different objectives.

TATP's grade allows for Floridians to easily compare “Education” in their city or county to "Education" in jurisdictions of similar size. TATP Education grades are based on just two factors: average grade of all schools in the jurisdiction and average high school graduation rate (both from 2018-19 data published by DOE).

For this project, equal portions of jurisdictions receive As, Bs, Cs, and Ds, based on how each compares against other counties or cities of similar size. Therefore, not all jurisdictions can receive an "A."

This is different from DOE’s School and District Grades methodology, where several factors go into the grades, and schools and districts are measured against a predetermined benchmark of success whereas the TATP grade measures schools against schools in similar-sized jurisdictions. Furthermore, DOE’s District Grades treat individual districts like one large school, while our method considers the variation among school grades in a jurisdiction.

First, we took the school grades of schools in the jurisdiction and the graduation rates of all the high schools in the jurisdiction, created an average for each of those components, and ranked them. Then, we averaged those values together and ranked them against jurisdictions in their size group.

Unlike the DOE School and District grade, which indicates an absolute level of performance, the grades in this system are labels on a quartile scale to make comparisons easier and to create an incentive for cities and counties to be ever improving.

The purpose of this project was to give taxpayers a nonpartisan, comparative look at objective data so that they could easily see how their area ranks (across many categories, including Education) against others of similar size.

Each of the TATP categories includes more than one factor so that the grade and ranking offers a broader look at performance. Graduation rate is one of several factors that play into DOE’s school grade for high schools and overall district grade. Graduation rate is also a simple data point that measures how well a local government is fulfilling its promise to educate students from early childhood through high school. It’s a fair indicator of how the region is doing, and therefore, worth factoring in — even beyond the small role it plays in DOE grades.

Similar to how DOE calculates school grades, we did not include alternative schools or ESE centers in our data set.

If a county or city has no high schools, and therefore has no recorded graduation rate, it would NOT be penalized in these rankings. Rather, it would be labeled “data not available” to reflect this status accurately.

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