Local Government Expenditures
Local government spending and services are often more immediate and visible to most residents than state spending. In a typical day, we’ll use local water, flush it into the local sewer, run a toaster with city electricity, drive on a public street to work, drop off the children at a local public school, and come home to a house built according to local building codes.
Oklahoma’s local governments spent over $13 billion on public services in 2013, about $9 billion less than the state government. Local government spending is highly concentrated in education. Local governments spend far less than the state on health and social services and insurance trusts but considerably more on environment and housing and on utilities.
There are many differences between state and local spending and services.
- State services are offered uniformly, for the most part, across the state and available to all eligible Oklahomans, while local services are directed mainly toward local residents and tailored to local needs.
- While there is just one state government, there are many local ones and everyone is served by from two to ten local governments. As a result, local services are overlapping and competitive. Some argue this makes local government inefficient due to money spent on duplicate services on a small scale. Others believe the small and competing local governments promote efficiency by offering residents choice in local tax and service levels.
- Residents and businesses have more control over local spending and services. It is easier to access local elected officials and to get information about local taxes, spending and services. As a result, local spending can be more carefully tailored to meet the expectations of local citizens.
Local governments vary tremendously in geographic size (from a few blocks to a thousand or more square miles), in complexity (from zero to 5,000 full-time employees), in cost (from a few thousand to hundreds of millions of dollars in annual spending), and in scope (from offering only water service to providing a full range of services from police to streets to code enforcement to arenas).