Dashboard numbers for Houghton strong

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton City Manager Eric Waara discusses the city’s state performance dashboard numbers, which the council approved for posting to the website at Wednesday’s meeting.

HOUGHTON — Houghton’s state performance dashboard will show results largely similar to the year before.

The council approved the dashboard report, which will be posted on the city’s website at cityofhoughton.com.

Houghton posted positive progressions in four areas, neutral in six and negative trends in three others.

The dashboard, which began in 2011, displays financial reports and a variety of metrics in fiscal stability, public safety and quality of life.

Houghton scored negative on two measures related to general fund spending and fund balance. The city’s general fund expenditures per capita rose from $454 in 2016 to $536 in 2017, a 17.9 percent increase. Correspondingly, the fund balance as a percentage of general fund expenditures dropped from 35.1 percent to 22.8 percent over the same time period — a 34.9 percent fall.

The city consciously spent down some of its fund balance and put it into city projects at the direction of the council, following years of large surpluses.

“It’s kind of a catch-22,” said City Manager Eric Waara. “You adjust your balance in your general fund and spend it on the community, and it’s considered a negative by the state.”

By contrast, he said, the city’s percentage of general fund expenditures committed to arts, culture and recreation increased by 6.8 percent, which the state considered neutral.

The other negative on the dashboard came in traffic injuries. State figures showed the number in Houghton rising from four in 2016 to 38 in 2017.

City officials were perplexed by the rise. Police Chief John Donnelly was unsure of the reason, but said it may have been due to a change in how injuries were reported to the state.

“I don’t remember that dramatic of an increase in personal injury accidents,” he said.

Houghton’s positives came in underfunded pension as a percentage of annual general fund revenue, which declined by 6.1 percent; ratio of pensioners to employees, which dropped by 14.8 percent, violent crimes per thousand, which fell from 1 to 0; and property crimes per 1,000, which fell from 7 to 4.

Neutral categories were largely unchanged, such as acres of parks per thousand residents, or number of services delivered via cooperative venture.

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