The city of Charlottesville is leading the pack on increased government spending - but says you need to look at more than the totals to understand why.
It comes as people, there and everywhere, expect more services and smarter spending. All of it is paid for with the taxes collected from the residents, visitors and businesses.
The numbers are coming from a new report that compares government spending per capita across six localities in central Virginia. Researchers say the breakdown of these fiscal choices promotes debate and discussion of whether you're getting your money's worth.
"It's a most interesting picture in so much as we've seen an uptick of government spending, after a downturn during the recession," said Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum.
Government spending in central Virginia is on the rise according to the Free Enterprise Forum's third "Choices and Decisions" report. The city of Charlottesville sits at the top of the regional study - and for calculations across the commonwealth.
"In 2012, Charlottesville was the number two per capita spending in the state of Virginia," said Williamson.
The report looks at a figure called the local government spending index for the city and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson counties from 1990 to 2012. Charlottesville had the highest increase spending per capita at about 61 percent during that time period.
Charlottesville's Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos says covering cuts at the state level contribute to the costs.
"Our school funding in the past five years has been cut by about 30 percent from the state, so we've been making that up. So that's been a huge raise locally," said Szakos.
The data focused solely on the operating budget of each locality, but Szakos says there is more behind the choices and decisions for spending.
"I think to look at just the general budget capita doesn't really tell us much about how taxpayer money is spent," said Szakos. "When we're looking at the fact the city does bring in lots of grant funding, lots of funding from various sources - some of those aren't taxpayer money."
Researchers say the information is up for interpretation.
"Where your locality stacks up in comparison with other localities is a very interesting piece of information and if it can be presented objectively, it changes the dynamic of the conversation," said Williamson.
The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce provided some of the funding for this report.