Tennessee’s top three cities fare poorly in new report

Published 2:39 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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By J.D. Davidson

The Center Square

A new report analyzing nearly 150 of the nation’s top cities ranks Tennessee’s three largest cities among the worst.

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Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville each ranked below 115th in the study, which examined a “quality of services” score made up of 36 metrics measured against the city’s per-capita budget developed by WalletHub, a personal finance website.

“The best-run cities in America use their budgets most effectively to provide high-quality financial security, education, health, safety and transportation to their residents,” WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe said. “Many of the top cities also have a very low amount of outstanding government debt per capita, which can prevent financial troubles in the future.”

Knoxville ranked the best in Tennessee, although significantly down the list at 118th. It ranked 72nd in quality of city services and had a total budget rank of 125th.

“Although not performing exceptionally well, Knoxville shows a marginally better balance between its budget and service quality,” Happe said. “This indicates that while Knoxville may have more limited financial resources, it manages to deliver a relatively higher quality of services to its residents compared to Nashville. The city still faces significant challenges, particularly in health and safety metrics, but it appears to be more effective in certain aspects of governance and resource allocation than its larger counterpart.”

Nashville followed at 124th, ranking 117 in quality of city services and 118 in total budget. Nashville also tied San Francisco for the worst long-term debt outstanding per capita.

“Nashville, ranked 124th overall, demonstrates significant challenges in its management and efficiency,” Happe said. “It notably struggles with financial issues, tying for the highest outstanding debt per capita with San Francisco. This financial burden likely hampers its ability to allocate resources effectively across essential services.”

Memphis was the last Tennessee city ranked in the report, coming in 134th. It ranked 142nd in quality of services and 97th in total debt. Memphis is tied with Detroit for the highest violent crime rate.

The best-run cities were Nampa, Idaho; Lexington, Ky.; Boise, Idaho; Nashua, N.H.; and Oklahoma City. The worst were Baton Rouge, La.; Bismarck, N.D.; Manchester, N.H.; Huntington, W.V.; and Billings, Mont.