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Image of city budget in Columbus, Ohio, is inaccurate

June 8, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: A chart shows that the city of Columbus, Ohio, plans to spend $359 million on its police, but only a few million dollars on schools, health and recreation for its 2020 budget.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Partially false. The city does plan to spend $359 million on its police department this year but the chart leaves out how much the city spends on other crucial services, like EMS and fire crews as well as road repair. It also does not include the nearly $1.5 billion budget for Columbus City Schools.

THE FACTS: Social media users are passing around a misleading chart, claiming that it shows how little the city of Columbus spends on services compared to the police department.

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Cities are just police departments with some underfunded services on the side,” one Twitter user wrote, in a tweet that’s been liked nearly 37,000 times.

The chart also claims to show that the city only spent $6.6 million on education in 2020, leaving some social media users with the impression that 55 times more is spent on police than on educating children in Columbus.

In fact, the city of Columbus does not oversee the public school system. Columbus City Schools has a separate budget and in total planned to spend $1.5 billion this year, according to the school system’s budget.

The viral image of the chart also does not represent the totality of what the city spends money on.

The city’s proposed general fund budget for this year is nearly $970 million, including $359 million for police.

But the chart that’s being shared in social posts leaves out several departments, including the fire department, which the city budgeted $271 million for, and the court system, which it plans to spend $32 million on this year.

The graphic also does not include the city’s $920 million capital budget, which is used for things like paving roads and repairing sewer lines.

Numbers on the viral chart -- including a $6.6 million budget line for education, which is used to fund preschool -- are mostly accurate but the image “doesn’t tell the whole story,” said City of Columbus Finance Director Joe Lombardi.

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He said since the image was posted online, the city has received calls from people who have asked about the budget.

Lombardi said the image was not taken off the city’s website or from city documents.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536

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