Came across a link to the City Manager's proposed budget for the City of Worcester, MA. Population about 180,000 give or take a few.

It's probably pretty represenative of all but the very largest of American cities. The numbers may change, but you'll probably find similiar proportions.

Here's the link

And here's some of the pertinent summarization by me:

Total FY 2004 budget: $447,770,746
% change from 2003: -0.65%

Education Budget: $231,986,386, or 51% of all spending
(In many small towns, Education is 70-80% of the budget!)
% change from 2003: 6.93%
Now obviously, if education is up 7% and it's half the budget, and the overall budget is level, then the general government budget is going to have to be down 7%...

I don't like how Worcester puts it's Insurance & Pension spending under "Fixed Expenses" because in reality, that stuff is mostly related to employment levels, and employment can vary. Bond payments and other truly fixed expenses do belong there! But they do, and I'm not going to try and allocate it across the board.

General Government Operations Budget: $89,826,964
Police: 29,772,364 = 33% General budget
Fire: 27,363,809 = 30% General budget
Public Works: 13,081,961 = 14%
Communications (Dispatch): 2,130,843 = 2%
Health: 1,746,972 = 2%
Code Enforcement: 1,632,221 = 2%

Those are all critical public safety & health functions -- from fire & police, to keeping the roads plowed & paved so the fire trucks and cruisers can actually go to emergencies, to answering 911, to inspecting restaurants so you're not getting sick, to inspecting buildings so they're not as likely to fall down and go boom on our heads. And that's just consumed 83% of your general government budget!

Another way to look at it, Schools, Fire, Police, and Public Works combined take 67% of the total municipal budget -- and that would be even more if Worcester allocated things like health insurance, pensions, workers comp, and the bond payments on schools & fire trucks to individual departments instead of being a single city-wide line item.

It's not always mean spirited city managers out to screw the firemen. When it comes to cutting the budget, guess what are the big budget items for most cities? Schools, Police, Fire, and Public Works in that order. Public Utilities like Water & Sewer are up there too, but they generally (like in Worcester) are funded by fees that offset their expenses, so they don't get a lot of attention usually.