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Balancing the books.

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  • Hello.

    I've recently picked up a copy of SimCity4, but seem to be having a little bit of a problem with keeping my cities going. My first few cities grew nicely, getting up to around 1,200 people, but then suffered massive drops in population... I saw 1,200 drop to 620 in one month at one point. All my residential was occupied, but Ind and Com zones where left empty most of the time. Oh, and I could never break even or make a profit on the budget (I did start to make money, but then the population crash ruined that).

    My new city is going ok... But I've spent 90k and am still not turning a profit. Population is around 3,500, I have 2 elementary schools, and 1 High School, 2 med clinics and a fire station. Ive managed my budget quite well so that everything is running at optimum capacity (i.e just a fraction above the actual usage levels), but havent really touched taxes (increased them a little, but Im sure that increasing them too much is what caused the population crashes I experienced earlier). My Mayor rating is always high... areas are quite desirable, only low land value is my Indutrial sector outside the rest of the city, crime is low, everything seems to be fine... except my spending, which is to get my budget even, which it never does.

    I guess my question is... or rather my questions are...

    1. Do I need the High school this early in my citys growth? It is quite a chunk of my budget, and as I want the best coverage I have bus funding at max, so everyone can attend (even though I only have 9 students). Is it only people within the bus funding radius that can attend, or can others just walk? My Elementary schools are quite full, or at least one is, the other is new so dont know its attendance yet.

    2. Do I need to have everyone covered by the Med clinic radius? Or will the lower ranks of my population populate the areas without the coverage? I always feel that med clinics, elementary and high schools where neccesary facilities, that they HAD to be there to get the city going. Are there any essential civic buildings? I thought that R$$ wouldnt move in without a High school... is this valid?

    3. My city is almost exclusively residential buildings (I find I have to keep building more to get a boost in population to get a boost in taxes in the hope breaking even on the budget... but I feel like I'm chasing a dream... when pop goes up I need to increase utilities and my outgoings increase). When I build commercial they fill up very slowly, and my Ind does fill but never fully... there are large gaps inside the zones, even though they aren't that big (maybe 6x6 or 7x7, with good roads, water). Will constructing a neighbouring city bring an increase in  industry and commerce? Is there any way to do this without expensive railways/airports etc? What sort of ratio should I have with RCI?

    I just find that I can't get the budget even... my city is one big flat sprawl of 5x5 residential areas with streets and roads where traffic is heavy... but no matter how much res I build and fill, I cant get a balanced budget...

    4. What sort of levels are safe with taxes? I want to make the most I can, but dont want people fleeing my city. Im only really making substantial money from R$ and I$, a little from R$$ ($10 or something), some from C$ and nothing from anything else... because they aren't there. 

    5. How much should I be spending before I'm breaking even? Should I just build a small settlement with little amenities, turn a little profit and make back my outlay before expanding... I just seem to keep building residential (there is plenty demand and I keep thinking the extra taxes will get me even). Should I keep expanding with demand, or hang back for a while?

    6. How should I go about building up the region? should I get one city up to about 1,000 pop, then get a neighbouring city to the same, then join them and build them together? Just now I'm taking it one city at a time, trying to get a balanced budget and maybe turn a profit. 

    7. Are they any mods that make it easier to

    I know this is a lot of questions... they probably won't be my last ones either. I used to play simcity2 when it was first out... and seemed to have no problem getting a vast metropolis going... but with SC4 I just seem to be stumbling out of the blocks... 

    Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.... Malbolge.

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    The key to getting a city onto its feet is to start out small and humble. Your sims might be demanding schools and healthcare, but ignore them at first. All you need is a power plant and a way to dispose of their garbage. Don't even build a fire station until your first fire breaks out.

    Just zone low-density residential at the beginning (medium and high density won't develop unless there's a water supply), and don't worry much about commercial. I usually only have one or two tiles of commercial buildings.

    Another good idea would be to enable the legalize gambling ordinance for the time being, as it gives you an extra $100 every month. Once you're turning in a profit you can then illegalize it again. You should see black numbers soon, and there isn't a big need to change the taxes at the beginning of the game.

    Keep on expanding, and once you're turning up a profit that is larger than the monthly expense of a civic building you want to place, go ahead and build it. Make sure you adjust the funding for schools and hospitals individually. Use the query tool and lower the coverage area so that it goes just a bit beyond your populated areas, and lower the funding so that it's about the same as what is in demand, with some buffer so you don't get strikes (e.g. fund an elementary school with 150 students to have a capacity of about 170 to 190. That way you're accomodating for future growth.)

    So once again, the keys to a good launch of a city include taking it slow at first, as well as not spoiling your citizens right away.

    Hope the crash course helped! Happy mayoring!

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    I'm not sure why your population crashes are occurring (could it be due to tax increases?)

    I would suggest not building any higher educational institutions (i.e. high schools, colleges, museums etc.) till later on in the game. Libraries are fairly affordable and can be retained.

    Build your services so that they are impacting the most people possible. You mentioned that your high school only has 9 students, that is definitely not worth having then.

    R$$ can definitely move in without a high school, it's not always necessary, and you do not have to have a med clinic cover the whole radius (just expect better growth in the covered areas)

    In terms of multi-city building, I usually build an industrial area and place all my R$'s there (I control this using high taxes for R$$ and R$$$). The industrial areas need few services except utilities, police, and fire so it is easy to make money on them. I then build a joint city of R$$ and R$$$ with lots of CS (these are good tax revenue and will allow you to afford the services you are providing to these groups)

    Hope this helps.

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    I agree that your dropping population is probably caused by high taxes. I always run my cities on maximum speed, and even low demand has never caused a huge population decrease. Here is a summary of my general strategy. It might help you out significantly.

    City-Wide Strategy

    I start each residential city with avenues as the backbone of the city, connecting to ajoining squares. To begin I provide water, a clinic, a grade school, police, and a library. This most efficiently immediately covers all levels of education. You want water taken care of because R$$$ will only develop with water, health, and education buildings. I only zone low density residential. Please don't touch taxes at all. I only adjust taxes to counter high demand when most regional squares are taken.

    In your case, first zone a large portion of residential with water, health, and education as mentioned above. Don't touch taxes. Connect your water and a few roads to adjoining cities (neighbor connections). Now hit the gas until your squares develop and demand goes down. Instead of building industrial in the same city, save your residental city and move to a square right next to your residential city. Found a city with pure industrial. Now zone a huge chunck of medium industrial. Build a coal plant in one corner, and two trash incinerators in the opposite corner. That way most pollution goes off the map. Adjust funding in your incinerators to zero. Power costs 20 cents per MWh at your incinerators, but only 4.1 cents per MWh at your coal plant. Cutting 100% funding to your incinerators won't stop them from doing their garbage job, so don't worry. Make two neighborhood deals: 1) to take garbage from the neighboring residential city, and 2) to buy water from the residential city next door. That way your residential cities don't waste space on polluting zones, and your industrial cities don't have problems with polluted water. Commercial property is a little more confusing. At first I recommend you zone a few squares on the most traveled roads in your residential city. You should also consider buidling an adjoining commercial city for future growth. Remember that the bigger the road, the faster residents travel on them. This early in the game highways aren't economically feasable. Sometimes if I'm using a medium square for residential I connect my cities at the border with highways, which can be directly connected to my avenues. This is a strategy best used when commute times are an issue. It really helps.

    Hope this helped you out. When I had trouble I purchased the game strategy guide. You might consider this as well.

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    When you first start out and your tax base is small, the motto should be "Deprive, deprive, deprive". The only necessity to prevent riots is health care, and that doesn't even have to cover all your sims. Health care will give you more net taxes over a sims lifetime, because they live longer during their working years (not kids, not retired).

    You can do completely without water and grow low and medium wealth residential (but not medium density), agriculture, dirty industry, low stage manufacturing, low wealth commercial service, and medium wealth commercial office (again no medium density).

    Education is your next priority. Without it you can only support agriculture, dirty industry, and low wealth commercial service. Once you get even a little education you start qualifying for limited development of the above.

    Don't spend on police unless you really have a crime problem. If you balance your sims other needs, you may find many neighborhoods need none or limited police coverage.

    One firestation to start for an entire city, and not until absolutely necessary.

    - Start with those things and build a good road and bus system. That should get you in the black in no time, and then just add the goodies like parks sparingly.

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