1st Edition

Understanding Municipal Fiscal Health A Model for Local Governments in the USA

    350 Pages 69 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    350 Pages 69 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Understanding Municipal Fiscal Health provides an in-depth assessment of the fiscal health of cities throughout the United States.

    The book examines the tools currently available to cities for designing a revenue structure, measuring fiscal conditions and measuring fiscal health. It explains how artificial policies such as tax and expenditure limitations influence fiscal policies, and how communities can overcome socioeconomic and state-policy barriers to produce strong fiscal conditions. The authors go beyond simple theory to analyze patterns of fiscal health using actual financial, demographic and TEL data from an accurate data source, the Government Financial Officers Association survey. The book offers a solid basis of empirical evidence including quantitative case studies—complete with discussion questions—to help practitioners better understand the environment in which they are functioning and the policy tools they need to help advocate for change.

    This book teaches the reader the science and art of municipal financial analysis, and will be invaluable for local and state officials, analysts, and students and researchers.

    1. Introduction

    2. Inputs: Municipal Fiscal Environments

    3. Outputs: Municipal Fiscal Trends

    4. Outcomes: Measuring Fiscal Health

    5. Outcomes: Measuring Fiscal Stress

    6. Outcomes: Municipal Fiscal Condition Trends

    7. Policy Actions: Municipal Responses to Fiscal Stress

    8. Policy Actions: State Responses to Municipal Fiscal Stress

    Foreword to Municipal Case Studies

    9. Case Study of Flint, Michigan

    10. Case Study of Wichita, Kansas

    11. Case Study of North Lauderdale, Florida

    12. Case Study of Havelock, North Carolina

    13. Case Study of Commerce, California

    14. Academic and Professional Approaches to Financial Condition Analysis

    15. Conclusions and Lessons Learned

    Appendix A: Pros and Cons of the Census Bureau’s Survey of State and Local Government Finances

    Appendix B: Selected Benchmarks


    Craig S. Maher is a full professor and current director of the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, United States.

    Sungho Park is an assistant professor of public policy and administration in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alabama, United States.

    Bruce D. McDonald III is an associate professor of public budgeting and finance at North Carolina State University, United States.

    Steven C. Deller is a professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA, and a community economic development specialist with its Division of Extension.

    "The authors provide a comprehensive guide to the assessment of municipal fiscal health and stress that will be essential for local and state officials, analysts, and students and researchers. The data and measures available to public finance analysts has proliferated, but, until now, there was no clear guide on how to use it. This book teaches the reader the science and the art of municipal financial analysis and will be used for years."

    John R. Bartle, University of Nebraska at Omaha, United States

    "Despite local government’s indispensable contributions to our communities and the many billions of dollars that flow into local government budgets, there is no obvious way to judge the financial condition of these institutions. Understanding Municipal Fiscal Health provides a much-needed explanation of the inescapable complexities of measuring the financial condition of local governments. It covers the spectrum of issues that must be considered when attempting to measure the financial performance of organizations that don’t exist for a financial purpose! It also offers practical examples and insights that can help scholars and practitioners better apply the discipline of financial condition analysis to local governments and, thereby, support their continued viability."

    Shayne Kavanagh, Government Finance Officers Association, United States

    “This book is about a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the specific issue of municipal financial health, and to that aim the authors have conceived of it on the onion principle. Although this topic has been known in the world of research but also practice for several decades, this honest and artisanal approach goes peel by peel from external factors to the heart of understanding the financial health of municipalities using the US municipal sector and selected case studies as examples.”

    Filip Hrůza, Masaryk University, Czechia, writing in the International Journal of Public Administration, 46:11, 795-796 (2023) https://doi.org/10.1080/01900692.2023.2208771

    “Although the book gives the impression of being written with the practitioner in mind, I believe its strength lies in its ability to be used in the classroom… What I find particularly useful for teaching about the book is Chapter 14, which considers the academic and professional approaches to fiscal health… the authors discuss how the approaches of academics and practitioners differ and then discuss the use of their approach to resolve the gap. In my own teaching experience, this chapter has proven itself popular with students. When combined with the case studies of Chapters 9 through 13, the chapter helps students to understand the difference between academic and practitioner dynamics while giving them a process for working through how to resolve the differences. Furthermore, the chapter gives students a way of understanding the book’s model of fiscal health that can be applied by anyone working for a government, not just those with advanced statistical training.”

    Henry Muley, University of Zimbabwe, writing in Teaching Public Administration (2023) DOI: 10.1177/01447394231204687