White Papers for the 2018 Urban Forum will be posted and available to read on September 1. The topics and authors are:
The paper will explore tools to quantify and observe fiscal challenges, in particular debt, unfunded liabilities, revenue/expenditure trends. The author will also identify contemporary fiscal challenges at all levels of local government and examine when these fiscal challenges emerge and why.
Long-term liabilities: Pensions, OPEBs and infrastructure. Local governments can create short- term savings by underfunding long-term liabilities, such as pensions, post-retirement health care, and repair and maintenance of fixed assets or infrastructure. What are the causes and consequences of such fiscal behavior? How pervasive is it across the municipal landscape nationally and what lessons can be learned? How can officials today be held accountable for decisions that affect the future fiscal position of their city?
The contemporary fiscal situation of cities. Municipal governments are general-purpose governments, meaning they provide an array of services to residents and non-residents alike. The fiscal portfolio of municipalities varies across the nation and is constrained by state constitutions and statutes. This paper focuses on the diversity of revenue portfolios, exploring the constraints and opportunities that affect fiscal policy behavior. The paper includes a discussion of how cities’ fiscal architecture are nested within the intergovernmental fiscal system, with particular attention on the prospective impact of the recently-approved Tax Reform bill that limits the deductibility of state and local taxes.
Linking resources to government services. City governments began diversifying their revenue sources away from a sole reliance on the ad valorem property tax in the early- to mid-20 th Century. Since then, many government services have been linked to an identifiable revenue source, such as water and sewer fees, parking fees, and to a limited extent dedicated taxes for specific purposes, such as a dedicated property tax for infrastructure (and debt retirement). This paper examines the extent to which government services are linked to specific taxes and fees and explores the future of designing fiscal systems that do, or do not, continue the trend of service-specific fees and taxes.
Cities and regions: competition and cooperation among proximate jurisdictions. Cities for the most part operate within a complex governance web of other cities and local governments as part of a metropolitan region. Horizontal governments, such as special districts and school districts which overlay municipal governments, compete for the same resource base to generate funds for the provision of services. The level of fragmentation or consolidation certainly affects the opportunities for cities to cooperate with each other. This paper explores evolving models of regional governance and discusses the level and type of competition and cooperation among local governments, as they adjust and adapt to changing fiscal environments.