Category Archives: Intergovernmental Relations

It Depends on What You Share: The Elusive Cost Savings from Service Sharing

Source: Austin M Aldag, Mildred E Warner, Germà Bel, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Access, September 30, 2019

From the abstract:
Intermunicipal cooperation is the most prevalent alternative service delivery method for US local governments. While aspirations for budgetary savings are one motivating factor, increased service quality and regional coordination are also important goals. We use an original 2013 survey of local governments in New York State to assess the level of service sharing and outcomes. We match our survey with 20 years (1996–2016) of service-level costs data to explore the relationships between sharing and costs across 12 common local government services. We contribute to the literature by providing the first multivariate assessment of the effect of cooperation on costs in the United States, and we contribute theoretical insights on the objectives and type of cooperation to explain differences in the effects of cooperation on costs across a variety of services. Our multivariate time series regressions find that service sharing leads to cost reductions in solid waste management, roads and highways, police, library, and sewer services; no difference in costs for economic development, ambulance/EMS, fire, water, and youth recreation; and higher costs in elder services, and planning and zoning. These differences are explained by whether services have characteristics such as asset specificity and the ability to achieve economies of scale on the one hand, or if sharing leads to greater administrative intensity or promotes other objectives such as quality and regional coordination outcomes on the other hand. We also analyze the effect of sharing on service costs over time, and find solid waste, roads and highways, police, and library are the only services where costs show a continued downward trend. These results show the limited role for economies of scale, even in asset specific services. Because cost savings are elusive, public sector reformers should be careful not to assume cost savings from sharing. The theoretical foundations for service sharing extend beyond economies of scale and transaction costs. Scholars should give more attention to organizational form and the broader goals of sharing.

Intergovernmental Costs of Political Gridlock: Local Government Cash Flow Smoothing during State Budgetary Delays

Source: Lang (Kate) Yang, Public Finance Review, OnlineFirst, Published October 4, 2019
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From the abstract:
Political gridlock in state legislature often leads to a failure in adopting a budget by the start of a fiscal year. This article examines the intergovernmental implication of late state budgets, specifically the cash management problem faced by localities during the stalemate. Without legislative appropriations, the state government could delay expected transfers and payments to localities. Late intergovernmental transfers may force localities to smooth out cash flow for continued service provision through short-term borrowing. Using municipal bond market data, this article finds that when the state budget is late, the average locality’s likelihood of issuing short-term debt increases by 61 percent among those with end-of-fiscal-year short-term debt outstanding experience, and the amount of debt issuance increases by 76 percent. As short-term debt carries interest costs, state’s political gridlock and policy inactions impose direct costs on local governments.

When Collaboration Is Risky Business: The Influence of Collaboration Risks on Formal and Informal Collaboration

Source: Jessica N. Terman, Richard C. Feiock, Jisun Youm, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, August 8, 2019
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From the abstract:
In the last two decades, local governments have increasingly engaged in energy conservation and sustainability programs and policy. However, the benefits of these policies (i.e., cleaner air, less congestion, etc.) are often perceived as dispersed and costly. As such, localities consider collaborating with one another. However, decisions to collaborate pose considerable risks that can be magnified or mitigated by the mechanisms through which collaboration occurs. We investigate decisions to engage in formal and informal collaboration in the area of energy efficiency and conservation as a response to collaboration risks.

Do Small Local Governments Fare Well? A Survey of Villages in New York

Source: Pengju Zhang, Marc Holzer, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, July 25, 2019
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From the abstract:
Public administration studies have not adequately discussed governance challenges for small local governments. Given that more than 10% of villages have, unprecedentedly, voted on dissolution in New York over the past 10 years, this article exclusively and comprehensively investigates how well villages are faring in New York. Using a representative survey of village governments, coupled with a rich secondary data set, it finds institutional and political tensions between villages and their underlying town(s). It also suggests intergovernmental fiscal factors have threatened the organizational and fiscal health of some village governments. In addition, villages have extensively established service-sharing mechanisms with town(s) to mitigate fiscal stress. The majority of village officials remain skeptical about dissolution as an effective approach to cost savings.

Right Cause, Wrong Method? Examining the Politics of State Takeover in Georgia

Source: Richard O. Welsh, Sheneka Williams, Shafiqua Little, Jerome Graham, Urban Affairs Review, Volume: 55 issue: 3, May 2019
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From the abstract:
A growing number of states are using state-run school districts to take over and improve persistently underperforming schools. This article uses Georgia to examine the politics of state takeover. We analyze the supporting and opposing coalitions as well as the alignment between state takeover and charter schools in the campaign for the constitutional amendment to create a statewide turnaround district. Our findings show that corporate interests, the governor, and nonprofit organizations supported state takeover, whereas educators, parents, and community organizations opposed state takeover. There was bipartisan support across coalitions and a crisscrossing of interests regarding local control and the path to school improvement. There are divergent views on charter schools, with supporters of state takeover favoring charter schools.

City governments are raising standards for working people—and state legislators are lowering them back down

Source: Marni von Wilpert, Economic Policy Institute, August 26, 2017

From the press release:
Progressive cities are raising their labor standards, but conservative state legislatures are preempting them

A new report by EPI Associate Labor Counsel Marni von Wilpert analyzes the recent wave of preemption laws that have swept across the country in the last decade. State governments use preemption laws to supersede city or county laws, or prevent local governments from legislating in certain areas at all—including blocking local governments’ efforts to raise labor standards. The paper explores the rise of preemption in five key areas of labor and employment: minimum wage, paid leave, fair work schedules, prevailing wages, and project labor agreements.
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The Promise of the State-Federal Partnership on Workforce and Job Training

Source: National Governors Association and the National Associations of State Workforce Liaisons and State Workforce Board Chairs, 2017

Report from the National Governors Association and the National Associations of State Workforce Liaisons and State Workforce Board Chairs on the importance of strong partnership between states and the federal government on workforce development.

Why Terminate? Exploring the End of Interlocal Contracts for Police Service in California Cities

Source: Eric S. Zeemering, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published April 3, 2017
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From the abstract:
With the recent growth in interlocal contracts for municipal service delivery, insufficient attention has been given to city governments that choose to terminate interlocal contracts. The termination of interlocal contracts deserves scrutiny because theory points to multiple possible explanations for service change. This research examines the termination of interlocal contracts for police service delivery by California cities between 2001 and 2010. Public documents from the nine cities that terminated interlocal contracts are analyzed to assess rationale for termination. The stated reasons for termination include problems related to community responsiveness, the contract relationship, local control, service cost, service levels, and staffing. Grounded theory is advanced through analysis of the nine cities. The research refines our understanding of how cities weigh the costs and benefits of in-house production versus production through interlocal contract. While contract failure is evident in some cities, termination may also be explained as a process of vertical integration and service expansion. The research refines theories about local government service delivery and informs the practice of interlocal contract management.

Approaches to Municipal Takeover: Home Rule Erosion and State Intervention in Michigan and New Jersey

Source: Ashley E. Nickels, State and Local Government Review, Online First, Published online before print September 21, 2016
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From the abstract:
Municipal takeovers proceed by a state declaring that a municipality is in fiscal crisis and placing it in receivership, handing over most local processes to a state-appointed manager. This policy of aggressive state intervention calls into question two principles of local autonomy enshrined in home rule: that allowing local matters to be handled by local authority removes the need for state special legislation and that giving local governments functional autonomy allows them to solve problems without state intervention. This article presents case studies of New Jersey and Michigan to examine differences in home rule protection as well as approaches to municipal takeover.