Category Archives: State & Local Finance

Strategic interaction sequences: the institutionalization of participatory budgeting in New York City

Source: Isaac Jabola-Carolus, Luke Elliott-Negri, James M. Jasper, Jessica Mahlbacher, Manès Weisskircher & Anna Zhelnina, Social Movement Studies, Advance Access, Published online: August 6, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
An interactive approach to social movements highlights time dynamics in ways more correlational approaches do not, in that interaction and outcomes unfold in sequences as players react to one another. Some aspects of these engagements are shaped by institutional schedules, while others leave discretion to the players. Some institutional schedules, meanwhile, may be reshaped by strategic interactions. By examining the implicit trade-offs and explicit dilemmas that pervade strategic interaction, we see how some are tightly linked to time whereas others more closely reflect ongoing structural situations. Analyzing the case of participatory budgeting in New York City, we focus on two trade-offs, ‘being there’ and ‘powerful allies’, that appear when social movements attempt to institutionalize new policies and processes. These time-based strategic trade-offs complicate activists’ efforts to secure lasting gains.

Approaching a Tipping Point? A History and Prospectus of Funding for the University of California

Source: John Aubrey Douglass and Zachary Bleemer, University of California – Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education, August 20, 2018

From the abstract:
This year marks the University of California’s (UC) 150th anniversary. In part to reflect on that history, and to provide a basis to peer into the future, the following report provides a history of the University of California’s revenue sources and expenditures. The purpose is to provide the University’s academic community, state policymakers, and Californians with a greater understanding of the University’s financial history, focusing in particular on the essential role of public funding.

In its first four decades, UC depended largely on income generated by federal land grants and private philanthropy, and marginally on funding from the state. The year 1911 marked a major turning point: henceforth, state funding was linked to student enrollment workload. As a result, the University grew with California’s population in enrollment, academic programs, and new campuses. This historic commitment to systematically fund UC, the state’s sole land-grant university, helped create what is now considered the world’s premier public university system.

However, beginning with cutbacks in the early 1990s UC’s state funding per student steadily declined. The pattern of state disinvestment increased markedly with the onset of the Great Recession. As chronicled in this report, the University diversified its sources of income and attempted to cut costs in response to this precipitous decline, while continuing to enroll more and more Californians. Even with the remarkable improvement in California’s economy, state funding per student remains significantly below what it was only a decade ago.

Peering into the future, this study also provides a historically informed prospectus on the budget options available to UC. Individual campuses, such as Berkeley and UCLA, may be able to generate other income sources to maintain their quality and reputation. But there is no clear funding model or pathway for the system to grow with the needs of the people of California. UC may be approaching a tipping point in which it will need to decide whether to continue to grow in enrollment without adequate funding, or limit enrollment and program growth to focus on quality and productivity.

Want a lower tax bill? So do Apple and Genentech

Source: Catherine Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, August 12, 2018

For-profit companies don’t typically downplay the value of their assets.

But when it comes to paying property taxes, some of Silicon Valley’s largest companies are going head to head with officials to try to prove that some of the equipment and machinery they used to become global titans are actually worth a lot less than what county tax assessors say.

In the Bay Area, Genentech and Apple are particularly aggressive in opposing tax assessors — elected officials who determine the value of property for tax purposes. Both companies are leading years-long efforts to recoup tens of millions of dollars they say they’ve overpaid in taxes on buildings, land, lab equipment, computers and other items….

…. There is nothing illegal or unethical about appealing assessments. Companies are entitled to contest property assessments they believe are done improperly or inaccurately. But the tactics taken by Genentech, Apple and other large corporations, county assessors say, border on abusing the system.

The practice, they say, forces local governments to hold millions of dollars in limbo that would otherwise go to taxpayer-funded programs like schools, roads and special districts, in case they have to issue refunds to the companies. ….

Related:
Apple argued building was worth $200 not $1B to lower tax bill
Source: Ali Breland, The Hill, August 14, 2018

Amid Legal and Political Uncertainty, DACA Remains More Important Than Ever

Source: Tom K. Wong, Sanaa Abrar, Tom Jawetz, Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec, Patrick O’Shea, Greisa Martinez Rosas, and Philip E. Wolgin, Center for American Progress, August 15, 2018

Note: The survey results can be found here. For more information on the survey, please contact Tom K. Wong.

Since it was first announced on June 15, 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has provided work authorization as well as temporary relief from deportation to approximately 822,000 undocumented young people across the United States.

From July 16 to August 7, 2018, Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego; United We Dream; the National Immigration Law Center; and the Center for American Progress fielded a national survey to further analyze the experiences of DACA recipients. The study includes 1,050 DACA recipients in 41 states as well as the District of Columbia.

This research, as with previous surveys, shows that DACA recipients are making significant contributions to the economy and their communities. In all, 96 percent of respondents are currently employed or enrolled in school.

….Several years of data, including this 2018 survey, make clear that DACA is having a positive and significant effect on wages. The average hourly wage of respondents increased by 78 percent since receiving DACA, from $10.32 per hour to $18.42 per hour. Among respondents 25 years and older, the average hourly wage increased by 97 percent since receiving DACA. These higher wages are not only important for recipients and their families but also for tax revenues and economic growth at the local, state, and federal levels…..

Colorado School District Gives Students 4-Day Weeks

Source: Suzannah Weiss, Teen Vogue, August 15, 2018

Many of us wish we could have longer weekends, but for about 18,000 students in Colorado, that wish is coming true. A school district outside Denver has decided to shorten its week to four days, and the first school year on this new schedule just started, CBS Denver reports. It began on Tuesday, August 14, because the day students get off is everyone’s least favorite: Monday.

While this may sound like a dream come true, it means students will have to sit through longer school days to make up for the hours they’ve lost, according to The Denver Post.

The decision wasn’t made just to give students more days off, though; it had practical motivations: to save money and attract better teachers. The district estimates that it will save $1 million by not having buses on Mondays, hiring fewer subs, and spending less on utilities, according to KUSA Denver. ….

…. Around 560 districts in 25 states include schools with four-day weeks, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but evidence is mixed on how the different schedule affects students’ performance. ….

An Overdue Discussion: Two takes on the library-fine debate

Source: Phil Morehart, American Libraries, June 1, 2018

Whether to charge fines for overdue materials is a hot-button topic. The issues are many: Some libraries have halted the practice, citing concerns that fines keep patrons away, while other libraries have kept them in place as vital revenue streams. Fines are also used by some libraries as a method to teach personal responsibility, while other libraries consider that lesson outside the realm of librarianship. We spoke with a librarian on each side of the debate….

Midyear update – Higher Education – Favorable government funding and investment returns, tuition revenue pressure continues

Source: Susan E Shaffer, Susan I Fitzgerald, Kendra M. Smith, Moody’s, Sector Comment, August 6, 2018
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While our outlook for the higher education sector remains negative, 2018 growth of several revenue streams has been more favorable than anticipated. Both an improved federal research funding environment and ongoing favorable investment returns are credit positive for the sector. For public universities, overall state fiscal conditions are improving, leading to stable-to-growing appropriations for fiscal 2019. However, moving into fiscal 2019, flat enrollment — declining in certain regions of the country — and a continued focus on affordability will likely continue to limit growth in tuition and fees, the largest revenue stream supporting the sector….

Related:
Community Colleges – Reauthorization of federal career and technical funding credit positive
Source: Patrick McCabe, Susan I Fitzgerald, Kendra M. Smith, Moody’s, Sector Comment, August 6, 2018
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On July 31, the Strengthen Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) was signed into law, reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act initially approved in 1984. This federal grant initiative, centered on state and local career and technical education (CTE), serves as an important funding source for secondary and postsecondary programs designed to align training and work-based learning opportunities with evolving workforce needs. Perkins V renews and updates the federal government’s commitment to these goals, an overall credit positive for the community college sector and community colleges’ efforts to improve cooperative education opportunities.

New York sales tax collections reach eight-year high, a credit positive for many cities and counties

Source: Robert Weber, Thomas Jacobs, Moody’s, Sector Comment, August 8, 2018
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On 1 August, the New York State (Aa1 stable) Comptroller’s Office announced that first half of calendar year 2018 sales tax collections grew 6% over 2017, the highest six-month increase since 2010. Sales tax revenues are a significant revenue stream for many counties and cities across New York, and sales tax growth also indicates that New York’s economy is improving. Additionally, the early effects of the federal tax law may be having a positive influence on people’s buying habits through the first half of 2018. As a result, these results are credit positive for many cities and counties in New York.

Related:
Deficit financing legislation helps distressed local governments but lacks teeth
Robert Weber, Thomas Jacobs, Gregory W. Lipitz, Naomi Richman, Leonard Jones, Moody’s, Sector Comment, August 8, 2018
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New York’s (Aa1 stable) legislation allowing municipalities to issue bonds to liquidate operating deficits is an important tool for local governments mired in financial distress. However, accessing this deficit financing has produced mixed results, providing a one-time influx of cash but still leaving local governments vulnerable to poor management decisions.