Category Archives: State & Local Finance

How Did Revenue and Spending per Student Change at Four-Year Colleges and Universities Between 2006-07 and 2012-13?

Source: Nate Johnson & Takeshi Yanagiura, Postsecondary Analytics, LLC, August 2015

From the press release:
An independent report released today finds that overall four-year public universities have expended more resources educating students despite absorbing overall funding losses due to state budget cuts not fully offset by tuition and fee revenue. During the six year period of 2006-07 to 2012-13, after adjusting for inflation, four-year public universities experienced state funding cuts of $2,370 per student, while tuition and fee revenues increased by only $1,940 – a net loss of $430 per full-time student. Over that same period of time, four-year public universities increased educational and related expenditures by $528 per full time student.

National Association of Counties (NACo) Holds Capitol Hill Briefing on Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)

Source: National Association of Counties (NACo), September 10, 2015

On September 10, 2015, National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Western Interstate Region host a briefing on Capitol Hill to describe the importance of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, urging members of Congress to approve immediate (FY16) and long-term funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, or PILT. ….

Sixty-two percent of counties have federal lands within our boundaries. Despite not being able to collect property tax on federal lands, county governments must still provide important services for their residents and visitors to public lands, including solid waste disposal, law enforcement, road and bridge upkeep and emergency medical services. Counties provide significant support for national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and other land that covers roughly 640 million acres, or nearly 28 percent of the U.S.

This year, the PILT program provided $442 million to approximately 1,900 counties and other local governments to offset forgone tax revenues due to the presence of substantial acreage of federal land in our jurisdictions. The authorization for PILT is set to expire Sept. 30, 2015…..

Map: Public Assistance Expenditures for Working Families by State

Source: University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2015

Select any state to see how much federal and state money is going to working families for public assistance programs in that state. Federal costs are comprised of expenditures on Medicaid/CHIP, the cash assistance portion of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and Food Stamps (SNAP). State costs are comprised of expenditures on Medicaid/CHIP and the cash assistance portion of TANF. All figures represent yearly expenditures using data from 2009-2011, adjusted to 2013 dollars. For more information see the report The High Public Cost of Low Wages.

» Download the spreadsheet (EXCEL)

Counties save on employee prescriptions with foreign drugs

Source: Charles Taylor, County News, August 21, 2015

Flagler County, Fla. commis­sioners have approved a plan to import prescription drugs through a Canadian broker that officials say could save employees 50 percent to 80 percent on some medications. The company, CanaRx, will supply brand-name maintenance medications — such as those for high blood pressure or to lower cholesterol. Participation in the pro­gram will be voluntary, according to Joe Mayer, the county’s director of community services. And the county will continue to offer an other prescription benefit through its onsite employee health clinic or retail pharmacies for generics…. Schenectady County, N.Y. has had a similar program since 2004, County Attorney Chris Gardner said. As a result, the county is spending less on prescription drugs than in 2003. Back then, he said, prescription costs were poised to overtake medical costs…..

Governance Reform and the Judicial Role in Municipal Bankruptcy

Source: Clayton P. Gillette, David A. Skeel Jr., New York University School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-28, July 27, 2015

From the abstract:
Recent proceedings involving large municipalities such as Detroit, Stockton, and Vallejo illustrate both the utility and the limitations of using the Bankruptcy Code to adjust municipal debt. In this article, we contend that, to truly resolve the distress of a substantial city, municipal bankruptcy needs to do more than simply provide immediate debt relief. Debt adjustment alone does nothing to remedy the fragmented decision-making and incentives for expanding municipal budgets that underlie municipal distress. Unless bankruptcy also addresses governance dysfunction, the city may slide right back into financial crisis. Governance restructuring has long been an essential element of corporate bankruptcy. Given the monopoly position of local governments as providers of local public goods, governance reform is even more important in the municipal bankruptcy context.

Some might argue that reducing a city’s debt is the best bankruptcy courts can do, because a more comprehensive approach would, among other things, interfere with state sovereignty. In our view, these concerns do not withstand inspection. Based on a careful analysis of the historical origins of the current municipal bankruptcy provisions, as well as an assessment of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence, we argue that governance reform is permitted even under existing law. To be sure, the states themselves, rather than a bankruptcy court, ideally should be the ones to effect municipal governance reform. But political factors and the salience of the fiscal crisis make state intervention unlikely, thus underscoring the need for a more comprehensive approach to municipal bankruptcy.

The Interplay of Public Pensions and the Broad Economy

Source: Dennis Lockhart, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Speech to the Public Pension Funding Forum Speech – Berkeley CA, August 24, 2015

Atlanta Fed President and CEO Dennis Lockhart, discusses ways that public pensions and the broad economy interact.

• Lockhart says that state and local government spending cuts can become a headwind in a downturn and subsequent recovery, and pension funding gaps can exacerbate this tendency. But he doesn’t see the underfunding of public pension funds as a systemic risk.
• Lockhart believes the time to address funding gaps is before the next downturn arrives.
• Lockhart says that since the recession ended, the U.S. economy has grown at an average annual rate of 2.1 percent. His baseline forecast is for moderate growth with continuing employment gains and a gradually rising rate of inflation.
• Consistent with the picture of moderate growth, Lockhart expects the normalization of monetary policy—that is, interest rates—to begin sometime this year, and to proceed gradually, in an environment of low rates for quite some time. ….

On Track: How States Fund and Support Public Transportation

Source: Kevin Pula, Douglas Shinkle, Jaime Rall, National Conference of State Legislatures, August 2015

From the summary:
The role states and particularly state legislatures play in supporting and funding public transportation typically is not a well-understood dynamic. This report highlights the many successful state efforts to provide high-quality transit options, with an emphasis on state legislative actions. Many states use common funding sources to support transit: motor fuel taxes, state transportation funds, general funds and automobile-related fees or taxes. Many states are taking further steps to create alternative funding and finance mechanisms for public transportation. While the most common state-level support for public transportation comes in the form of funding, other types of program support exist.

State actions are organized into five categories in this report:
• Organizational/Structural
• Funding
• Finance
• Polices
• State/Local Nexus’

Throughout the report, specific state programs and initiatives are examined in detail to explore traditional, innovative and emerging methods of state support for public transportation.

Assessing the Credit Quality of America’s Cities

Source: Richard A. Ciccarone, MuniNet Guide, August 25, 2015

Part Five: The Bottom Line

The first four parts of this series on credit quality have concentrated on the several specific areas of financial condition, such as bond ratings, pensions, debt, OPEB, infrastructure and general fund operational cushions and liquidity. In this final installment of the series, we put it all together to evaluate the overall fiscal health of today’s U.S. cities. ….
Part One: Focusing on Bond Ratings?
Part Two: The Achilles Heel to the Fiscal Condition of Cities – Public Pensions
Part Three: Long-Term Liabilities beyond Pensions
Part Four: FY 2014 Financial Condition