Public Money

Who Pays the Local Tax Bill?

For the past 15 years, cities have focused on attracting the creative class. The idea is that if you build a thriving creative culture -- vibrant communities of artists, writers, musicians and so on -- a thriving economy will follow. It’s a strategy that’s worked well, especially in places like Asheville, N.C.; Denver; and Seattle.

In many cities, it’s worked too well. Some creative-class cities have become victims of their own success, unable to keep up with demand for housing, local public services and livable-wage jobs for the lower-middle class. The result is a crisis of affordability driven by huge spikes in home prices, rents and homelessness.  READ MORE

Where a Shopping Mall Used to Be, an Opportunity Arises

There are threats everywhere to state and local revenues. To that list add this one: The golden age of malls in America seems to be well and truly over. Several of the country’s 1,000 enclosed malls and a chunk of the nation’s 47,000 shopping centers have either shut down or are emptying out. 

Overall investment in retail property assets declined nearly 20 percent last year. Vacancy rates in community shopping centers increased in 30 of 77 U.S. metro areas last year. Rents, which usually increase roughly at the rate of inflation in healthy markets, decreased. READ MORE

Millennials’ Investment Strategy Could Be a Boon for Government

Forty-five years ago, two novice Washington Post reporters unraveled the biggest political scandal in a generation. As depicted in the thriller All the President’s Men, a shadowy informant known only as Deep Throat -- 30 years later revealed to be longtime civil servant Mark Felt -- kept the young Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the game by instructing them to “follow the money.”  

Today, Deep Throat might instead say, “Follow the millennials.” That’s because JP Morgan estimates Americans ages 25 to 35 will invest a trillion dollars over the next five years. In the coming three decades baby boomers will turn over $30 trillion in assets to their millennial children and grandchildren, according to an Accenture-CNBC study. And that’s just in the U.S. READ MORE

States and Cities May Need Shelter From the Storm Brewing in U.S. Housing Policy

The direction set by Ben Carson, the new Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, will have immense impacts on localities. For starters, federal housing programs make up 40 percent of federal transfers to local governments. That’s a big chunk of change even as federal transfers overall have been in a long-term decline. 

Before we go on, here are some key numbers: Since 1977, the share of local government revenue from non-tax sources has remained fairly steady at 60 percent of general revenue. But the composition of non-tax revenue has changed. The portion from intergovernmental transfers declined from 43 percent of general revenue in 1977 to 36 percent in 2013, while revenue from charges and fees increased from 15 percent to 23 percent. Likewise, while the share of general revenue from local taxes has remained at about 40 percent, the composition of tax revenue has changed. The contribution of property taxes to general revenue declined from 34 percent in 1977 to 30 percent in 2013, while revenue from sales taxes increased from 5 percent to 7 percent. READ MORE

The Secret Benefits of Sharing Government Services

Each September, Umatilla County, Ore., hosts the Pendleton Round-Up, a massive rodeo that draws 50,000 people, nearly doubling the county’s population. Cowboys and cowgirls from across the country bring their broncos to compete, while guests line up to watch them battle bulls and rope steers, among other things, over the three-day affair.

But bringing so many people together has a downside: Each year, there are always outbreaks of communicable diseases such as rotavirus and influenza. Umatilla County’s public health professionals have the unenviable task of containing these outbreaks. Fortunately, they don’t go it alone. The county has several cross-jurisdictional sharing arrangements with other counties throughout the region. An especially important one is with neighboring Morrow County. That agreement allows public health officials in one county fast access to patient case files from the other. When infections can spread quickly, time is of the essence, so the arrangement is a real asset. READ MORE