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Local Government Fiscal Stress and Innovative Response Strategies

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PI: Das, B. (Iowa State University)
Co-PIs: Leatherman, J. (Kansas State University), Stallman, J. (University of Missouri), Maher, C. (University of Nebraska), Skidmore, M. and Scorsone, E.  (Michigan State University) and Bressers, B. (Miller School of Journalism)

Award: $20,353

Final Report

Project Abstract:  Local governments provide vital public services affecting individual quality of life and creating economic opportunity. But, the task of maintaining local public services is becoming more challenging. With reduced levels of support from higher levels of government, local governments will have to find solutions to tackle budgetary challenges at the local level. Although we are slowly recovering from the recent “Great Recession,” the rise of public sentiment antithetical to taxation and government expenditure is overwhelming many states.  Further, many state policies exacerbate local fiscal conditions. As local governments adjust to the ‘new normal,’ innovative response strategies are being employed to maintain local government services. These ‘innovations’ offer a glimpse into what the future potentially holds for local governments.

The goal of this study is to enhance county government fiscal management capacity within a context of general fiscal austerity. We propose an integrated research/Extension initiative to gain a better understanding of state-local intergovernmental fiscal relations and innovative county government response strategies. Conducting semi-structured interviews of state counties’ association Executive Directors. We will pay particular attention to implications for smaller rural counties and seek examples of innovative response strategies. We will develop two white papers. The first will report the current state of county government fiscal condition and include case studies of innovative response strategies for use by local elected and appointed officials, extension educators and other stakeholder groups. The second paper will offer a nuanced review of state policies that both exacerbate or alleviate local government fiscal stress.

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