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Fiscal Distress in Local Governments: Opportunities for State/Local Partnership


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Mary Murphy, manager of state and local fiscal health for the Pew Charitable Trusts, shares her latest research, which found that that only 22 states monitor local fiscal health.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Fiscal Distress in Local Governments: Opportunities for State/Local Partnership

  1. 1. Fiscal Distress in Local Governments: Opportunities for State/Local Partnership December 2, 2016
  2. 2. Opportunities for state/local partnership • Local governments are critical to state growth • Local officials have limited flexibility to address both long-term structural challenges and short-term shocks • Early detection creates opportunities to resolve challenges in advance of a fiscal crisis
  3. 3. Fiscal monitoring defined • States that actively and regularly review financial information from local governments • Assess the fiscal condition of local governments and/or identify signs of distress
  4. 4. Fiscal monitoring states Fiscal monitoring No monitoring WA OR NV CO NM SD MN IA LA FL TN KY NC OH MI PA NY NH RI CT NJ MD
  5. 5. Early warning states Fiscal monitoring Fiscal monitoring with early warning No monitoring WA OR NV CO NM SD MN IA LA FL TN KY NC OH MI PA NY NH RI CT NJ MD NV LA NC OH PA
  6. 6. Challenge 1 Challenge: Learning about fiscal distress too late. Solution: States check in with local governments on a frequent and regular basis to try to detect distress earlier.
  7. 7. Tennessee • Quarterly monitoring • Budgets and financial statements • Sufficient resources to meet obligations “A lot of what we’re doing is really proactive and upfront, rather than after things have gone wrong.” -Ron Queen, senior financial analyst, Office of State and Local Finance
  8. 8. Challenge 2 Challenge: Inconsistent monitoring when procedures are informal and not codified in statute. Solution: Formal systems and processes promote transparency, predictability, and consistency.
  9. 9. Rhode Island • Proposed tax rates and proposed budgets • Local governments are required to submit quarterly reports • Five year forecasts including pensions and OPEB “[Central Falls] was certainly a wake-up call… before no one really envisioned a municipality going bankrupt.” -Susanne Greschner, chief, Division of Municipal Finance
  10. 10. Challenge 3 Challenge: Tensions between state and local government officials. Solution: States can establish good working relationships with local governments.
  11. 11. New York “We want transparency. We’re not trying to ‘catch’ places.” -Craig Kinns, assistant director, operations, State Comptroller’s Division of Local Government and School Accountability • “No surprise approach” • Reach out to local governments in advance
  12. 12. Challenge 4 Challenge: Treating intervention as the only response. Solution: Identify smaller steps to help local governments that stop short of intervention.
  13. 13. Nevada “Taking over entities is pretty serious… fiscal watch offers all kinds of opportunities to correct [problems] before the state actually takes over.” -Terry Rubald, deputy executive director, Department of Taxation • “Fiscal watch” • 27 indicators • Committee on Local Government Finance
  14. 14. Key considerations • Establish a clear definition of “distress” • Identify the department(s) or agency(ies) responsible • Identify data sources that will meet the stated purpose • Determine which indicators to monitor and with what frequency • Ensure monitoring is consistent
  15. 15. Mary Murphy Manager, State and Local Fiscal Health 202.540.6622