The Public Financing of America's Largest Cities: An Autopsy of City Financial Records in the Wake of the Great Recession
36 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2013 Last revised: 19 Nov 2013
Date Written: March 4, 2013
This paper employs Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports of the 35 largest population American cities from 2005 to 2011 to examine how these cities managed the Great Recession, which was a global macroeconomic shock particularly damaging to the housing sector. While broader surveys of local government suggest that the Great Recession has been associated with substantive revenue declines, particularly via the property tax, the CAFR data indicates that large cities remained relatively stable in revenue by using higher property taxes to compensate for other revenue declines. Furthermore, these cities were able to rely on their net assets to engage in deficit spending. These findings indicate that cities are relying on traditional strengths of local governments, but are also able to engage in the deficit spending that is typically characteristic of national governments. It also seems to be the case that grants for capital projects were largely transferred into highly liquid and spendable assets.
Keywords: city public finance, fiscal stress, Great Recession, property taxes, Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports
JEL Classification: H1, H7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation