The Fiscal Impacts of Wildfires on California Municipalities
60 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2020 Last revised: 27 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 5, 2021
This paper provides some of the first empirical estimates of the impact of natural disasters on the subcomponents of municipal budgets. We combine detailed municipal financial data from 1990-2015 with data on historical wildfire perimeters in California. We find that wildfires increase both revenues and expenditures. Sales taxes temporarily increase and property taxes increase to a permanently higher level; this appears due to state law that limits reassessments of property until time of sale. Wildfires also cause a long-term increase in local spending on preparedness and planning. The overall impact of wildfires on municipal budgets is negative and substantial.
Keywords: wildfires, natural disaster policy, municipal budgets, Proposition 13
JEL Classification: H71, H72, Q54, R51
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