Municipal Finance

Overview

Municipal Finance

Article Features By Jessica Sankus

Everything (well, almost) you need to know about sales tax but were afraid to ask

Have you ever wondered what happens with the sales tax you pay at a retail counter or online? What can cities do with that money? Here are 10 things you should know — but may have been afraid to ask — about California’s sales and use tax.

Article Features By Shayne Kavanagh

Rethinking budgeting: An idea whose time has come

Local governments have developed their budgets in essentially the same way for decades — and for good reason. It is simple, predictable, and provides a sense of control. However, there are new forces that both make the traditional budget less tenable and offer new ways to achieve more optimal, fairer results.

Article Solutions for Cities By Carolina Alban-Stoughton

Oceanside’s landscape management balances beauty and water conservation

Landscape management is often dismissed as “just gardening.” In reality it requires a large amount of specialist knowledge. It can also create enormous health, economic, and aesthetic benefits for cities.

Article Local Works By Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot and Johnnie Piña

Spend money to save money: How four cities are managing their pension obligations

California’s unfunded pension woes could become worse in the next few years. Thanks in part to the painful lessons of the 2008 recession, cities have more tools that can help them prepare. However, the window to prepare is narrowing.

Article Legal Notes By Betsy Strauss

Breaking down the impact of two new municipal finance laws

As we settle into the new year, two new municipal finance laws need your attention. One law involves local Gann Limits and has a March 1 reporting deadline. The other adds new requirements for development impact fees.

Article Solutions for Cities By Brent Turner, CTP

Designing a well-balanced liquidity strategy in the face of uncertainty

There is no shortage of opinions as to what the Fed will or will not do. That said, the undeniable fact is that this recent and historical tightening of monetary policy has transformed cash into a compelling asset class.

Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Angélica Palmeros

Montebello’s community assistance program frees up emergency resources and reduces homelessness

Firefighters and paramedics often do not have the time to address the chronic causes behind emergency calls, such as homelessness. Montebello is filling that service gap by treating people where they are, building long-term relationships, and developing evidence-based solutions.

Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President Ali Sajjad Taj

Local control starts with protecting local revenues

Fiscal certainty is critical to the sustainability of local services that residents rely upon. In the face of economic uncertainty and a growing state deficit, Cal Cities is focused on pushing back against any proposals that would disrupt this certainty.

Article Solutions for Cities By Lisa Holmes

New vehicles for the same old budget … or less

With age taking its toll on existing vehicle fleets, many local government agencies are learning how to not only improve the lifecycle of their vehicles but reduce their total cost of ownership with no impact on their current budget.

Article Special to Cal Cities By Frank V. Zerunyan

The value of local public service

As we reflect on the many projects made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act this month, it is important to consider that which has incalculable value: public service. Put simply, local government is where the rubber meets the road and policy becomes action. This article by Frank V. Zerunyan, Mayor of Rolling Hills Estates and Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, reflects on the unique, vital role that city officials play in keeping our democracy and communities healthy. 

Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President Cindy Silva

Going forward, municipal finance will require new levels of leadership resilience

Local leaders are astutely aware that the pandemic is not over and that our local communities continue to reel from its public health and fiscal impacts. Despite this uncertainty, city leaders continue to press forward as we chart a path to recovery. And prudent financial decision-making will be critical in our recovery efforts.  

Article Features By Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot

Transformative and desperately needed: The American Rescue Plan Act one year later

In March 2021, cities across the nation breathed a sigh of relief as an economic package that included $65 billion for municipalities finally made its way through Congress and was signed into law. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided badly needed direct and flexible funds to cash-strapped cities on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020.

Article Local Works By Jeff Kraus

San Bernardino is breaking cycles of violence with community partnerships and flexible funding

As is the case in many cities, gang connections go back decades in San Bernardino, spanning generations of family members. To disrupt the cycle, the city partnered with community-based organizations to create a program that aims to prevent gang gun violence and de-escalate tensions through personal interactions with gang members and at-risk youth in ways that law enforcement cannot.

Article Solutions for Cities By Kevin Knopf

Employee benefits: An underutilized recruitment tool

How can cities retain their current workforce and attract new employees when battling against the attraction of a work-from-home model? The answer is total compensation.

Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Katie Galvin-Šurbatović

How Whittier kept local businesses afloat with targeted funding, relief, and business-friendly policies

Like most communities, the pandemic challenged Whittier’s economy across industries. In the early days of the pandemic, a once buzzing and vivacious Whittier became a shadow of its former self. Small businesses were forced to close their doors and furlough or lay off employees. Amidst considerable uncertainty, the city acted swiftly to implement critical solutions and assist the business community in a variety of effective, innovative ways.

CalPERS headquarters
Article Legal Notes By Steven M. Berliner

New state law increases pension-related costs for cities: How municipalities can mitigate the impact

A new law went into effect at the beginning of this year that creates new liabilities for public agencies when reporting compensation, shifting exposure for reporting mistakes from retirees almost exclusively to the employer. 

A key path to growing local revenue and sustaining local economies is investing in economic development to ensure that businesses are successful.
Article Features By Gurbax Sahota

The pandemic crushed local economies; recovery depends on how cities navigate emerging economic development opportunities

While communities across California and the country excitedly await the disbursement of badly needed relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and potential assistance from the president’s American Jobs Plan, one question is being asked over and over again — how do we make the most of these precious one-time investments?

City of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg delivers speech about #ALLINSAC effort.
Article Local Works by Lisa Yarbrough

Sacramento’s Measure U helps maintain critical services and advance equity during pandemic

The City of Sacramento is one of many California cities to put a general sales tax measure on the  ballot to bring in much-needed revenue for local projects. Voter approval to renew or raise local sales tax has given some cities a sustained source of revenue to maintain critical services, invest in local infrastructure, and create additional amenities for the community.

Steve Rogers, Yountville City Manager, Eric Figueroa, Martinez City Manager, and Kim Summers, Murrieta City Manager
Article Features by Jill Oviatt

A fiscal year for the books
Managing city budgets as a deadly pandemic ravages livelihoods and revenues

California cities have been on the front lines for nearly a year taking action to protect their residents and businesses and maintain the delivery of essential city services, despite unplanned expenses and revenue shortfalls brought about by the pandemic. Three California city managers reflect on the past year and how on earth one manages a city budget with so much uncertainty, and so little support from the state and federal governments.

Article Features by Lloyd de Llamas

Adding to the challenge – the increasingly volatile sales tax

The coronavirus recession has eroded city budgets in many ways, leaving many tax revenue streams damaged and lasting impacts on cities that will continue to cut deep in the fiscal year ahead. As local governments grapple with the revenue loss and spending increases associated with the pandemic, it’s important to review the trends and forecasts of the revenue streams upon which a city most heavily relies and adjust accordingly.