Homeland security outlook
Local governments are concerned that they lack the money they need to meet their homeland security goals, and nearly one-third intend to raise property taxes to help pay for their portion of homeland security costs. To improve security and emergency response capabilities, cities and counties will be investing in communications equipment, HAZMAT suits and access control devices.
Those are some of the findings of an annual survey recently conducted by Local Government Update, the weekly e-mail newsletter published by American City & County. Readers of Local Government Update were invited to participate in the survey, and 586 readers responded. Results of a similar survey were reported in the August 2002 issue of American City & County. Lynn Adelmund, director of planning and research for Primedia Business Magazines & Media, compiled the results of this year’s survey.
Respondents represent cities and counties of all sizes, with populations ranging from fewer than 5,000 to more than 1 million. Of the total respondents, 60 percent are from cities, and 25 percent are from counties.
The sample included administrators and elected officials, as well as law enforcement/emergency response personnel, public works personnel, and personnel from transportation/transit, information technology and public health departments.
What is the level of cooperation between your jurisdiction and neighboring communities regarding homeland security?
More than 70 percent of respondents rate the level of cooperation between their jurisdictions and neighboring communities as either “good” or “excellent.” Among counties, 80 percent of respondents say cooperation levels are “good” to “excellent,” compared to 71 percent of city respondents. Interjurisdictional relationships between cities have improved since last year when 26 percent of cities reported “excellent” cooperation with neighbors, compared to 31 percent of cities in 2003.
Which of the following types of equipment will your community purchase to complete its homeland security goals?
Generally, communications equipment and HAZMAT suits top the list of planned purchases for local government respondents. Most administrators and law enforcement respondents report that they plan to purchase communications equipment, but most public works respondents plan to purchase access control and surveillance devices. The percentage of law enforcement respondents that plan to purchase HAZMAT suits has grown considerably since last year’s survey (32 percent in 2002 vs. 66 percent in 2003), and the percentage of public works respondents planning to purchase the equipment has decreased by nearly 45 percentage points (71 percent in 2002 vs. 27 percent in 2003).
What percentage of homeland security costs do you expect local governments will have to pay?
Smaller jurisdictions expect local governments to incur most of the expense for homeland security, while larger jurisdictions expect more outside assistance. More local government respondents this year than last year think they will pay less than 25 percent of homeland security costs (16 percent in 2002 vs. 25 percent in 2003). Among small cities, 15 percent expected to pay less than 25 percent of the costs last year, but this year, 24 percent have the same expectations. Similarly, last year, 18 percent of large cities expected to pay less than 25 percent, but this year, 26 percent of respondents from large cities expect the majority of the costs to be covered by other sources.
How will your local government pay for its portion of homeland security costs (i.e., that portion not covered by state and/or federal grants)?
The most common means reported for funding the local portion of homeland security costs is to raise property taxes. Respondents from city governments are more than three times more likely to raise utility taxes than those from county governments. Fewer cities and counties expect to dedicate a special sales tax this year than they did last year.
What are your jurisdiction’s biggest homeland security problems?
Almost 80 percent of cities and counties report that funding is their biggest homeland security problem. Approximately one-third of local governments are concerned about technical interoperability. Lack of cooperation, either internally or externally, is not a major concern for respondents. Funding is the major concern of law enforcement respondents, and interoperability comes in second.