Keating Report: 2014 forecast on government budgets and spending—Part 5 (with related video)
Governments have taken steps to shore up municipal budgets following the national recession, says Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville Ky., who also serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Metro Economies Committee. “Cities and states have begun to address pension reform and health care costs, two expense areas which need long-term structural solutions.”
Fischer sees hope in local economies. “Barring unforeseen crises, I anticipate that in 2014, cities will see an increase in property assessments, lower unemployment, and an increase in consumer confidence resulting in increased consumer spending. These economic events should allow for cities to experience an increase in revenues.”
Fischer also is hopeful about city budgets. “Based on my discussions with mayors across the country, I am optimistic that in 2014, there will be a growing resurgence in the urban experience.” Fischer said his view is supported by the National League of Cities’ annual survey on city fiscal conditions in 2013, released this past October, which reported that 72 percent of city finance officers believe that their cities are better able to meet current financial needs.
The mayor outlined his steps to balance the Louisville city budget in 2014, while also investing in its future, to GPN. “Personnel costs represent 70 percent of our General Fund expenditures including salaries, pension, and health costs. Accordingly, it is critical that we control these expenditures not only in the current year but also in future years. I met with the leaders of the unions representing city workers and explained the fiscal condition of the city and how it was in everyone’s interest to develop an expenditure plan that was sustainable and fair to all stakeholders.”
Fischer said union officials agreed with his proposals. “We have entered into long-term contracts which should be within our projected revenue growth.”
Fischer told GPN that he is also focusing on bringing efficiencies to government operations, resulting in enhanced services at lower cost. “These two efforts will result in our ability to move from primarily a consumption budget to an investment budget. By investing in quality of life expenditures, we will position our city to attract private investment and therefore grow jobs that will strengthen our tax base.” The Louisville government provides a report on its performance improvement system here.
See a video of Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer outlining the advantages of a local option sales tax to pay for specific projects, like road construction and parks development. The 1-percent tax would be temporary, but could raise $138 million.