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    Entries in cities (19)

    Wednesday
    Aug092017

    The Hidden Wealth of Cities

    To find it, a new book says, localities need look no further than their roads, airports and convention centers.

    BY  AUGUST 9, 2017
    Downtown San Diego, with a view of the convention center.
    Downtown San Diego, with a view of the convention center. (Shutterstock)

    In the years since the Great Recession, there’s been a lot of effort made to ensure a government is sharing its complete fiscal picture. In many cases, this transparency push has resulted in a government’s bottom line going from a surplus to a shortfall thanks to the introduction of things like pension and retiree health benefit liabilities to annual balance sheets.

    But some think governments are still leaving a few things off the ledger. Dag Detter and Stefan Folster, co-authors of the new book The Public Wealth of Cities, say localities are failing to realize the true value of the public assets they own, such as airports, convention centers, utilities and transit systems, just to name a few. “The public sector owns a lot of commercial assets,” says Detter, a Swedish investment advisor and expert on public commercial assets.

    But, he adds, it doesn’t manage the risk of increased costs associated with those assets very well. Then, “the inclination is to give [management] away to the private sector,” he says. “But when you do that, you also have to give away the upside.”

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    Tuesday
    May302017

    In Scranton, Pa., Fiscal Progress Comes With Political Costs

    The city is on the brink of making a speedy turnaround. Many worry that the tough financial decisions it took to get there could reverse some of its political progress.
    BY  MAY 30, 2017
    Bill Courtright, the mayor of Scranton, Pa. (Photos by David Kidd)
     

    After a quarter-century of being branded by the state as "fiscally distressed," Scranton, Pa., is the closest it's ever been to shedding that label. If its finances remain stable, the city is expected to exit the state’s Act 47 distressed cities program -- which it entered in 1992 -- in the next three years.

    What makes the news remarkable is the tailspin that Scranton was in just a few short years ago. When Mayor Bill Courtright took office in 2014, he inherited a city that had balanced its budget for five straight years using onetime revenues and deficit financings. “In early 2014, everyone wrote us off,” says Courtright. “It was like we had a disease.”

    But thanks to what observers are calling a new era of political cooperation between the mayor and council, Scranton has made considerable progress. City officials have approved several tax increases aimed at balancing the budget, including a hike in property taxes and garbage fees. Those, combined with a new commuter tax, have injected $16.2 million in new annual revenue into the $90 million general fund.

    Courtright credits a team that stubbornly adhered to a financial recovery plan devised with the help of a financial consultant. The mayor, also a former councilmember, says he and the current council have communicated better and worked to move beyond the infighting that dominated public meetings in previous years. “We knew we had to change the image between past mayor and past council,” he says. “We knew we wouldn’t get the financial community to go along with us if we couldn’t cooperate amongst ourselves.”

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    Thursday
    May112017

    Why Few Cities Will Take the Supreme Court Up on Their Right to Sue Banks

    Last week's ruling leaves open a key legal question that could make cities unlikely to file suit.
    BY  MAY 11, 2017

    After losing billions in property tax revenue during the foreclosure crisis, local governments notched a win last week when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the city of Miami’s right to sue big banks under the Fair Housing Act.

    But don’t expect a flood of lawsuits to follow any time soon. The ruling leaves open a key legal question about the burden of proof cities must present to show they were financially harmed.

    In the 5-3 ruling, the court sided with Miami, agreeing that the 1968 act, which prohibits racial discrimination in the lease, sale and financing of property, applied to cities as well as people. But the ruling didn’t agree that Miami had provided enough direct evidence linking discriminatory lending practices by Wells Fargo and Bank of America to the financial harms incurred by the city. It also stopped short of saying what a city must do to prove economic harm and remanded the case back to the lower court to answer that question.

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    Friday
    Apr282017

    The Week in Public Finance: Trump's Tax Plan, the Tampon Tax and Calling Out the SEC

    BY  APRIL 28, 2017

    Trump Sort of Unveils His Tax Plan

    President Trump unveiled his tax reform plan this week, and the massive cuts it proposes have left many wondering how the government would pay for the plan.

    Much of the single-page, bullet-pointed statement, which The New York Times called “less a plan than a wish list,” contained promises Trump made on the campaign trail: a much lower corporate tax rate, the elimination of the U.S. tax on foreign profits, a reduction in the number of individual income tax brackets from seven to three, a lower tax rate, and the scrapping of most itemized deductions, including one that lets taxpayers deduct their state and local taxes from their declared federal income.

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that economic growth, combined with eliminating deductions, would pay for the cuts. Meanwhile, a Tax Foundation analysis of some of these key ideas shows that the plan would ultimately result in more tax revenue for state governments.

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    Friday
    Jan272017

    The Week in Public Finance: What We Don't Know About Sanctuary Cities' Funding, New Reasons to Save and More

    A roundup of money (and other) news governments can use.

    BY  JANUARY 27, 2017

    What We Don't Know About Trump's 'Sanctuary City' Order

    On Wednesday, President Donald Trump took his first move to defund cities that refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. Trump signed an executive order directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to look at federal grant funding to cities “to figure out how we can defund those streams,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

    Many of the nation’s largest cities -- including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco -- are immigrant sanctuaries and have said they won’t back down from their policy.

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