Charles Marohn writes the President on behalf of the Strong Towns Board of Directors and membership regarding a potential surge in federal infrastructure spending. Strong Towns has developed a unique understanding that allows it to speak with a level of clarity on this issue. Strong Towns' supporters have no financial interest in whether or not more federal money is spent on infrastructure; Strong Towns' mission is to advocate for ways those investments can make our cities stronger. by Charles Marohn
The United States Congress seems poised to spend a trillion dollars or more on infrastructure in a bipartisan consensus to stimulate the economy. Without major changes in our approach, this spending is going to make our cities poorer, weaken our country and -- once the temporary stimulus has passed -- leave America in worse financial shape. Here are five ways a federal infrastructure program will make our cities, towns and neighborhoods poorer. by Charles Marohn
We see this trend everywhere we've done a model. On a per acre basis, neighborhoods that tend to be poor also tend to pay more taxes and cost less to provide services to than their more affluent counterparts. by Charles Marohn
Lafayette, Louisiana has a predicament. Infrastructure was supposed to serve them. Now they serve it. All of the programs and incentives put in place by the federal and state governments to induce higher levels of growth by building more infrastructure has made the city of Lafayette functionally insolvent. Lafayette has collectively made more promises than it can keep and it's not even close. If they operated on accrual accounting -- where you account for your long term liabilities -- instead of a cash basis -- where you don't -- they would have been bankrupt decades ago. This is a pattern we see in every city we've examined. It is a byproduct of the American pattern of development we adopted everywhere after World War II. by Charles Marohn
Planning and Finance Series
Recently, the Weyerhaeuser Corporation announced that they were relocating their corporate headquarters from their spacious 430-acre suburban office park campus in the City of Federal Way to Pioneer Square, a dense historic area in downtown Seattle. To planners, this is a fascinating announcement that runs counter to decades of business migration out of central cities to suburban office parks.
In this column, I will expand on that discussion by exploring how the variation in the role of property taxes in local government from state to state might shape the operations of local government.
Property taxes are the lifeblood of local government. In every state, local governments use property taxes to a significant degree to fund local governmental functions and services. The property tax is also one of the most controversial of taxes. The property tax is a very complex tax system that varies substantially from state to state. Instead of being conscious of the differences, we instead tend to think that property taxes are similar to the system in our own state because that is the one we know. However, that is far from the case.
Bond financing can be a complex topic. A better understanding of the dynamics of bond financing is needed to avoid harmful misunderstandings by the media that mislead the public.
As tax revenues become more and more constrained, local governments have turned increasingly to other ways to finance services and facilities. One of the more popular sources of alternative revenue is user fees that finance services or facilities by fees charged to use those services or facilities.As tax revenues become more and more constrained, local governments have turned increasingly to other ways to finance services and facilities. One of the more popular sources of alternative revenue is user fees that finance services or facilities by fees charged to use those services or facilities.
Columnist Patrick L. Dugan reviews how financial risk in local government involves investing money directly and using capital facilities to promote community development
Ever wonder how comprehensive planning got started in your community? If you are in a small- to mid-size community, chances are that planning began with a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 701 grant made to your community between 1954 and 1981.
This article will, albeit somewhat simplistically, attempt to illustrate these divergent views and suggest a paradigm for integrating them. While obviously the actual views of real planners, engineers, and finance officials are more complex than as simply illustrated here, I hope that my thumbnail portrayal of views will provide some food for thought.
Since there are quite a few places in various parts of the country that may be benefiting from energy development of various forms, it might be useful to consider the implications of a sudden, and likely temporary, revenue boost.
Through this process, I have come across a comprehensive overview of the complexities of financing capital improvements: New Tools for New Times: A Sourcebook for the Financing, Funding and Delivery of Urban Infrastructure, by Casey Vander Ploeg published by the Canadian West Foundation, September 2006. I recommend this resource to any planner who is interested in getting either an overview of capital finance or developing an in-depth knowledge of various options and strategies for financing capital facilities.
The reason services are so costly in New York City, in spite of its density, is because the diseconomies of scale associated with its size outweigh the economies of density derived from its high density of development. These two different economic terms, “economies of scale” and “economies of density,” are often confused with each other.
A book by Pamela Blais, Perverse Cities presents an excellent analysis of urban sprawl and why our planning efforts to curtail sprawl have tended to fail.