The most common action taken to boost city revenues has been to increase the levels of fees for services.
Two in five (41%) city finance officers reported that their city has increased fee levels. One in four cities also increased the number of fees that are applied to city services (23%). Twenty percent of cities increased the local property tax in 2011. Since the mid-1990's, irrespective of economic conditions, the percentage of city finance officers reporting increases in property taxes in any given year has been at about this same level. Increases in sales, income or other tax rates have been far less common, as continued to be the case in 2011.
In response, cities are:
By a wide margin the most common responses to prospective shortfalls this fiscal year were instituting personnel-related cuts (72%) and delaying or cancelling capital infrastructure projects (60%). Two in five (42%) reported that their city is making cuts in services other than public safety and human-social services, such as public works, libraries, parks and recreation programs. One in three finance officers (36%) reported modifying health care benefits for employees.
Personnel cuts take a variety of forms, and many cities have utilized a combination of these cuts. The most common cut was a hiring freeze (68%). Half (50%) of cities reported salary or wage reductions or freezes and nearly one in three (31%) cities reported employee layoffs or reducing employee health care benefits (30%). Other personnel actions included early retirements (25%) and furloughs (19%). Many cities have used some combination of these types of actions in an effort to reduce personnel costs.