NLC to Partner on MacAruthur-Funded Study of City Fiscal Health (May 21, 2012)

May 21, 2012

by Gregory Minchak

The National League of Cities Center for Research & Innovation has received a three-year grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study city governments' responses to and recovery from the Great Recession. 

NLC will analyze U.S. cities' public investment and fiscal health in a collaborative project with the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and be advised by a working group of the Federal Reserve System, led by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. 

The study will examine how city governments can adjust to the current global economy, relieve constraints and plan for more adaptive, sustainable growth. It will provide the Federal Reserve with an understanding of the need for strong regional economies. 

Chris Hoene, director of NLC's Center for Research and Innovation, said the decline in city fiscal conditions over the last several years leaves many public leaders looking for pathways to growth. 

"The fiscal outlook for U.S. cities has revealed a dire need for understanding and information about the underlying fiscal and economic capacities of cities and the factors that drive those capacities," Hoene said. 

Annual NLC surveys have shown a persistent trend of city service cuts and retrenchment over the last decade. From 2009 to 2011, budgets were cut most often in infrastructure and personnel, including wages, pensions and benefits. 

Michael Pagano, dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago said, "The Great Recession has endangered city services and cities' ability to invest in any future economic growth. This level of analysis will enhance dialogue on issues like pensions, workforce development, cuts to social and human services, jobs, public safety and the tax base," Pagano said.

The researchers, led by Pagano and Hoene, will release continuous reports throughout the three-year period covered by the MacArthur grant.

NLC has long partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago on the study of city fiscal conditions. The university ranks among the nation's leading research universities. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.