Volume 28, Number 4, Winter 2016

Applying Punctuated Equilibrium Theory to Municipal and County Operating and
Capital Budgets …………………………………....................................................................      405
J. Kovari
 
Municipal Audit Committees and Fiscal Policies ……………………............................….     436
J. X. Zhang and K. T. Rich
 
Local Option Sales Taxes and County Rainy Day Funds …............................…………..     367
H. Levine, M. Fudge and G. Propheter
 
Local Government Revenue Forecasting Methods: Competition and Comparison ...    488
D. W. Williams and S. C. Kavanagh

We investigate whether council audit committees relate to municipal fiscal policies. We find that municipalities with audit committees are associated with greater levels of own-source revenue, in that they finance municipal operations with locally raised revenues driven by charges and fees compared to municipalities without audit committees. Furthermore, municipalities with audit committees are associated with less new debt than those without audit committees, indicating more conservative use of external financing. Overall, our results are consistent with municipal audit committees, in addition to monitoring the financial reporting function, playing an advisory role in fiscal decisions, especially when the cost of local government to citizens is high.

Although punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) is widely hailed as the dominant theory regarding public policy and budgets, little research has extended PET to the local government arena or to capital expenditures. This article utilizes a panel dataset of public expenditures from Wisconsin counties, cities, villages, and towns from 1990-2009 to show that local operating and capital budgets fit the contemporary PET framework. However, the article also offers some discussion about methodological problems in assessing PET for local governments, and highlights the importance of differentiating between expenditure types (e.g. capital versus operating spending) as well as institutional differences between counties, cities, villages, and towns.

Although punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) is widely hailed as the dominant theory regarding public policy and budgets, little research has extended PET to the local government arena or to capital expenditures. This article utilizes a panel dataset of public expenditures from Wisconsin counties, cities, villages, and towns from 1990-2009 to show that local operating and capital budgets fit the contemporary PET framework. However, the article also offers some discussion about methodological problems in assessing PET for local governments, and highlights the importance of differentiating between expenditure types (e.g. capital versus operating spending) as well as institutional differences between counties, cities, villages, and towns.

We investigate whether council audit committees relate to municipal fiscal policies. We find that municipalities with audit committees are associated with greater levels of own-source revenue, in that they finance municipal operations with locally raised revenues driven by charges and fees compared to municipalities without audit committees. Furthermore, municipalities with audit committees are associated with less new debt than those without audit committees, indicating more conservative use of external financing. Overall, our results are consistent with municipal audit committees, in addition to monitoring the financial reporting function, playing an advisory role in fiscal decisions, especially when the cost of local government to citizens is high.

Rainy day stabilization funds (RDSFs) and local option sales taxes (LOSTs) are two strategies local governments deploy to combat fiscal stress. While the literature on both is robust, it has thus far failed to consider empirically that the two may be connected. One way the marginal LOST dollar could be spent is by saving it for future use. We test the connection with a sample of 414 counties and correct for selection bias with the Heckman correction technique. We find that each $10 increase in LOST revenue per capita is associated with a $0.10 increase in undesignated general fund balance. Though small, the positive effect size supports the theory that LOSTs contribute to a greater propensity to save.

Rainy day stabilization funds (RDSFs) and local option sales taxes (LOSTs) are two strategies local governments deploy to combat fiscal stress. While the literature on both is robust, it has thus far failed to consider empirically that the two may be connected. One way the marginal LOST dollar could be spent is by saving it for future use. We test the connection with a sample of 414 counties and correct for selection bias with the Heckman correction technique. We find that each $10 increase in LOST revenue per capita is associated with a $0.10 increase in undesignated general fund balance. Though small, the positive effect size supports the theory that LOSTs contribute to a greater propensity to save.

This study examines forecast accuracy associated with the forecast of 55 revenue data series of 18 local governments. The last 18 months (6 quarters; or 2 years) of the data are held-out for accuracy evaluation. Results show that forecast software, damped trend methods, and simple exponential smoothing methods perform best with monthly and quarterly data; and use of monthly or quarterly data is marginally better than annualized data. For monthly data, there is no advantage to converting dollar values to real dollars before forecasting and reconverting using a forecasted index. With annual data, naïve methods can outperform exponential smoothing methods for some types of data; and real dollar conversion generally outperforms nominal dollars. The study suggests benchmark forecast errors and recommends a process for selecting a forecast method.

This study examines forecast accuracy associated with the forecast of 55 revenue data series of 18 local governments. The last 18 months (6 quarters; or 2 years) of the data are held-out for accuracy evaluation. Results show that forecast software, damped trend methods, and simple exponential smoothing methods perform best with monthly and quarterly data; and use of monthly or quarterly data is marginally better than annualized data. For monthly data, there is no advantage to converting dollar values to real dollars before forecasting and reconverting using a forecasted index. With annual data, naïve methods can outperform exponential smoothing methods for some types of data; and real dollar conversion generally outperforms nominal dollars. The study suggests benchmark forecast errors and recommends a process for selecting a forecast method.

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