Research Reports

Research Reports

GFOA's Research and Consulting Center (RCC) focuses on providing high quality research and advisory services by pairing the lessons learned from a broad membership network with the expertise of a highly educated professional staff that has practical experience working in local government.  Research reports both support and stem from the work completed in the field.  GFOA's Research and Consulting Center conducts regular ongoing research and can also work directly with individual governments to provide information.  Research reports produced recently are displayed below.

For more information on GFOA research or to inquire about a specific research project, please contact Shayne Kavanagh, GFOA Senior Manager - Research.

40 Documents

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Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Joseph P. Casey, PhD
Year: 
2020

Local governments need to make sure they have enough cash on hand for essential services. Thus, one of the first things local governments should do is slow the net flow of cash out the door and find ways to rebalance the budget. This could be done by reducing expenditures, delaying expenditures, or even finding new resources. There are many financial retrenchment techniques a government could use to get this done.

Year: 
2020

All local governments are potential targets for cybercrime, a risk that intensifies as victims increasingly pay ransoms to regain access to their hijacked technologies. It can be tempting to pay up because hacks are disruptive, damaging, and embarrassing – and expensive. This report identifies simple simple and inexpensive strategies that address people, process, and technology to protect their organizations from cyber threats without conducting a costly cybersecurity assessment. Many of the recommendations on the following pages address the weakest link in cybersecurity: the human factor.

Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Katie Ludwig
Year: 
2020

Local governments everywhere face pressure to improve their financial condition. In this article, we will see how the City of Indian Wells, California, strengthened its financial foundation. Though it is a community of only about 5,000 people, Indian Wells’ experience is informative for all local governments. We will also see how Indian Wells’ experience illustrates the concept described by GFOA’s Financial Foundations for Thriving Communities.

Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Elizabeth Fu
Year: 
2020

Local governments have a duty to respond quickly and decisively to extreme events and provide continuity in critical public service through adverse circumstances. Reserves or “rainy day funds,” federal assistance, and indemnitybased insurance* programs are the primary tools governments have used to manage risk associated with events, such as natural disasters, recessions, etc., that have the potential to disrupt public services. In recent years, a type of insurance instrument called “parametric insurance” has generated interest in local governments in North America to help fulfill risk management needs that aren’t met by indemnity based insurance, federal assistance, or rainy day funds.

Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Year: 
2020

The acquisition cost of an asset is just a portion of the total cost of owning it. Ongoing maintenance significantly adds to that cost; and for a long-lived asset, that cost can be much greater than the initial design, construction, and installation cost. Moreover, failure to keep up with regular asset maintenance can result in premature deterioration and an increased risk of failure, leading to even greater maintenance and rehabilitation costs. A tool that helps solve this challenge is life cycle costing. Life cycle cost analysis considers the entire cost of owning the asset over its useful life. This article will provide an introduction to life cycle cost analysis, using pavement and the City/County of San Francisco, California, as an illustration.

Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Year: 
2020

Pension costs are a challenge for local governments all over the country. In this paper, we will share the experience of Queen Creek, Arizona—a community of about 50,000 that solved its pension problem and, in the process, transformed the entire state of Arizona. We’ll see that Queen Creek’s solution reflects many of the strategies described in the Financial Foundations Framework.

Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Katie Ludwig
Year: 
2020

The capital infrastructure built and maintained by local government is essential for a thriving community. However, the deficiencies in our communities’ infrastructure are well documented. A big part of the challenge is deciding how to allocate a limited budget between competing projects and interests. Usually, these competing interests seek to gain as much as possible from the budget for themselves. When everyone does this, the budget becomes overburdened, and the financial foundation of local government becomes compromised. In this article, we will examine the capital planning practices of Wake County, North Carolina, and how they align with what GFOA research has found to be some of the keys to a strong financial foundation.

Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Year: 
2020

Technological change has “disrupted” many traditional industries. Some of the most notable include print media, telecom, retail, and music. Some cities have firsthand experience with rideshare technologies like Uber and Lyft disrupting the traditional taxi industry. Many more local governments, though, have experience with technology disrupting traditional revenues. The Region of Peel, in Ontario, recognized this disruption and decided to do something about it. Peel is very dependent on property taxes, so the Peel regional government’s financial foundation was at stake. The Region of Peel has practiced long-term financial planning for many years, so it recognized that it needed to begin adapting before the disruption became a crisis. In this article, we will review how the Region of Peel has started to tackle this problem.

Author: 
Michael Belarmino
Year: 
2019

Tax-exempt bonds are the primary mechanism through which state and local governments raise capital to finance a wide range of essential public projects. The volume of municipal bond issuance for the period from 2007 to 2017 amounted to $3.6 trillion. Communities across the country would be negatively impacted if federal tax policy reduced the financial power of state and local governments to meet their capital needs.

Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Year: 
2019

Local government leaders often consider it a truism that citizens will not vote for more taxes. Public opinion on local taxes, however, may not be as rigid as the conventional wisdom suggests. To illustrate, since 2004, 3,023 different local revenue initiatives were posed to California voters
and 2,094—or 69%—of them passed!

Year: 
2019

Understanding Financing Options Used For Public Infrastructure (“the Primer”) provides an overview of tax-exempt bond and other financings used by state and local governments and entities. The Primer covers numerous issue areas related to tax-exempt financings. These sections include the fundamentals of tax-exempt bonds and other financing tools that are available to state and local governments and related entities, the role tax-exempt bonds play in infrastructure financings and as an investment product, and Congressional actions over the past fifty years related to this market.

Author: 
Shayne C. Kavanagh
Elizabeth Fu
Year: 
2019

People need to be able to believe what they hear about a local government’s finances. They need to believe that local leaders have the community’s best interest at heart. If people are to contribute resources to the local government, they need to trust that those resources will
be transformed into something of value.

Author: 
Michael Thomas
Michael Belarmino
Emily Brock
Year: 
2019

Federal grants have helped maintain a quality standard of living for communities across the country for over a century. There are over a thousand federal grant programs that transfer funds to state and local governments in support of a multitude of policy issues. State and local governments rely on the funds from federal grants to assist in providing what the citizens of their localities need. Over the years, the federal grant system has grown and changed to accommodate the constantly shifting priorities of American communities.

Year: 
2018

Since the mid-1900’s, state and local governments have struggled with the issue of taxing remote sales. For decades, the primary method of remote sales was in the form of mail-order businesses. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bellas Hess v. Department of Revenue, 386 U.S. 753 (1967), that a state could not require sellers to collect use taxes if the only connection with customers in the state is through materials sent by common carrier or mail.

Year: 
2018

A local government’s staff deliver the day-to-day services that provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Employee engagement is the degree to which an employee is passionate about and committed to their job and organization. If staff are fully engaged in their jobs, then they will put in the extra effort needed to provide the best services possible. If they are disengaged they will, at best, put in the bare minimum effort necessary to satisfy their job description and, at worst, will actively seek to undermine the organization.

Author: 
Shayne Kavanagh
Vincent Reitano
Year: 
2018

Citizens’ trust in government is vital to the functioning of a democratic system. Transparency is one way in which governments can build trust. However, “transparency” does not mean just making financial data available to those who have an interest in it. In fact, psychological research suggests that people do not rely solely or even primarily on logic and reason to form judgements, such as trust. Hence, governments must go beyond open and accessible data strategies in order to build trust. There are costs associated with transparency.

Year: 
2017

As part of its tax reform efforts, Congress is debating whether to eliminate the ability for taxpayers to deduct state and local taxes (SALT). Since the federal income tax was adopted in the early 20th century, it has been recognized that independent state and local government tax structures should be respected. The deduction of state and local taxes has contributed to the stability of state and local tax revenues that are essential for providing public services. This report shows the impact of eliminating the SALT deduction on taxpayers and local governments.

Year: 
2017

This provides a brief introduction to the Financial Sustainability Index Framework in a convenient how-to guide.

For more detailed information on the Financial Sustainability Index visit the Financial Sustainability Resource Center

 

 

Year: 
2017

Maintaining the financial capacity to provide quality services is a concern for all local governments. This is especially true in a time of immediate cost pressures, like pension and infrastructure, and resource constraints, like reduced financial support from state and federal governments and public aversion to higher taxes. Further, an aging population uses more in public services and pays less in taxes, which means local governments will be facing fiscal pressures for years to come.

Year: 
2017

Academic return on investment (A-ROI) is the practice of scientifically evaluating the cost-effectiveness of academic programs and then deciding where to allocate resources accordingly. Put more simply, A-ROI is a structured approach to getting the most bang for the buck.

Year: 
2017

This provides the details of the new financial sustainability framework, including suggested implementation tactics.

Year: 
2017

A Self-Assessment Tool for Financial Sustainability provides a self-evaluation tool to help you see the extent to which your organization is positioned to make financially sustainable choices.

Author: 
Mark Mack
Year: 
2016

Governments that want to engage their citizens via technology have many choices; the challenge for most communities is determining which tools are right for them. This choice is often based on a number of factors including the availability of resources, the community’s appetite for engagement, and the impetus of government leadership. While the factors influencing which tools a community should select often vary, the benefits that can be realized from new methods of civic engagement are clear. This paper highlights key features to consider when selecting civic engagement tools.

Author: 
Mark Mack
Year: 
2016

INTRODUCTION

Author: 
Shayne Kavanagh
Jeff Cole
Harry Kenworthy
Year: 
2014

You’ve heard of Lean and you are intrigued. You are acquainted with the basic Lean tools and concepts such as Kaizen, the 8 wastes, root cause analysis, and process maps - but what are the next steps? The purpose of this guide is to help you get off to a good start on your Lean journey, including:


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