Federal stimulus, trillion dollar debt increase per year, the dollar losing purchasing power, borrowing from other countries, state budget in crisis with $8-14 billion more in deficit next year, more taxes, unchecked inflation, immigration crisis, huge unemployment, personal wealth evaporating, health care costs out of sight, social security in jeopardy…on and on.  

What is the future for local government?  

City councils, county supervisors, school boards and local districts have some influence at the state level, and little influence at the federal level or the world stage.

The Governor and legislature are developing six ballot measures that would increase taxes and shift money from other units of government to put nearly $6 billion into the state’s 2009-10 spending plan.

Our desperate economy is already in a deep hole with an $8 billion gap in next year’s budget. If the propositions fail, the state could face a $14 billion deficit that would grow by an additional $16 billion if Proposition 1A doesn’t pass, according to the nonpartisan legislative analyst’s office.  

Who is likely to get hit?  

The cuts would be made to higher education, public schools, transportation, prisons and healthcare.  Is it not likely the state will again go after local property tax revenue?  What will happen to money that is slated to go for local transportation programs and projects?

For local governments participating in the federal stimulus, The American Recovery and Reinvestment, what happens after two years when the money is spent?  Will the problems be fixed? What are the strings to these monies, accountability, oversight and responsibility?

Local government is the most responsive and has, for the most part, balanced their budgets each year and been fiscally responsible.  If local government relies on federal stimulus, and gets ahead of itself on infrastructure with increased operations and maintenance cost, then how will the general funds, enterprise and special funds carry the costs into the future?  

Local government needs to be careful that the strings do not tie into a noose that strangles the balance of services that makes our communities prosperous and livable.

A strategic assessment needs to be done to be sure that one-time monies in any form do not turn into long term operating costs – the types that cannot be sustained without drastically impacting other important services and programs.  

Job creation, fair and reasonable taxes, deficit elimination, inflation control and a predictable economy with a credit market we can trust is essential.  Let’s watch the strings and nooses; to be sure we don’t lose the peoples’ local control of their cities, towns, counties, schools and special districts.

Rick Kirkwood recently retired following 32 years in public administration; 29 years as a City Manager in California, Washington and Utah. You can weigh in on his blogs through the comment board below.