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The 2013 State of the Cities Report presents findings from the 10th annual fiscal conditions survey. The focus is on responses to the four base questions asked in each annual survey. An additional report describes responses to questions on volunteers in cities.
The survey was sent to the chief administrative official in each member city. City officials responded to the 2013 survey from Nov. 8, 2012, through Jan. 16, 2013. A total of 405 cities returned the survey for a response rate of 49 percent.
State of the Cities overview
The share of cities that reported an increased ability to meet financial needs rose for the third year in a row, from 30 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2012. This is the first time since 2006 that more than half of cities reported an easier time meeting needs. Looking ahead to 2013, a slightly larger share of cities, 52 percent, predicts an increased ability to meet needs.
The share of cities reporting a shortfall in 2012 fell or stayed the same across all revenue sources. While this is the second year in a row that the share reporting a shortfall in property tax revenue has fallen, over 50 percent of cities continued to see a shortfall.
Opposite of trends seen since 2006, the share of cities reporting an increase in the tax base rose in 2012 while the share reporting a decrease fell. Over half of cities still report a decline in the value of the city tax base. Last year the share of cities indicating no change in many budget factors increased over the share doing so in 2010. This year most factors saw a very slight increase or decrease in the share reporting no change.
Strategies to prepare for 2013
Cities were asked to identify the strategies they used in 2012 to prepare for 2013. Almost all cities reported taking at least one strategy; the average city utilized 2.69 strategies. Except for revenue increases and increasing efficiencies, each of which saw a very slight increase over 2011, the portion of cities taking action in each category fell in 2012. A city’s response to fiscal challenges is dependent on a variety of factors, and a given strategy may not be viable in every community.
If you have question about the 2013 State of the Cities report, please contact Rachel Walker or Lena Gould (see right).