Fiscal Analysis, Municipal Finance, and the Economy


  • The pillars of municipal fiscal health and why they are relevant to the planners
  • How cities and towns can make better land use decisions


Local government is integral to daily life yet public safety, health, and transportation infrastructure go unnoticed until underinvestment causes crime to worsen, drinking water systems to fail, or bridges to collapse. Recently, the Great Recession laid bare the fragile condition of local government budgets. The crisis played out most dramatically in a series of high-profile municipal bankruptcies, which grabbed headlines and distorted public debt markets, but it served as a reminder of longstanding structural weakness in the finances of cities. The roots of the problem go back decades.

Fiscal health will only become more important in the coming decades, as cities absorb the world’s population growth, and challenges such as climate change demand massive, preemptive investments. In 2015, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy launched a multi-year campaign to promote municipal fiscal health, to help restore the capacity for local governments to provide basic goods and services, plan for the future and escape a cycle of recurring crises. George McCarthy, President and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, opens the fiscal track with a discussion of the fiscal problems faced by cities and towns across the country and why this is important to the planning community. Explore the pillars of municipal fiscal health: land-based revenues, paying for infrastructure, multilevel governance, financial transparency, management of obligations and cash flow, and the coordination of planning finance. This course is for a general planning audience.