Cost Accounting in Local Government

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The Perfect Fiscal Storm

My hometown is asking voters to approve a sales tax increase of 1.25% in November 2020. I know they need the money, but it is certainly a crapshoot whether they will get it. The plan is to frame the tax for infrastructure improvements but to ask for a general tax that can be used for […]

Development’s Winners and Losers

There are four players in the development game: developers, contractors, landowners and residents. Each plays a critical role, and each has goals that are not necessarily shared by the others.

A Tribute to Doug Ayres – Part I

Have you heard of Doug Ayres? If you are old enough, you might have worked for him or taken a class from him. Or, like me, you might have had an experience where he was trying to sell his consulting services to your city. My first experience was the latter. I was Controller for the […]

Framing the Case for Fees

As the typical reader of the RCS blog articles, you are a technically skilled government finance professional and can make a strong financial or accounting argument to support your professional recommendations. When you have a thoughtful and technically literate audience, you will win your case.  Sadly, the longer I’ve worked, the more I’ve noticed a […]

The Proposition 13 con job

Forty years ago, in 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13 by an overwhelming margin. This proposition significantly changed California public finance by reducing property taxes. The rationale for its passage was that it saved people, especially those on fixed income, from losing their homes due to large increases in property taxes. Howard Jarvis, the author […]

Cost Studies

The same person who is credited with inventing accounting, Luca Pacioli, an Italian mathematician from the 15th century, is also credited with inventing cost accounting. Where “regular” accounting is important for financial statements, cost accounting is essential for determining what products cost and how they should be priced. In large private sector companies, there are […]

Mitigating the Impact of Accrued Benefit Payouts

You’re going into the fiscal year with a balanced budget and no clouds on the fiscal sky. Suddenly, in July, your police chief announces his retirement. The chief has been at the city his entire career. Beginning as a patrol officer, he rose through the ranks and is beloved by the community. You do a […]

Fee Increases in Between Cost Studies

When I first started doing Cost Studies, cities were unlikely to know the cost of their services let alone charge what the services cost. The most common approach, when fee increases were considered necessary, was to compare the city’s fees with neighboring cities, which I called the “blind leading the blind” update. Later, as cost […]

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