As local governments continue their struggle to recover from the Great Recession, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy has expanded a signature interactive database to allow for the meaningful comparison of finances across 150 U.S. cities, just one piece of a larger effort to make public finances more transparent. With the addition of 38 new cities, the Fiscally Standardized Cities (FiSC) database now includes at least two cities in all but two states, allowing for a broader analysis of how the nation’s largest cities pay for public services, from schools to police to public works.
“Transparency is the linchpin of fiscal health,” said George W. “Mac” McCarthy, president of the Lincoln Institute. “As local governments and citizens grapple with tough issues like education, infrastructure and land use, having a clear picture of how 150 cities pay for public goods and services is incredibly valuable.”
Created in 2013, the FiSC database provided the first meaningful comparison of local government finances at the city level by untangling the complex web of governmental entities in each city – including counties, independent school districts and special districts – to provide an overview of revenues raised from city residents and businesses and spent on their behalf. The database includes data for each year from 1977-2012, tracking more than 120 categories of revenues, expenditures, debt, and assets (for more details, view the working paper “Methodology Used to Create Fiscally Standardized Cities Database”)
Later this year, the Lincoln Institute will further enhance the database with the addition of a new year’s worth of fiscal data from the U.S. Census Bureau, new data on public pensions, and analysis that will help put the data in context. In addition, the Institute will unveil a new Municipal Fiscal Health Dashboard, which will provide a visualization platform for the FiSC database, incorporate additional financial and demographic data, and add features such as a liquidity calculator, another step toward greater fiscal transparency.