Financing city government, they wrote the book on it

150 150 Chris Nelson

Here at California Forward, we are tireless advocates for an educated electorate making informed decisions while voting.

But what can sometimes get lost when so much focus is on the voters, regardless of how deserving that attention is, is that the people who they vote for are also educated and making informed decisions.

A recently released book entitled “Guide to Local Government Finance in California” by Michael Multari, Michael Coleman, Kenneth Hampian and Bill Statler aims to to tackle both issues in one fell swoop.

From the Solano Press release:

The Guide to Local Government Finance in California is an essential resource for public agency managers and other staff, including planners and policy analysts, as well as appointed and elected public officials, teachers, students, and citizens at large who want to understand and improve California’s complex system of local government finance. It provides a unique look at the distinctive and complicated nature of local government finance in California, covering not only the vital fundamentals – like budgeting, accounting and investing – but also lesser known, equally powerful forces that affect the ability of cities, counties, and special districts to deliver essential services.

Clearly this is a deep dive and likely goes well beyond what an average citizen would need (or likely want) to know about the inner workings of their local government, but that it’s an option for them is what’s important here.

Given the fiscal crisis our state is currently mired in, it is paramount for anyone with political aspirations in California to walk in on Day One of their term with an extensive understanding the underpinnings of how local governments spend and receive money.

When asked what makes this book different from any predecessors on the same topic, author Kenneth Hampian offered the following in an email to us:

Most of our reviewers and endorsers have said that it is more comprehensive than anything they have ever seen on the topic, covering not only crucial finance fundamentals, but also such topics as:

  • How do developers and cities/counties size up the economics of potential projects?
  • What are some common myths about local government finance and development?
  • What are the pressures that often push government costs beyond the annual inflation rate?
  • Why do labor force costs consume such a big piece of budget pie?
  • What are the best practices in economic development, budgeting, and public reporting?
  • What is the outlook for reform in California and what principles should guide reform?

It stands to reason that if every single elected official in the state was armed with knowledge in all of the areas covered above, we might be well on our way to implementing smart policy across the board aimed at restoring California’s waning fiscal health.

Instead we’re left wondering how much deeper this fiscal rabbit hole that we’re tumbling down goes. Our first chance to shore things up happens in November, but books like this could ensure that the ballot isn’t the only place in the state where common sense reform happens.


Chris Nelson

All stories by: Chris Nelson