Some Thoughtful advice trickling out of Raleigh

The Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation has released a study that details and makes recommendations on the economic and financial conditions of North Carolina’s local governments. This study, available for download on Locke’s web site, provides some real “food for thought” for local officials and people concerned about local issues throughout North Carolina.  (Unfortunately, the contents of this report make a lot of sense.  So, that confirms that government leaders won’t pay ANY attention to ANY of it.)

Here are some of the highlights from  JLF’s “City and County Issue Guide 2011” :

  • Bond issues are more likely to pass in low-turnout special votes than during regularly-scheduled general elections.  The report recommends that local officials schedule all votes during regular election periods, and offer full details prior to the vote about how they plan to pay the money back if the issue is passed.

  • “Local governments should focus on making their communities conducive to economic growth and business investment by keeping property taxes, sales taxes, and business regulations and fees low. Furthermore, they should avoid implementing new taxes such as land transfer taxes that many counties have considered over the past several years. They should also focus on essential government services, making sure that these services meet the needs of business. This focus would include providing reliable sources of water and transportation services that accommodate the desired lifestyles of the workforce and the needs of industry. It cannot be accomplished by targeting businesses for special subsidies while burdening local businesses and citizens with the cost of those subsidies.”

  • “Local governments need to build accountability and transparency into their budgeting and management processes, just as they have with meeting agendas, video, and social media. Many of the tools to achieve that goal also help government employees succeed in their jobs. Many local governments are posting agendas, audio, and video from commission meetings. They are adding crime maps, documents related to zoning, and building permit requests. Governments and individual elected officials are on Facebook, and more of them are using Twitter to share news. These are all positive steps to more open dialogue and greater involvement of citizens. Citizens need solid information of how government works and what they get for their tax dollars if they are to be truly engaged. Local governments should help citizens to understand how they pay for services. They also need to measure and report results, then make decisions that hold managers and programs accountable for those results. As budgets have become increasingly complex, citizens are less able to monitor how their taxes are spent.”

  • “Cities and counties should establish an aggressive competitive sourcing policy that includes most, if not all, governmental services … What is competitive sourcing?It is the competitive process for determining the most efficient and effective source — private or public — for performing a specific governmental function or service. The first step is to define a service or a function and take bids from private and public providers. The lowest bid wins. Whether the service stays in-house with government employees or is contracted out to a private provider, taxpayers are the victors. The competitive process ensures that the service is provided at the lowest price. As such, it provides a powerful tool for officials to cut costs while providing essential governmental services. Savings of 5 to 50 percent due to competitive sourcing have been reported, with savings in the amount of 20 to 30 percent being common.”
  • ”Local government appropriations to school districts should be tied to performance-based measures and innovative practices that ensure sound expenditure of local tax dollars …Principle 1: Local governments should closely monitor county appropriations to school districts and measure the effectiveness of the funding …

    Principle 2: Local governments should pay special attention to spending on school district personnel …Principle 3: Local governments should ensure a transparent public school budget process …Principle 4: Local governments should minimize the amount of debt incurred for school capital expenses by offering incentives to school districts to use proven, cost-efficient solutions that do not burden county taxpayers and that enhance educational opportunities for students. ”