Providence used as example of how “Compensation Monster [is] Devouring Cities”

Steve Malanga looks at the national problem of cities in over their heads (particularly because of pension promises) and uses Providence (and New Haven, CT) as examples:

Cities are also running out of fiscal alternatives to deal with their deficits. Like states…many cities have used one-shot revenue deals, hidden borrowing, and other gimmicks to bolster their finances. The weak economy has lasted so long, though, that these techniques have been exhausted. To balance its 2010 budget, for example, Providence, Rhode Island, borrowed some $48 million (using its fire stations and headquarters as collateral); it also drained most of its reserve fund, which shrank from $17 million to $2 million in just one year. Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings subsequently downgraded the city’s bond ratings by two notches, essentially ending its ability to use fiscal gimmicks. But Providence still faces a budget squeeze because its retiree costs amount to 50 percent of tax collections.

Nationally, the rate of growth of such local expenditures outpaced state and federal:

Local governments also helped bring on their current budget nightmares by carelessly expanding hiring and wages in recent boom years. In the decade leading up to the 2008 financial crash, the number of workers for cities, towns, and schools increased 16 percent, even though the country’s overall population grew just 12.5 percent. Wages also increased, and, of course, the hiring frenzy made those pension obligations even worse. The result: over the same decade, the total in wages and benefits that public schools paid to teachers and noninstructional staff (to take one category of public-sector worker) jumped an amazing 72 percent, despite moderate increases in student enrollment.

As Ted Nesi highlighted, albeit over a longer period, local government payrolls increased while state payrolls went down. Some argue that the cuts in state jobs have led to the increases at the local level. But, looking at Nesi’s chart, it’s obvious the local growth doesn’t equate to the state reduction.

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Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

I wonder how much money I’m No Angel can borrow using illegal aliens, crackheads and welfare queens who populate that diseased city as collateral.

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