california local government finance almanac
local government laws conference materials

Available from Solano Press GuideBk
The most comprehensive treatment of local government finance in any state that I have ever seen. This guide will prove useful to elected and appointed local government officials, business leaders, reporters, students, faculty, and others who are struggling to understand the highly complex world of local government finance in California.
~ Chris McKenzie, Exec.Dir. League of Calif Cities

Available from The League of California Cities MuniRevHandbook
The California Municipal Revenue Sources Handbook, 2014 Edition by Michael Coleman. The definitive resource on municipal funding for city and county managers, finance officers, academics and other professionals engaged in the complex world of municipal finance in California.

Financing California Cities - Overviews and Primers

Revenue Limits: Proposition 13 (1978), Proposition 218(1996) and Proposition 26 (2010)

Proposition 1A Protection of Local Government Revenues

In November 2004, the voters of California approved Proposition 1A, an amendment to the California state constitution intended to restore predictability and stability to local government budgets.

Note: Proposition 1A does not contain the provisions of the "VLF-for-Property-Tax-Swap of 2004" nor the ERAF III local government contributions. These were part of the State Budget Act of 2004.

California Local Government Governance and Reorganization

Fiscal Condition of Municipalities

Diagnosing and Managing Fiscal Health

Managing Fiscal Stress and Municipal Bankruptcy

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The State-Local Fiscal Relationship

Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF): Property Tax Shifts

In 1992, facing a serious deficit position, the State of California began shifting local property tax revenues from cities, counties and some special districts into these funds to reduce the cost of education to the state general fund.

State-Local Mandates in California

Redevelopment Dissolution under ABx1_26 (2011)

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The Fragmentation of Local Finance & Governance

Frozen property tax allocations may not be the most efficient or preferred allocation now. Inefficiencies persist due to the fragmentation of policy and finance among too many local authorities and the decline of general purpose government policy making authority.

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The Fiscalization of Land Use

The disconnect between service costs and revenues in urban development impairs the provision of city services and deters balanced planning.

Local Revenues in a Changing World

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Local Government Fiscal Reform

There have been more than a dozen task forces, commissions, studies and proposals on local government finance reform over the last decade alone. Here are some articles on the problem, ideas, and analyses of recent proposals. It is important to note that, in 2004, two important changes occurred in the state-local fiscal relationship: the passage of Proposition 1A of 2004, and the swap of $4 billion of state Vehicle License Fee backfill payments to cities and counties for greater shares of local property tax revenues. These major changes make obsolete some of the recommendations in pre-2004 reports.

Background and Overview

Local Government Fiscal Reform - Commissions, Studies and Articles

Legislative Proposals

Selected Presentations by Michael Coleman on California Local Government Finance Reform

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Public Employee Pension and Other Post Employment Benefit Costs

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Property Tax

The largest source of revenue for city and county government, the complex machinations of California property tax assessment, collection and allocation are understood by few.

Overviews and Statistics

Allocation of Tax Revenues

Property Tax in Lieu of VLF

Assessed Valuation of Real Property for Taxation

Proposition 1A Suspension - State Property Tax Loan 2009-10

As a part of the FY 2009-10 budget package, the Legislature passed, and Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation "borrowing" $1.9 billion of city, county and special district property tax collections in that year. Pursuant to Proposition 1A, the amounts must be repaid within three years (specified in subsequent legislation as by June 13, 2013) with interest (stipulated by the Director of Finance at 2%). Many agencies participated in a securization program which the legislation authorized. The provisions permitting any such a suspension of Proposition 1A in the future were deleted by the passage of Proposition 22 (2010).

Property Transfer Taxes and Documentary Transfer Taxes - see Other Locally Adopted Revenues

Property Tax Administration Fees

Property Transfer Taxes and Documentary Transfer Taxes - see Other Locally Adopted Revenues

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Sales & Use Tax

The second largest source of general purpose revenue for cities statewide and the largest for some California cities, the sales and use tax faces a tenuous future. The local component of the sales and use tax is distributed to cities and counties primarily on point-of-sale.

Overviews and Explanations

Data and Statistics

  • Local Sales & Use Tax Allocations. Back through FY2007-08 updated monthly. Payments from the 1% local sales tax, the 1/4% countywide transportation sales tax, and from local sales tax (transactions & use tax) add-on rates. California State Board of Equalization.
  • Quarterly Distributions of the Local Bradley Burns and Add-on Rates. California State Board of Equalization.
  • Local Sales & Use Tax Revenues (BOE). Historic revenue distributions (1998-99 through FY2011-12) to cities and counties from the 1% Local Bradley Burns rate, revenues per capita, revenues as a percentage of general revenues. Compiled from California State Board of Equalization reports. (Excel)
  • Local Sales & Use Tax Revenues (SCO). Historic revenues by city from the 1% Local Bradley Burns rate, revenues per capita, summary statistics as reported by local agencies to the State Controller. Through FY10-11. May'13 (Excel) Caution: may or may not include add-on rates, triple flip reimbursements. BOE statistics (above) are more reliable.
  • California State Board of Equalization Annual Reports. Sales and use tax, property tax, motor vehicle fuel license tax, and more data on BOE administered revenues.

Local Transactions and Use Taxes: "Add On" Sales Taxes

The Sales Tax Triple Flip

Sales Tax Issues: Interagency Competition, Allocation

Sales Tax Issues: Remote & Internet Sales, Simplification and Conformity, Taxing Services

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Utility User's Tax

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Other Locally Adopted Revenues: Business Tax, Hotel Tax and Others.

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Local Tax Votes

Analyses of Local Revenue Measures in California

Summary Reports and Analyses of Elections - California Local Ballot Measures

Resources for Local Ballot Measure Efforts

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VLF: The Motor Vehicle In-Lieu Tax

Established in 1935 as a uniform statewide tax, the VLF is a tax on the ownership of a registered vehicle in place of taxing vehicles as personal property. By law, all revenues from the VLF fund city and county services, but the state legislature controls the tax rate and the allocation among local governments. In 2004, the Legislature permanently reduced the VLF tax rate and eliminated state general fund backfill to cities and counties. Instead, cities and counties now receive additional transfers of property tax revenues in lieu of VLF.

VLF for Incorporations and Annexations

Property Tax in Lieu of VLF

See under Property Tax

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State Funding

Regarding infrastructure bond funds, see "2006 Infrastructure Bonds: Proposition 1B, 1C, 84" under California State Budget.
Regarding the history and issues surrounding state funding of California municipalities, see "The State-Local Fiscal Relationship."
Regarding transportation funds (Prop 42 gas tax, highway users tax, etc., see "Transportation Funding."

State grants and local assistance

State Grants Database. Listing of grant programs administered by the state of California.
Governor's Office of Planning and Research: Local Government Grants Links.
California Coastal Commission Local Coastal Program grants.
California Department of Housing and Community Development Loan and grant programs.
California Commission on State Mandates Info on reimbursable state mandates.
California Department of Transportation Local assistance programs.
California Department of Parks and Recreation Grants and Local Services.
California Energy Commission Energy Partnership Program.

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Federal Grants and Aid

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Transportation Funding

Overviews and Issue Briefs

Transportation Funding Sources

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City Program Expenditures

  • Are California Cities Required to Have Budgets? No. But ... April '13
  • Appropriations Limits by city. Historic Gann Limits and appropriations subject to limit. Through FY08-09. May'11 (Excel)
  • City Expenditures by Category: total expenditures, salary & benefits, contracts, materials & supplies. Percent of total expenditure comparisons and summary statistics. Through FY10-11. March'14 (Excel)
  • City Service Responsibilities. California Cities have differing funding responsibilities and methods of providing services. Per Capita spending and reported service method by city. Aug'10 (Excel)
  • Fire Spending by City. Historic operating, total and net spending for fire services by cities. Per capita and percent of general revenue comparisons and summary statistics. Through FY10-11. March'14 (Excel)
  • Fire Staffing by City. Historic paid and volunteer firefighters. Total budgeted staffing and per capita by city. Through FY10-11. March'14 (Excel)
  • Police Spending by City. Historic operating, total and net spending for police services by cities. Per capita and percent of general revenue comparisons and summary statistics. Through FY10-11. March'14 (Excel)
  • Police Staffing by City. Historic budgeted police officers, total police staffing, volunteers and per capita officers by city. Through FY10-11. March'14 (Excel)
  • Police and Fire Spending by City - per capita and as a percentage of general revenue. Historic, city-by-city statistics. Note that not all cities are responsible for providing and funding fire services. Through FY10-11. March'14 (Excel)
  • Library Spending by City. Historic operating, total and net spending for library services and programs by cities. Per capita and percent of general revenue comparisons and summary statistics. Through FY10-11. March'14 (Excel)
  • Parks & Recreation Spending by City. Historic operating, total and net spending for parks and recreation services and programs by cities. Per capita and percent of general revenue comparisons and summary statistics. Through FY10-11. Nov'13 (Excel)
  • Streets Spending by City. Historic operating, total and net spending for parks and recreation services and programs by cities. Per capita and percent of general revenue comparisons and summary statistics. Through FY10-11. March'14 (Excel)
  • Comparing State and Local Government Finances. Charts comparing revenues, taxes and spending of the state, cities and counties over the last thirty+ years. June'06 (PDF 34kb)
  • Comparing State and Local Government Employment. Charts comparing employment the state, cities, counties and schools over the last fifteen+ years. June'06 (PDF 34kb)
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The Gann Appropriations Limit

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Municipal Debt Financing

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California State Budget: Content and Analysis.

Regarding impacts of the state budget on municipalities see "Cities and the California State Budget."

2006 Infrastructure Bonds: Proposition 1B, 1C, 84

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Cities and the California State Budget

Regarding the history and issues surrounding state funding of California municipalities, see "The State-Local Fiscal Relationship."

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Links to Sites with More Data and Reports

Data: Socio-Economic
California Employment Development Department Labor Market Information.
California Department of Finance Financial and Economic Data
Price and Population Data for the Calculation of Appropriation Limits. Calif Dept of Finance. Go to bottom of the page.
California Department of Finance Demographic Data including Census 2000 data.
California Department of Finance Statistical Abstract
California Department of Finance Monthly Finance Bulletin
California Economic Indicators. Bimonthly summary of economic trends. California Department of Finance.
California State Board of Equalization Monthly Economic Perspective Newsletter
State Controller's Monthly Analysis of State General Fund Cash Flow and Economic Snapshot.
US Census Bureau Government Statistics Census of Governments 1992, 1997, 2002; Government Finance and Employment Classification Manual, Governments Integrated Directory public employment & payroll, federal state and local government finance, public employee retirement systems, state and local government tax collections, federal expenditures, Federal Audit Clearinghouse, criminal justice statistics, elementary-secondary education statistics, library statistics.
California Local Government Employment Data. Statewide summary.
Employment of Major Local Governments (PDF)
California Quick Facts. State and county demographic statistics and more.
California QuickLinks. Various datasets on California.
American Community Survey US Census Bureau community level data.
US Department of Housing and Urban Development "State of the Cities Data System" Data for individual metropolitan areas, central cities, and suburbs. Detailed demographic and economic characteristics of the population; unemployment rates; information on jobs, business establishments, and average pay in the 1990s; and FBI crime data.
California Department of Transportation Division of Transportation Information System Information. A variety of California streets and highways statistics.
National Association for Business Economics.
DataQuick Real Estate News. Home sales, pricing, and mortgage charts and statistics.
Financial Forecast Center. An assortment of US economic data and forecasts.
City-Data.com. Profiles of US cities and towns with graphs and data drawn from a wide variety of sources.
California Online Directory. State employee phone / address directory.

Data: Government Finance

State Budget

California State Budget Includes summary charts and tables on various state and local revenues.
Next-Ten. Well crafted informational tools regarding California's Budget and Infrastructure.
State and Local Revenue Collections and Allocations
California Department of Finance Statistical Abstract
Monthly Finance Bulletin California Department of Finance.
California State Board of Equalization Annual Reports sales and use tax, property tax, motor vehicle fuel license tax, and more data on BOE administered revenues.
BOE Monthly Economic Perspective Newsletter
BOE Tax Overviews. Explanatory materials on various BOE administered taxes.
California State Controller's Office Local Government Apportionments. Reports of allocations of State Controller administered state revenues to local governments, state mandate reimbursements and other information.
California State Controller Guides, Manuals, and Reference Materials for local agencies Accounting, expenditure and auditing standards and references.
California Franchise Tax Board Annual Reports. Concerning FTB administered taxes.
State Tax Tables Comparative tax information among states. Compiled by the Urban Institute / Brookings Institution.
Local Government Revenues and Spending
California State Controller's Office Local Government Annual Reports. Reported revenues and spending for California local governments.
California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission publications including debt issuance data and issue briefs.
US Census Bureau Government Statistics including Census of Governments
Summary of State and Local Finances.

The HdL Companies Briefing sheets and data on local sales taxes and property taxes.
Grants and local assistance
State Grants Database. Listing of grant programs administered by the state of California.
California Coastal Commission Local Coastal Program Grants.
California Department of Housing and Community Development Loan and grant programs.
California Commission on State Mandates Info on reimbursable state mandates.
California Department of Transportation Local assistance programs.
California Department of Parks and Recreation Grants and Local Services.

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Articles / Analysis / Opinion

Western City Magazine Monthly magazine of the League of California Cities.
Public Policy Institute of California A private, nonprofit organization dedicated to independent, nonpartisan research on California's economic, social, and political issues.
The Tax Policy Center. Provides analysis and facts about tax policy. A joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.
National League of Cities special reports
Legislative Analyst's Office Provider of fiscal and programmatic expertise and nonpartisan analyses of the state's budget to the California Legislature.
CalTaxDigest articles from the California Taxpayers Association.
California Research Bureau reports, an office of the California State Library.
California Budget Project A nonprofit research and public education organization addressing state fiscal policy.

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Law & Legislation

State Law and Legislation
Daily File: California State Senate (includes links to listen where available)
Audio and television- State Senate Hearings
Governance and Finance Committee, California State Senate
Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, California State Senate
Daily File: California State Assembly (includes links to listen where available)
Audio and television- State Assembly Hearings
Local Government Committee, California State Assembly
Revenue and Taxation Committee, California State Assembly
Other info on the State Assembly, its procedures and its members
California Legislative and Legal History index. UCSF Hastings Law Library.
Search California Legislation or Search California Legislation
Search California Codes. California Legislative Counsel.
Search California Statutes. California Legislative Counsel.
Search California Administrative Regulations. California Office of Administrative Law.
Search California Constitution. California Legislative Counsel.
Search California Court Decisions. Judicial Council of California.
Search Attorney General Opinions. California Attorney General's Office.
Federal and State Laws, Cases and Codes from FindLaw
Legislative Analyst's Office Non-partisan advisor to the State Legislature.
Board of Equalization Legislative Analyses and Bulletins including bills concerning property taxes and sales taxes.
The Roundup. Daily news from the state capitol.
California Municipal Law Handbook League of California Cities.
Colantuono & Levin, PC. Papers reviewing the latest legal issues in California local government finance from some of the best legal minds in this area.
Court Decisions
California Courts Home Page
Slip Opinions of CA Court Decisions
Ninth Circuit Opinions Since 6/95
Findlaw Search of Ninth Circuit Opinions Since 1996
Findlaw Search of CA Supreme Court & Appellate Court Opinions 1934 - Present
City and County Law and Legislation
California City and County Codes and Charters (UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies Library).
California Land Use Planning Information Network information relating to California land use planning issues including city and county zoning ordinances, environmental assessment documents, maps, plans, photos, reports/publications, and spatial data.
California Local Planning Documents Database (UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies Library) - Searchable database of city and county planning documents collected by the IGS Library.
California Ballot Propositions
Legislative Analyst's Office's analysis of current and recent ballot propositions
California Secretary of State's Ballot Pamphlets On-line 1996 onward.
California Secretary of State's Ballot Initiative Updates.
Legislative Analyst's Office's fiscal analyses of proposed initiatives
California Attorney General: Initiative Measures. Status and full text of proposed initiative measures.
California Ballot Propositions Historic since 1884. Hastings College Law Library.

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Associations

Cities
League of California Cities
Institute for Local Government (ILG)
National League of Cities (NLC)
International City/County Management Association (ICMA)
US Conference of Mayors
Counties and County Finance Officials
California State Association of Counties (CSAC)
California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors
California State Association of County Auditors
County Auditor and Tax Collector Names and Contact Information State Controllers Office.
Finance Officers and Treasurers
California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSMFO)
California Committee on Municipal Accounting (CCMA) white papers at CSMFO
California Municipal Treasurers Association (CMTA)
California Municipal Revenue and Tax Association (CMRTA)
Government Finance Officers Association of the United State and Canada (GFOA)
Special Districts
California Redevelopment Association (CRA)
California Special Districts Association (CSDA)
Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA)
California Association of Recreation and Park Districts (CARPD)
Other
Municipal Management Assistants of Northern California (MMANC)
Municipal Management Assistance of Southern California (MMASC)
California State Library Association
California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions (CaLAFCo)
California Communities (California Statewide Communities Development Authority - CSCDA)
Cities, Counties and Schools Partnership (CCS)
California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA)
California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED)
California Association of Councils of Governments
American Planning Association. California Chapter
California Planners' Book of Lists by the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. 2011 Edition.
Prior years editions: 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996

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