CLOSUP launched its Fiscal Health Project in 2019 to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges that local governments face in collecting, using, and interpreting fiscal data, and to promote greater transparency and earlier detection of fiscal stress. Fiscal health is critical because it underlies the ability of local governments to provide public services—from economic development to public safety, social welfare, clean water, and more.
CLOSUP’s holistic approach combines local officials’ insights and responses to its annual Michigan Public Policy Survey regarding fiscal health, along with administrative data collected by the state and its local jurisdictions to explore research questions such as:
- How do local officials assess their fiscal health, and how are their assessments related to various aspects of fiscal health, including budget balancing, service delivery, infrastructure, and retiree pensions/healthcare?
- How do local officials’ assessments compare to measures of fiscal health derived from financial and economic data? To the extent that they disagree, what accounts for the difference?
- Are there systematic differences between governments that report higher levels of stress versus lower levels of stress?
The fiscal health of local governments is critically important to the functioning of our democracy, economy, and quality of life. In turn, high-quality easily-accessible financial data are essential to promote fiscal health, as well as transparency and data-driven policymaking.