A wave of innovation is sweeping American cities. Hard fiscal times and inexpensive technologies are prompting many governments to develop new and innovative programs. New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation are leading nationwide competitions to showcase innovative public programs, while two other states have rolled out tools for their cities and taxpayers. Righting the muniland ship will require stabilizing budgets and creating innovative ways to deliver public services.
Every one of the 19,492 municipal and 16,519 township governments in America is unique. But, when it comes to the fiscal affairs of these entities, there are a lot of similarities. Almost all local governments provide fire and police protection, libraries and parks, tax collection and public works like street maintenance and garbage collection. Generally the 50,432 school districts in the U.S. act as independent political entities with their own budgets, tax collection and bond issues.