MuniLand

Over-selling California’s recovery

The Golden State, under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, has done a remarkable job of managing its finances through the worst economic period since the Great Depression. Because the state was the epicenter of the housing bust, its fiscal meltdown was one of the most severe in the nation. Although three California cities have declared bankruptcy (with others to possibly come) the state deserves a lot of credit for getting through a very rough period.

The governor held a press conference touting the state’s recovery. However, fireworks and champagne to celebrate recovery would be a little premature. Adam Nagourney of the New York Times reported:

“The deficit is gone,” Mr. Brown proclaimed, standing in front of an array of that-was-then and this-is-now charts that illustrated what he said were dramatic changes in California’s fortunes.

“For the next four years we are talking about a balanced budget,” he said. “We are talking about living within our means. This is new. This is a breakthrough.”

California’s 2014 budget would show a $21 million surplus, according to the Times. Meanwhile, Paul Krugman trumpeted that the fiscal struggles of California were over, based on his blog research:

New York schools face multiple funding challenges

Spending for public education in New York is the highest in the nation, at $20,645 per student every year. But recent reductions in state aid and a cap on the amount that a community may increase its property taxes is putting the brakes on school budgets. At the same time, increases in employee pension and health care costs are requiring a greater share of school revenue. Now school superintendents are faced with letting employees go and increasing class sizes. The fiscal vise is causing districts to do more with less.

In a recent survey performed by the Council of Superintendents, school leaders were asked if their districts were near insolvency and unable to meet their financial commitments. A surprising number indicated significant stress, as they had already spent down their reserves.

When superintendents were asked feedback, one wrote:

No matter how much we have in reserves, TRS/ERS, health insurance, and Triborough along with meager NYS aid, makes the financial model unsustainable.

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