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Local governments are changing and lack funds to meet community needs.

The survey asked a series of questions about the condition of local government in the 1990s. NLC solicited the opinions of city officials regarding the obstacles to tackling the major problems of cities and the fiscal condition of their municipality. Moreover, NLC asked officials for their perceptions of local government capability and their opinions regarding the relationship between local government and its state and federal counterparts and the citizens it serves.

Seventy-two percent of city and town officials perceive local government to-be undergoing significant changes. They say those changes are not widely understood or appreciated. Amidst this transition, 44% expect that, unless local taxes and fees are raised in 1993, local services will decrease. Nearly four out of ten officials say that their locality is "not keeping up" with public works and infrastructure needs. Twothirds are concerned that local governments in their area may be "overwhelmed" by these challenges.

City officials were asked to identify the major obstacles to addressing their "most difficult problems." Eighty-five percent of respondents listed "lack of money" - up from 79% in 1991. Fifty-nine percent listed "federal/state restrictions" - up from 55% a year before. Only one-fifth said that "lack of community support" or "lack of good program ideas "were major obstacles.

Although a clear majority of officials (63%) say that overall service levels were maintained in their cities or towns in 1992, one-fifth of municipal officials expect city services to decrease in 1993. Moreover, if city tax rates and fees are not increased, that percentage more than doubles to 44%.

Moreover, while a slim majority believes that their community's are able to "keep up" financially with local public works and infrastructure needs, 38% of them say their cities are "not keeping up." Only 9% are "able to get ahead."

In addition to commenting on the fiscal limitations of local government, municipal officials offered their opinions on the general status of. local government in the 1990s. The picture which emerges from their comments is troubling.

By a huge margin, local elected officials 'either "agreed' (44%) or 'strongly agreed' (41%) that the Federal government does not treat local governments with sufficient respect. Officials expressed similar sentiments, with regard to state/local government relations. Overall, 84% of city and town officials believed that state governments lack sufficient respect for local government.

Nearly three in four local officials (72%) agreed that the roles and functions of local government have changed significantly in the last five years; further, 84% of officials believe that citizens do not adequately understand these roles and responsibilities.

Perhaps as a result of these perceptions, two in three local officials (67%) believe that local governments in their area are likely to be overwhelmed by the challenges they will face in the 1990s.
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Title Annotation:Special Report: The State of America's Cities; The Ninth Annual Opinion Survey of Municipal Elected Officials
Author:Barnes, William; Eddins, Kevin
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 11, 1993
Previous Article:Economy dominates officials' assessment of local conditions.
Next Article:Municipal officials offer priorities for new federal leadership.

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