Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Performance Measurement and Management Tools in North Carolina Local Government: Revisited

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Performance Measurement and Management Tools in North Carolina Local Government: Revisited

Article excerpt


Local governments across the country continue to experience increasing demands for effective and professional services while, at the same time, facing taxpayer resistance to generating locally the revenue needed to support these services. Management tools have the potential to help governments measure program effectiveness and efficiency, improve decision-making and program administration, reduce budgets, enhance productivity, and leverage resources. The use of management tools in the public sector and their impact on decision-making are of long-standing interest in budgetary and management research (Hatry, 1981; Usher and Cornia, 1981; Epstein, 1988; Bens, 1993; Henry and Dickey, 1993; Ammons, 1995; Poister and Streib, 1995; Lynch and Day, 1996; Rosenhoover and Kuhn, 1996). Recent studies have attempted to quantify the use of various management tools in local governments across the nation (Botner, 1989; Cope, 1989; Miller and Miller, 1991).

This article analyzes the results of a 1995 study of the use and perceived effectiveness of performance measurement and other management and budgetary tools by cities and counties in North Carolina.1 The population groups surveyed were cities 5,000 and larger and counties 25,000 and larger. The study replicates one done by the author in 1990 (Mandell, 1991) and much of Poister and Streib's (1989) municipal management surveys (Poister and McGowan, 1984; Streib and Poister, 1989; Poister and Streib, 1994).

While national studies provide a broad perspective and context in which to evaluate local efforts, cities and counties usually want to know what their neighbors are doing and others do not care about national trends until they arrive in their backyard. Local governments in North Carolina, supported by state statutes, have long exhibited a high degree of professionalism in conducting their budgetary and fiscal management activities (Bell, 1989; Lawrence, 1990; Lawrence and Wicker, 1995; Liner, 1995). However, have those local governments continued to use the tools reported in use on the 1990 survey and have they implemented new management tools to help them meet their responsibilities?

The major questions this article addresses include the following: 1) What management tools are local governments in North Carolina using? 2) How effective do managers perceive these tools to be in program administration and decision-making? 3) How do cities and counties differ in their adoption and evaluation of these tools? 4) What is the extent of anticipated adoption of these tools by governments not yet using them? 5) What have been the changes in the use and assessment of performance measurement and other management tools by North Carolina local governments over the past five years? 6) What specific performance measures do cities and counties use and in what functional areas of government? and 7) What is the future of performance measurement and other standard management tools in North Carolina local governments?


The data presented in this article were gathered from a mail-out survey--an expanded version of the one used by the author in 1990. The survey was mailed in the spring of 1995 to a total of 175 jurisdictions across the state. The sample included all cities with more than 5,000 and a selection of towns with less that 5,000 population (N = 105) and all counties larger than 25,000 population (N = 70). One hundred and eight local governments returned questionnaires, 71 cities and 37 counties for an overall response rate of about 62 percent.2

Table 1 contains a breakdown of the response rates by cities versus counties and population size. The sample well represents the total number of jurisdictions in the size range for the study. The only groups underrepresented are the smaller counties (between 25,000 and 50,000) population and smaller cities (between 5,000 and 10,000). While the response rate was higher for cities than counties, overall both groups are appropriately represented in the sample used for this study. …

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