The Politics of City Revenue

By Arnold J. Meltsner | Go to book overview

1
Revenue Sources

Most of Oakland's officials are pessimistic about their city's fiscal condition. As in other organizations, officials face a budget constraint; but in Oakland they do not face it with equanimity. There is a fiscal crisis or a revenue-expenditure gap. The property tax base grows slowly, but this slow growth in assessed valuation is perceived as no growth at all and talk of tax base erosion is commonplace. Thus the fiscal glass is always half empty rather than half full. We will probably never be able to isolate the antecedents of this fiscal pessimism. How much of it is due to objective social and economic conditions or how much is due to the officials themselves is difficult to discern. The net result, however, is clear: Oakland's officials perceive only a few of the possible financial policy options open to them.

It is within the context of this restricted policy space that an exploration of the fiscal behavior of Oakland's officials can begin. In order to understand their pessimism and its consequences for the city's tax structure, some aspects of Oakland's perceived fiscal crisis will be examined and, after briefly noting Oakland's social and economic problems, its revenue-expenditure gap and some major revenue trends will be discussed. Then there will be a discussion of some specific aspects of its tax structure. Using descriptions of Oakland's major sources of revenue, I will show that it has limited its capacity to raise revenue, that it is the willing fiscal creature of the state of California, that it makes and loses

-12-

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The Politics of City Revenue
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • The Oakland Project vii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Revenue Sources 12
  • 2 - City Officials And Oakland Finance 49
  • 3 - The Revenue Process And Public Avoidance 86
  • 4 - The Sewer Service Charge 132
  • 5 - Budgeting Without Money 161
  • 6 - Citizen-Leader Perceptions Of Oakland Finance 186
  • 7 - Politics, Policy, And City Revenue 248
  • Appendix 287
  • Bibliography 289
  • Index 297
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