Developing and Testing a Composite Model to Predict Local Fiscal Distress



One of the thorniest issues of intergovernmental fiscal relations is state oversight of local fiscal affairs. States have oversight responsibility and must take action when local governments run afoul of responsible fiscal behavior. Less accepted is how states can detect local financial difficulties before they become emergencies that require state takeover. Research in the 1970s provided some assistance to states wishing to recognize local financial emergencies. But the time has come to look at this issue anew, particularly with an eye toward predicting local financial problems before they become serious. This article describes a 10-point scale that predicts these problems and tests the scale to predict local fiscal stress in a sample of Michigan local governments.