Fiscal belt-tightening and deep austerity cuts are not just limited to debt-stricken European countries — small town America is also reeling from budget shortfalls and depleted resources. According to Dan Lagani, president of Reader's Digest North America, there's a budget crisis at both the state and local level.
The Association recently conducted its second online poll of American mayors and found that 65% of the mayors surveyed will be increasing municipal fees while decreasing or cutting services to offset tax revenue loss and lower federal assistance. Of the 52 mayors polled, 71% have already cut community services such as 4th of July firework shows, library hours, park maintenance and more.
"It's pretty clear that towns across America are still struggling," said Lagani in the attached clip. "We haven't seen a sustained turnaround at a local level."
Some municipalities are targeting key services to reduce costs because "those one time tricks have already been taken," Lagani tells Aaron Task in the accompanying clip.
"I don't know that many of the communities are in a position where they can continue to take cuts in essential services - fire and police," he said.
Hard-pressed mayors are beginning to think creatively when it comes to finding new revenue sources. Ten percent of the mayors surveyed said they are considering selling municipal real estate as a means of generating revenue. Almost half of the mayors polled said their initiatives to shore up local finances prompted residents to label them as "bad guys" and 12% said their communities under-appreciated their tough economic decisions.
Tax hikes and service cuts are politically unpopular solutions in hard economic times, but Lagani noted that the majority of mayors polled "have great faith" that their budget woes can be resolved successfully.
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