In a growing number of U.S. cities, deteriorating economic conditions
have put in jeopardy standard public services most Americans take for
granted: potable water, police and fire protection, public schools,
etc.... National headlines in recent years provide ample evidence of
cities in distress. While debates about Flint, Michigan and Ferguson,
Missouri have understandably emphasized water quality and police
misconduct, respectively, these communities share a common condition of
fiscal deprivation that helps explain their current circumstances.
Similar conditions underlie several high-profile cases of municipal
bankruptcy in recent years (e.g., Detroit, Stockton, San Bernardino).
The origins of these local fiscal crises are complex and varied, but
most can be traced to budgetary pressures arising from some combination
of shrinking tax bases, constitutional limitations on local taxing
authority, legacy pension costs, and reduced federal and state financial
This course will examine the root causes of the
fiscal crises in these and other cities, and explore the various legal
tools available to assist these communities in achieving long term
fiscal sustainability. Specific topics to be covered include the basics
of local government finance, structural trends contributing to local
fiscal distress, and legal mechanisms for addressing fiscal crises
(e.g., financial control boards, municipal bankruptcy, dissolution).
Attention will also be given to federal, state, and local fiscal reforms
designed to reduce the risk of future crises.