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Austerity in the city: economic crisis and urban service decline?

Editors: Betsy Donald, Amy Glasmeier, Mia Gray and Linda Lobao

This special issue will assess the impact of the global recession on the delivery of essential services for cities and communities around the world. Among the most high-profile are recent bankruptcies in some cities in the United States. In some respects, the underlying circumstances are unique to the U.S. municipal finance system that relies heavily on property tax revenues. Nevertheless, cities and communities all over the world face challenges with respect to dwindling revenues and increasing responsibility for the delivery of services. For years, upper levels of government have downloaded and offloaded service responsibilities that municipalities are increasingly incapable of handling even during relatively good times. In some cases, municipalities deferred important infrastructure renewal projects rather than increase taxes. Now, with a prolonged period of slow growth, declining revenues, and a new round of central state austerity measures, many municipalities face a downward spiral from which there may be little prospect of emerging.