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much of the annual severance tax revenue received by counties. The “sharing economy,” a technological development best exemplified by AirbnB and Uber, is challenging county revenue structures. According to the interviews with the state association of counties and other officials, counties in nine states are experiencing fiscal losses because of home sharing. The rapid proliferation of “dark store” big-box retailers’ property valuation appeals is another issue confronting counties in more than 12 states. This approach argues for use of vacant big box stores as comparables for the assessment of operating retail store locations.


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COUNTIES ARE PURSUING VARIOUS SOLUTIONS TO ENSURE QUALITY SERVICE DELIVERY DESPITE FISCAL CONSTRAINTS.


Counties throughout the country partner with cities, other counties, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to deliver high-quality services to their residents in a cost efficient manner. For example, Iowa counties are part of more than 23,000 agreements with other local governments for service delivery ranging from ambulance services to public libraries. Further, 37 states grant counties the authority to create and/or manage special-purpose tax districts to fund specific services. In 22 of the 37 states, counties must first obtain voter approval. Finally, some states have passed legislation specifically meant to curb the imposition of unfunded mandates. For example, the Alabama Constitution requires a two-thirds approval of any such mandate by the state legislature; furthermore, the state cannot enforce the mandate until the following fiscal year.


County government roles and responsibilities continuously evolve as local conditions and needs change with shifting economies, aging populations or overburdened infrastructure. Local elected officials understand best the impact of legislation or administrative regulations on the county economy and county government budget. Counties need the state and the federal governments to provide full funding to cover for the compliance costs with the mandates they impose. Likewise, increased county autonomy regarding revenue generation and service provisions would relieve some of the fiscal pressures. The continued partnership with the state and federal governments is essential to counties’ ability to effectively and successfully support thriving communities across the country.


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NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of COUNTIES | NOVEMBER 2016


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