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California Local Government Fiscal Transparency Project Receives Sunlight Foundation Grant

PRESS RELEASE: Walnut Creek, CA (September 9) – Public Sector Credit Solutions (PSCS) announced that it had received an $8000 grant from The Sunlight Foundation to expand its local government fiscal transparency platform. The PSCS site, at http://www.publicsectorcredit.org/ca provides financial statistics and credit scores for 260 California cities. PSCS will use the proceeds of the Sunlight grant to expand coverage to the state’s counties and expects the new data to be published in November.

“PSCS is a deserving recipient of an OpenGov Grant. Their work will help make our government more transparent and accountable and better our community,” said Ellen S. Miller, co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation.

“We’re thrilled that the Sunlight Foundation has seen value in our work,” said Marc Joffe, Principal Consultant at PSCS. “Although most sizable local government agencies publish their audited financial statements, the transparency benefit is limited by the fact that the statements are scattered across a large number of web sites and published as PDFs. By aggregating these reports and extracting key data from them, we make it easier for citizens to compare multiple governments and assess the risk of any given city or county going bankrupt.”

Concern about the financial stability of California local governments was heightened by the 2012 municipal bankruptcy filings by Mammoth Lakes, San Bernardino and Stockton. Although no California city has gone bankrupt in 2013, Detroit’s recent Chapter IX filing has reinforced worries about city finances.

As Joffe points out in a recent Sunlight Foundation OpenGov Voices blog post (at http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/09/06/opengov-voices-a-transparent-approach-to-understanding-local-government-debt/), concerns over municipal fiscal stability is resulting in higher borrowing costs for local governments. Higher interest rates demanded by municipal bond investors crowd out spending on other priorities and create pressure for tax increases. The PSCS project has the goal of making the municipal bond market more efficient by lowering the cost of obtaining information and analysis on the fiscal welfare of local governments.

“The vast majority of local governments are not in danger of bankruptcy,” said Joffe. “By providing standardized statistics and credit scores to municipal bond investors and other stakeholders, we can help them identify the truly at risk governments, while increasing their confidence in the rest. We’re looking forward to extending our coverage in California, and collaborating with others to expand coverage in other states.”

Public Sector Credit Solutions was formed in 2011 to provide data and analytics relating to government bond credit risk. In 2012, the organization released an open source simulation framework for analyzing sovereign, state and provincial bonds.

Contact:   Marc Joffe, Public Sector Credit Solutions, 415-578-0558