For Release Friday, May 31, 2013
Last month, the Government Accountability Office found a widening gap between projected revenues and expenses in the years ahead. While it’s tempting to point fingers at pensions or other easy targets of so-called “wasteful spending” as the only reason for this fiscal problem, city leaders should carefully consider the role that different development strategies play in their budgets and how they can help cure – or ruin – them.
Too often we see cities and towns chasing short-term revenue, mistakenly arguing that sprawling new development on the edge of town represents true economic growth. Yes, new buildings and wide new roads provide a quick hit of cash to a city budget and offer a compelling illusion of prosperity and growth. But over time, the cost of serving such developments often costs more than the tax revenue those developments generate.
Last week, a report I co-authored with Smart Growth America illustrates how walkable, smart growth infill development results in significantly better returns for municipalities compared to car-centric, traditional suburban development. Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development surveys 17 studies from around the country that compare different development scenarios, including a new study of Nashville-Davidson County, Tenn., commissioned specifically for this report.