Understanding Fiscal Health of Counties in Iowa

Local governments in Iowa provide vital public services affecting citizens’ quality of life and creating an environment for economic opportunity. While often undervalued for the role they play, local governments are an essential institution in the maintenance of civil society. The collective organizational capacity represented by municipalities, counties, school districts, and other local public entities is all too often not fully understood. Changes in demographic, economic and political factors are  however, making the task of maintaining and improving local public services more difficult and challenging for the foreseeable future.

Increasing economic downturns, continuing depopulation of rural areas, aging infrastructure and rigidly divided political ideologies are contributing toward local government ‘fiscal stress.’ While there are different ways of defining fiscal stress, the most important feature is the added pressure on government finances as revenue streams slow down and expenditure level rises either due to rising cost or increasing demand. Using two indexes – fiscal capacity and fiscal stress, we are tracking the evolving fiscal health of local governments in Iowa. For a more detailed understanding of what the index means and how to interpret it, please refer to our recent publication in the Iowa County, a monthly publication from the Iowa State Association of Counties. The link to the article is



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