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Report · April 2000

Risky Business: Providing Local Public Services in Los Angeles County

Mark Baldassare, Michael A. Shires, Christopher Hoene, and Aaron Koffman

Over the past 20 years, California voters have passed a series of ballot initiatives that have sought to limit the taxing and spending powers of their elected officials. Counties in particular have felt the brunt of this fiscal austerity. During the recession of the early 1990s, Los Angeles County came close to a fiscal meltdown; and to this day, the county still faces an uncertain fiscal future. This study identifies the fiscal and organizational strains involved in providing public services in Los Angeles County, describes the system for financing services at different jurisdictional levels, and suggests alternative fiscal and organizational arrangements for service provision. Although the study focuses on Los Angeles County, many of the observations and suggestions would be useful to other counties throughout the state.