Case Study: The Pacific Grove Library Tax

Douglas A. Brook
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What happens when a budget-stressed municipality reduces support to a popular public service and an energized constituency of citizens proposes to tax themselves and their neighbors to restore service levels? This is a short and deceptively simple-looking case about a proposed tax increase to support the city’s public library. Underlying it, however, is a complex set of policy issues in public budgeting, taxation, economics, and citizen engagement. How should decisions be made about what city services to fund and with how much money? What is the proper role of citizen engagement in budgetary matters? What are the potential benefits and consequences of a la cartefunding of public services? This case was written primarily for use in a public budgeting course but can easily be used in political science, public administration and economics courses.

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