Follow the Money - From Surpluses to School Buses: Understanding Public Finance


Annual BRASS program
June 26, 2006
New Orleans, Louisiana

Public Finance Information Sources:
A Bibliography

Compiled by BRASS 2006 Annual Program Planning Committee

Download the bibliography as a Word document

Pt. 1: Local and State Sources

Introduction | Local Public Finance Sources : Primary Sources : Operational Sources | State Public Finance Sources


This document supplements the content delivered during "Follow the Money - From Surpluses to School Buses: Understanding Public Finance," the program organized and presented by the Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) and offered at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Library Association in New Orleans. It is also available online via: (Path: Professional Tools > Presentations and Handouts > Public Finance).

Many library patrons seek information about how local, state, federal and international governments are fiscally-managed. Often the questions relate to how tax dollars are spent, analysis of fiscal and administrative policies, or comparisons of spending between one geographic area and another. Librarians facing these kinds of questions quickly realize that the task is complicated by specialized vocabulary and lack of systematic publishing or coordinated finding aids. Frequently, the documents fall under the category of "grey literature," those non-commercially published documents that are often unpredictable in frequency and do not follow standard publishing practices for bibliographic control or editorial oversight. To make things worse, agencies producing the information usually do not think to distribute their publications to local and regional libraries.

This bibliography intends to serve as a basic resource guide for librarians seeking information on public finance, with annotations to books, periodicals, websites, and government sources that can best answer most questions by patrons. This is not a comprehensive list of resources, especially in the local and state sections, since there are too many unique resources to list. This guide includes examples of these region-specific resources, and tips for librarians seeking their own local versions.

Many of the resources in each section come from public sources like the U.S. Census Bureau, or state and local governments. Others are from private sources, such as non-profit policy institutes, public finance professionals' associations, and academia. Some are available freely online, but others require a fee or subscription. The annotations characterize these sources, indicating their most salient features for researching public finance. If a resource will answer questions for more than one governmental level, it is annotated fully where it first appears, and other sections refer back to its earlier description. Two appendixes supplement this bibliography. The first is an online-only glossary of public finance terms, and the second a table that summarizes the types and sources of public finance information.

Several members of the 2006 BRASS Program Committee contributed their time and expertise to this document. Jennifer Boettcher (Georgetown University) and Darcy Del Bosque (University of Texas at San Antonio) compiled the local sources section and the vocabulary appendix. Todd Hines (University of Alabama) and Kelly Janousek (California State University at Long Beach) completed the state resources section. The authors for the federal sources section were Donna Daniels (University of Arkansas) and Lucy Heckman (St. Johns University). Michael Oppenheim (University of California at Los Angeles) provided the international section. Adele Barsh (Carnegie Mellon University) created the typology appendix and edited this document. Everyone contributed to the Indexes and Periodicals section.


Financial information at the city and county level can be some of the most difficult to find. The city or county is often responsible for publishing financial information at the local level, and frequently documents are printed once, never to be printed again. Some reports, such as budgets, are published annually in most localities and can be invaluable resources. This section begins with General Resources , which lists resources that help in the discovery of local financial information. It is followed by two sections, Budget Information and Other Local Public Finance Information , which help to illustrate the documents that actually can be found at the city and/or county level. Finally, the section concludes with Operational Sources , which aid in the discovery of documents related to the running of local organizations with the emphasis on financial aspects. In each section, the broadest resources are listed first, followed by materials narrower in scope.

Primary Sources

General Sources

The following resources help in uncovering local financial information. Although some of the listings come from non-local sources (federal government, non-profit organization, etc.), they all provide access to information at the local level.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. "Federal, State, and Local Governments State and Local Government Finance Data." (

This resource is an excellent starting point for finding local financial information. The Census Bureau conducts an Annual Survey of Government Finances yearly during non-Census years. From this survey they publish several components that contain local financial information, including State Government Tax Collections, Quarterly Summary of State and Local Government Tax Revenue, State Government Finances, State and Local Government Finances, State and Local Government Finances, and Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finances.

_____. "Consolidated Federal Funds Report." (

The Census Bureau provides a summary table on annual federal expenditures to local communities. Data lags two years.

Library of Congress. "State and Local Governments." (

Put together in the Newspaper ad Current Periodical Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the "State and Local Government Information in General" is most useful. Many local links are included by state. A highlight of this site is the section called "State and Local Government Information in General," which provides links to information with resources for all states. Specific links to individual state's information is also included. The LC's Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room compiles the information.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Statistical Abstract of the United States. Annual. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1878-. (

Federal, state, and local public finance statistics are available. Data includes revenue by source, details of expenditures, and information on government debt. Many of the state and local statistics are taken from the U.S. Census sources discussed in the "State Public Finance Sources" section below.

Martin, Mary, ed. Local and Regional Government Information: How to Find It, How to Use It. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005.

Martin's text covers all aspects of local government information. The chapter called "Budgets, Taxes, Revenue Sources" is particularly helpful for assistance in locating local finance information.

Sagoo, Sumeet, ed. Facts and Figures on Government Finance, 38th ed. Washington D.C.: Tax Foundation, 2004. (

This reference book is produced annually by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. It contains over 175 tables of the most recent government finance data available from the local, state and federal levels. Most of the revenue and expense numbers are provided back forty years or more. Much of this data is available in other places, but this source does a good job of combining a large amount of information in one place, in easy-to-interpret tables.

AccountantsWorld. "Tax and Accounting Sites Directory: State and Local Tax." (

This free resource contains a large list of links and information for different tax areas and issues, such as State Links, General Locators, Sales and Use Tax, News and Topics, Organizations, Rates and Data, State Tax Guides, and E-Commerce Tax.

HelloMetro. "State and Local Government on the Net." (

This site provides convenient, one-stop access to the websites of thousands of state agencies and city and county governments. The drop-down menus on the left points to the directory pages. The local government links go to county governments.

University of Wisconsin Extension. Local Government Center. "Local Government Finance." (

This website was created to aid local officials with budgeting and financing. Despite its creation for a specific geographical audience, it has relevance to anyone searching for local financial information. It is divided into several sections; examples are Local Government Finance and Growth Management. Each section includes an overview of the concept, provides links to additional websites, and lists relevant print resources. Fact sheets, papers, and samples of documents are also included.

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. "Fed In Print: A Comprehensive Index to Federal Reserve Economic Research" (

This free index covers all of the Federal Reserve Board's and Banks' publications, with selected full text for items written recently. The text of the available articles is written in a clear style. To find publications covering local financial information it can be useful to either include the word "Local" in the subject search field and/or the word "Municipal*" in the keyword search field.

State University of New York. Nelson A.Rockefeller Institute of Government. Home page. (

As the public policy research arm of the State University of New York, the Institute conducts research on the role of state and local governments in American federalism and on the management and finances of states and localities.

Budget Information

When looking for local financial information, specific documents may be helpful. Different localities may have more than one type of budget available. Operating budgets consist of ongoing expenses that can be planned for. These documents often include salaries/benefits, supplies, and other recurring costs. Adopted budgets are budgets that have been approved by a local governing body (state legislature, budget committee, etc). The researcher also may see references to capital budgets, which include the costs of large projects with long-term benefits to the locality. All of these types of budget documents often can be found online at city or county websites or through a quick Internet search. Search terms my include "budget office," "executive budget," " Controller," "country auditor," "tax assessor," "tax collector," "city manager," "enrolled agents," or "taxpayer association." Three examples follow. Many public and academic libraries also have copies of city and county budgets in their collections.

San Antonio. Office of Management and Budget. City of San Antonio Adopted Capital Budget. San Antonio, TX: City of San Antonio, 2004.

The San Antonio City Budget provides the city's six year capital plan, including the current year's capital budget. This document is also available online at

New York City. Office of the State Deputy Comptroller for the City of the New York City. Review of New York City's Financial Plan for Fiscal Years 2005 through 2008. New York: New York City, 2004.

This document is available in print at a variety of New York libraries, but is also available in the New York State Digital Collections ( It provides information for the current fiscal year and projections for future years, but also discusses revenue and expenditure trends that will impact the budget and includes information on city-funded staffing.

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. "Budget and Finance." (

Allegheny County's budget is available full text online starting in 1999. The budget document includes the capital budget, operating budget, grants budget, and special accounts budget. A five-year trend of revenues and expenditures is also included.

Other Local Public Finance Information

In addition to local government budgets, much of local finance revolves around property tax, school finance, and welfare and other social services. Since most cities and counties have websites, the Internet can be a good place to search for this type of information. State websites can also be resources for finding city- and county-level information, since states often collect this data and compile it in one location. Search terms may be "Legislative Auditors," "State Comptrollers," "Education Departments," "Financial Control Boards," "Revenue Department," "State Treasurer," "Tax Commissioner," or "Intergovernmental Relations." Examples follow.

Los Angeles County, Office of the Assessor. Home page. (

In addition to providing information for tax payers, this site includes the 2005 Annual Report and press releases. It also offers information on roll value, property sales, and provides access to assessor maps.

West Virginia Department of Education. "School Financial Information." (

This state-level site contains yearly financial information for school districts in West Virginia, starting from 2001. Financial data includes salaries, revenues and expenditures, and property taxes and levies. The state aid funding formula is also provided.

California Department of Social Services. "Budget and Fiscal News." (

This site covers a variety of county-level data for budgetary concerns affecting Health and Human Services agencies in California. It includes cost allocation plans, fiscal year allocations and expenditures, budget highlights, and other reports.

Operational Sources

Some clues for finding local financial information can come from documents that address the management of local governments. The resources below were created for managers of local government or address relevant financial issues in the management of local government.

Fisher, Ronald C. State and Local Public Finance. Chicago: Irwin, 1996.

This book, frequently used as a text in college courses, is one of few books covering the fundamentals of state and local finance. It includes five parts, discussing such topics as market efficiency, public choice, provision of goods and services, and revenue. A new edition is expected in 2006.

USDA National Agricultural Library. Financial Management for Local Governments. Rural Information Center Publication Series. 67. (

This guide provides access to full text resources discussing local government finance issues. Created for local government officials, the resource is helpful to anyone researching public finance information. The first section covers issues ranging from unfunded mandates, to home rule, to changing tax policies and expenditure limits. The second section includes information resources on the variety of revenue sources available to local officials. The third section provides information on the local budget process. The fourth section lists resources to assist local officials plan economic development strategies for community growth. The last section includes examples available to local officials of various financial management handbooks from schools, local and state governments.

Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). Home page. (
GFOA is the professional association of state/provincial and local finance officers in the United States and Canada that has served the public finance profession since 1906. Free information on the "Best Practices in Public Budgeting" is included( ).
Mergent Municipal and Government Manual and News Reports. Annual. New York: Mergent, Inc., 1955- present. Also part of Mergent Online (

This manual's coverage includes virtually all U.S. taxing jurisdictions and agencies - from school districts, hospitals, villages and towns to cities, counties, and states across the nation - with total long-term rated debt of $25,000,000 or over. Full coverage is extended to all entities in California, New York, and Texas. Each entry includes a historical perspective on the issuing entity, as well as statistical data, financial statements, and full bond descriptions.

U.S. General Services Administration. Federal Citizen Information Center. " State and Local Employees." (

This is another site with resources intended for state and local government employees that can be helpful for all researchers. Links are arranged by topic, such as agriculture and environment, or disasters and emergencies. Additionally, this site provides access to other sources containing statistics at the state and local level.

National Association of Counties. Home page. (

This site of the national lobbying organization for county governments provides excellent links for researchers needing preliminary information on counties throughout the nation. Under the "State Associations" link in the Affiliated Organizations section, there are links to each county in the United States that give outstanding demographic, census, and political information. There are also direct links to county websites in this area.

National League of Cities. "National League of Cities: Strengthening and Promoting Cities as Centers of Opportunity, Leadership and Governance." (

The National League of Cities is the largest organization serving municipal governments in the United States. Its site features links to news on issues of interest to cities, as well as information on sponsored conferences and events. Several publications may be accessed in full text here; the most important of which will be listed later in the bibliography.

United State Conference of Mayors (USCM). Homepage. (

The USCM is the official organization of mayors from cities with populations over 30,000. This site offers news coverage from various news sources for items of interest to cities. It also includes a selection of video clips, press releases, and reports and publications, many of which were created by the USCM.

International City/County Management Association (ICMA). " Creating Excellence in Local Government Through Professional Management." (
The ICMA is the professional and educational association for more than 8,000 appointed officials and administrators in local government. This website includes access to Public Management Magazine and information on listservs and discussion groups offered by the ICMA. Information provided on the website can be useful to researchers, even if they are not members of the association.
National Association of Local Government Auditors (NALGA). Home page. (

NALGA is a professional organization dedicated to improving local government auditing. Its website disseminates information and ideas about financial and performance auditing, provides training, and offers a national forum to discuss auditing issues. It also publishes Local Government Auditing Quarterly, selections of which are available in full text on the website.

International Downtown Association Organization. Home page. (

This association unites public, business, and non-profit interests into civic partnerships in urban environments. U.S., Canadian and international business, non-profit, and local government websites, can be located through the "Member Links" section. Some content on this site is for members only, or carries a fee for non-members.

University of Vermont. Department of Continuing Education. "Muninet ListServ." (

The Muninet acts as an electronic bulletin board for anyone who wants to post a municipal question or answer to a question. The discussion list is free and the only requirement to participate is to have an e-mail account.

AccountantsWorld. "Tax and Accounting Sites Directory: State and Local Tax." (

See description under Local Public Finance Sources - Primary Sources: General (above).

Martin, Mary, ed. Local and Regional Government Information: How to Find It, How to Use It. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005.

Martin's text covers all aspects of local government information. The chapter called "Budgets, Taxes, Revenue Sources" is particularly helpful for assistance in locating local finance information.

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. "Fed In Print: A Comprehensive Index to Federal Reserve Economic Research" (

This free index covers all of the Federal Reserve Board's and Banks' publications, with selected full-text for items written recently. The text of the available articles is written in a clear style. Useful search strategies include using "Local" in the subject search field and/or "Municipal*" in the keyword search field.

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The following organizations gather public finance information for study and distribution. This section contains examples arranged alphabetically, and some of them are drawn from the states of Ohio and Texas, to help provide ideas of what to look for in terms of state-specific possibilities.

Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. Home Page. (

This publication is an example of a state (Ohio) organization that analyzes state programs and budgetary items. This type of analysis exists for many other states.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "State Fiscal Analysis Initiative." (

The State Fiscal Analysis Initiative consists of 28 state organizations and one national organization. The Center works with these state organizations to better understand state budget and tax issues by producing major reports on state fiscal problems or the impact of federal proposals on state fiscal conditions.

Federation of Tax Administrators. "State Tax Rates and Structure." (

The Federation of Tax Administrators provides research and training to state tax administrators. This report provides details on the individual and corporate taxes for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Types of taxes, as well as the rates, are included.

Government Performance Project. "Grading the States." (

This project, funded by PEW Charitable Trusts, evaluates how well state governments perform their basic management functions and explores how this research can be used by states to serve citizens better. The key areas studied are fiscal management, state employees, infrastructure, and technology usage.

Mergent Municipal and Government Manual and News Reports. Annual. New York: Mergent, Inc., 1955- present. Also part of Mergent Online (

See description under Local Public Finance Sources - Operational Sources: General (above).

National Conference of State Legislatures. "Budget and Tax." (

This site has press release type data and tables on current state budget and tax issues. The majority of reports and studies are only available to members of the NCSL.

National Association of State Budget Officers. "Fiscal Survey of the States." (

Several times a year this organization issues this report, in conjunction with the National Governors Association. It contains narrative analysis of trends and developments on the fiscal condition of the states, as well as current financial information.

National Priorities Project. "Economic Security." (

This page within the National Priorities Project has several data sets and information to create tables, graphs and reports for each state or county on federal spending and needs. One section features how the federal government spent the average household's income tax dollars in each state and for selected cities and counties. Another section, called "Trade-offs," offers a way to determine costs of various federal policies on state resources or services. For example, someone can find out what the money spent on ballistic missile defense (aka "Star Wars") could buy a state in terms of public safety officers, schools, or health care coverage, instead.

Pew Research Center. " Taxes and Budget." 1999- present. (

This site is a news service specific to states' public finance issues. There is also a listing of helpful web links to sites that provide budgetary performance reviews, sites that explain how state spending affects specific populations, etc.

Sagoo, Sumeet, ed. Facts and Figures on Government Finance, 38th ed. Washington D.C.: Tax Foundation, 2004. (

See description under Local Public Finance Sources - Primary Sources: General (above).

Tax Foundation. "State Taxes and Spending." (
The goal of this section is to provide a comprehensive resource for information on taxes and spending in all 50 U.S. states. There are several graphs and charts.
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. "Window on State Government." (

This resource is an example of a state site (Texas), where its comptroller provides public financial data to the constituents. This type of information is available for all 50 states.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. "Federal, State, and Local Governments: State and Local Government Finances." (

See description under Local Public Finance Sources - Primary Sources: General (above).

_____. "Federal Aid to States by Fiscal Year." (

As the title indicates, this report presents federal government aid to state and local governments, starting from 1998. The data are shown by Federal agency and program whenever possible. The federal government provides billions of dollars a year to both state and local governments.

_____. Statistical Abstract of the United States. Annual. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1878-. (

See description under Local Public Finance Sources - Primary Sources: General (above). Urban Institute.

"Urban Institute Economy/Taxes." (
The main page has links (on the left-hand menu) to State and Local Budgets and Fiscal Policy, State and Local Tax Policy Issues. This website provides news reports, articles, studies and data to understand policy issues in this area.

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bullet Follow the Money - From Surpluses to School Buses: Understanding Public Finance
BRASS Program, ALA Annual Conference, June 26, 2006

Disclaimer: This publication has been placed on the web for the convenience of BRASS members. Information and links will not be updated. Posted 19 June 2006.