The Good, The Bad & The Hope: 16th Annual Municipal Survey

Despite Extended Budget Crisis, Majority Expect Accelerated Spending
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2013, Vol. 68 No. 2

Positive
But it wasn’t all bad news from municipal personnel. Most of the respondents believe (and hope) that their overall economic troubles have at last hit bottom and now they can begin their slow climb out of the financial malaise that has plagued U.S. cities for several years. Indeed, a majority believe that 2013 will be a better year than 2012 in terms of available monies for sewer and water infrastructure projects. In fact, survey results show that municipal officials are budgeting a slight increase in their projected new underground infrastructure spending for both water and sewer systems in 2013. However, as has been the case for the past four years, funding for large projects is still scarce.

Conducted in October and November 2012, the survey polled U.S. municipalities about their 2013 infrastructure funding plans along with perspectives on technologies, trends, industry issues and working relationships with consulting engineers and contractors. The survey results came from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and were weighted for regional population density and city sizes to develop a nationwide benchmark that would allow for projections.

Responding cities ranged from very small such as: Morland, KS (population 160), Reliance, WY (population 271), Rienzi, MS, (population 353) and Evansville, WI (population 612); to huge metropolis’ such as New York City, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago.

While approximately 42.6 percent of cities say their 2013 sewer/water/storm water budgets will remain flat, almost 40 percent indicated they will actually have an increase in their projected 2013 infrastructure spending ranging from three to 5.5 percent on average. Although a modest increase, that’s by far the largest number of cities planning to raise their budgets and the first overall positive spending growth since 2007.

That said, city representatives still strongly believe their budgets are woefully inadequate to address infrastructure needs. Survey respondents estimated they need an average budget increase of 30 percent just to maintain their systems properly. “But that’s nothing new,” lamented one respondent from the Northeast. “Our budgets have been inadequate for 30 years.”