Rock Solid Municipal Strategies

Ridgeline Municipal Strategies, LLC is an independent and customer-focused registered municipal advisory and financial consulting firm.

Our holistic client relationship approach integrates deep understanding of financial markets, local government dynamics, community development, strategic management, and quantitative analysis.

Ridgeline is committed to the highest standards of customer service and fiduciary duty.

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City lights at night and freeway infrastructure
SPECIALIZATION

Our Strategies

Rising Public Pension Costs Pressure Constrained Budgets

As CalPERS’ unfunded accrued liabilities amortization policies consume an ever-increasing share of already constrained municipal budgets, California’s cities, counties, and special districts are facing unprecedented pension cost increases. Stanford University researchers found that the public pension expense burden grew by an average of 400% from 2003 to 2018. Almost 12% of an average public agency budget is now consumed by pensions. As this trend continues, pension costs are anticipated to double from today’s level and surpass 17% of a typical budget by 2030. We regularly encounter municipalities whose pension burden exceeds 65-80%, and at times even 100%, of the base salary levels. The recent widely publicized tax revenue challenges leave little room for such agencies to keep absorbing pension cost increases. However, while the pension cost pain is real, many strategies are available to make it less severe.

Ridgeline has developed a core expertise in guiding local governments through the maze of the CalPERS pension plan practices with a comprehensive range of tools and strategies that help manage the costs of the unfunded accrued liability repayment.

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CalPERS

Demographic Trends Demand Proactive Budgetary and Planning Solutions

The scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. In addition to all medical implications, it has set off the great re-shuffling of life, making us rethink where and how we live, work and shop, and why we live, work, and shop there. In the middle of the tragedy, we received permission to rethink everything. Many are making lifestyle changes that have very real and direct implications for municipal budgets and services, as well as for the real estate markets that sustain the very foundations of our communities.

While the long-term outcomes of the pandemic still need to play out, two trends are beginning to clearly emerge: a massive shift to working from home and relocation to communities with lower population densities and more affordable costs of living.

U-Haul’s 2020 annual review of over 2 million one-way moving truck rentals indicates that the higher-cost and more densely populated states continue to be pressured by the negative migration patterns. California was ranked dead last, followed by Illinois and New Jersey, while Tennessee, Texas, and Florida were drawing people like a magnet. The San Francisco Bay Area and New York City saw the highest gap of people moving out over those moving in, reversing the 2019 trend. The draw of the big city has lost a big part of its appeal for those who can work from anywhere.

These migration patterns have long-reaching consequences for local municipal agencies spanning a full range of housing affordability, tax revenues, economic development, and demand for services, among many others. Proactive steps are required to ensure that budgets and staffing can accommodate the new normal.

Ridgeline supports its clients through a variety of revenue generation and quantitative strategies that help preserve fiscal resiliency and economic viability of local communities.

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california-negative-migration-patterns

Will Municipalities Face Qualified Workers Shortage?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many local government agencies had to drastically cut their spending and workforce to accommodate mounting revenue shortfalls. The 2020 employee headcount reduction in state and local governments exceeded the one that occurred during the Great Recession of 2007-09. Local government agencies across the country reduced their combined employee headcount by over 1 million people. As of February 2021, with the need for many critical municipal services at an all-time high, the local government employment across the country stood below its 2003 level, according to Dr. William Spriggs, chief economist of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

This resembles the trend that occurred in the homebuilding industry in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Once the housing demand began to recover several years later, general contractors and trades had a hard time finding qualified workers, since many craftsmen and professionals who used to be employed in the industry moved away or changed careers. As a result, the homebuilding industry in the late 2010’s was struggling with an inability to meet market demand for homes and with having to pay premium wages to attract the limited pool of talent that was available.

Strategic thinking and careful management of financial resources is required to preserve long-term workforce viability of local government agencies.

Ridgeline helps municipalities analyze their revenues, optimize pension costs, and secure bridge financing, all of which are critical for the development of fiscal resiliency.

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Municipality worker shortage