PARCA compares municipal finances in Alabama, gets mayors’ perspective

How Alabama Cities Finances Compare

How Alabama City Finances Compare is the ninth edition of PARCA’s study of Alabama city finances. This report provides basic information on municipal revenues, expenditures, and general fund balances from the most recent year available. The comparisons are in per capita amounts (dollars divided by resident population) so that cities of differing populations can be compared with one another. This edition of the report includes data on 22 cities, generally those having a population over 20,000.

The information provided can be valuable for city officials to use in benchmarking with their peers and for citizens to see how their municipality ranks financially among comparable cities within the state.

Municipal Executives Opinion Survey

In conjunction with the report on city finances, PARCA is also releasing the Municipal Executives Opinion Survey, a survey of 127 mayors and city executives from across Alabama. Responses indicate that these city leaders are generally optimistic about economic conditions and the stability of revenue sources in the coming year, although many expect increased HR costs, as well.

Despite the optimism, executives face challenges, too. There appear to be substantial demands for infrastructure improvements without a letup in expectations regarding public safety, human services, or government operations. Priorities for the coming year emphasize economic development and jobs, education, and building or repairing roads, sidewalks, and parks.


PARCA’s 2017 Public Opinion Survey Results are Here

Today, PARCA released the results of its annual public opinion survey. The poll of over 350 Alabama residents was conducted by Randolph Horn, Samford University, Professor of Political Science and Samford’s Director of Strategic and Applied Analysis. The survey addressed topics including state budget priorities, the quality of representation in state government, and in partnership with the Alabama Association of School Boards, questions about public education in Alabama.

Results from this year’s survey are consistent with previous years’ results in some important ways. Residents value state investments in education and healthcare. They believe education is inadequately funded. There is substantial evidence that respondents have limited faith in public officials. Support for earmarking revenues and keeping the education budget separate from the general fund may indicate concern that officials would misspend those resources if they were given more flexibility. Majorities think the state government does not care what they think or that they have no say in what the government does.

Public officials are in a difficult position. There is often a tension between the preferences of constituents in a district and the collective interest of a state or nation. Officials, seeing their colleagues defeated in primaries from the more extreme wing of their parties, may underestimated the scope they have when working to solve important public policy challenges. Similarly, officials may underestimate their capacity to educate their constituents on what it may take to address the problems confronting the state. Results of PARCA polls indicate many opportunities for officials to demonstrate responsiveness to public concerns and leadership in crafting public policy solutions.

Read the results and full analysis of this year’s survey here.

Number and Percentage of Workforce Ready Graduates Increased in 2016

Just over 60 percent of Alabama’s 2016 high school graduates scored “workforce ready” in 2016, according to new results from ACT’s WorkKeys assessment. The Class of 2016’s success rate, 61.3 percent, improves on the 60.8 percent rate for the Class of 2015. And because a greater number of students took the test in 2016, the Class of 2016 produced more workforce ready graduates: 28,717 compared to 2015’s total of 25,453, netting an increase of 3,264 graduates earning Silver level or above workforce credentials.

This is the second year that all high school seniors were offered the WorkKeys assessment, a battery of tests designed to determine whether students can demonstrate the skills they’ll need to enter the workforce. ACT WorkKeys assessments have been used for more than two decades by job seekers, employees, employers, students, educators, administrators, and workforce and economic developers. The assessments are designed to measure both cognitive (“hard”) and noncognitive (“soft”) skills tests. Alabama students take the Applied Mathematics, Reading for Information, and Locating Information tests.  Based on the scores attained on the three assessments, students may be eligible to earn a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum Certificate.

Statewide, 61.3 percent of high school graduates earned a Silver level WorkKeys certificate or higher; 47 percent reached the Silver level and 15 percent earned a Gold certificate. Less than 1 percent earned a Platinum Level Certificate. Of the students tested, 23 percent earned a bronze level certification and 16 percent didn’t score high enough to obtain a credential.

The WorkKeys test was developed by ACT, the same company that offers the ACT, the widely-known test of college readiness. When comparing school system performance on WorkKeys to results from the ACT, there are some differences in performance. For instance, the top scoring system on WorkKeys was Arab City, where 91 percent of graduates scored Silver or above. Arab ranked 10th in the state on the ACT in the percentage of students who met all benchmarks for college readiness (30 percent). Hartselle City ranked third in the state in the percentage of students scoring Silver or above (86 percent) on WorkKeys, but ranked 7th on ACT performance (33 percent of students meeting all college-ready benchmarks). Homewood City Schools was third in the state in the percentage of students earning all college-ready benchmarks on the ACT (46 percent) but was 14th on WorkKeys success (79 percent).

The content of the test was developed using a similar approach to the ACT. ACT surveyed employers to develop a catalog of the foundational skills needed to succeed in the workplace, across industries and occupations. ACT then developed a test to measure whether prospective employees or, in this case, high school students, had those necessary skills to perform in the nearly 20,000 occupations ACT evaluated. The results can be provided to employers to demonstrate that a job applicant has the skills needed for workplace success. Using the results, students should be able to determine their skill levels, identify skills needing improvement, and match the measured skill levels to specific job requirements.

Those scoring at the Platinum Level have demonstrated the skills needed for 99 percent of the occupations in the ACT jobs dataset. Those earning a Gold level certificate should be ready for 93 percent of jobs in the database. Scoring at the Silver level indicates a candidate has the skills necessary to succeed in 67 percent of jobs in the ACT database. Those earning a bronze certificate are judged to be ready for 16 percent of jobs.

Additional information for understanding WorkKey’s scores can be found on ACT’s website, including this guide to understanding your scores.

When the state’s strategic plan for education, Plan 2020, was adopted by the State Board of Education, the board set a goal of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate.

At the same time, it set a goal of having all those graduates ready for college and career. Earning a Silver WorkKeys certificate or higher is one way a student can be judged as college and career ready. Graduates can also demonstrate college and career readiness by:

  1. Scoring at or above the college readiness benchmark on one of the tested subjects on the ACT
  2. Earning a passing score (3 or above) on an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam
  3. Receiving an industry-recognized credential recognized in the appropriate business sector
  4. Earning college credit through dual enrollment at a two-year college or university
  5. Successfully enlisting in the U.S. military.



You can explore the results for Alabama’s public schools and systems in the interactive charts below.

Click here to print.