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Research Highlights

Police and Fire Personnel, Salaries, and Expenditures for 2013

ICMA’s annual Police and Fire Personnel, Salaries, and Expenditures survey was mailed in February 2013 to 4,227 municipalities with populations of 10,000 or more. A second survey was sent to those local governments that did not respond to the first. Respondents had a choice of completing and submitting the survey on the web or by mail. A total of 1,342 jurisdictions submitted surveys for an overall response rate of 32%, 

  • The average entrance salaries are $45,664 for police and $40,887 for fire personnel. The average maximum salaries for police and fire personnel are $64,897 and $57,091, respectively.
  •  The average maximum salary including longevity pay for police officers is $72,084; for fire personnel, it is $65,074. These salaries vary significantly by geographic division: For police and fire, East South-Central cities show the lowest average maximums. For police, the Mid-Atlantic and Pacific Coast cities show the highest. For fire, the Pacific Coast cities show the highest.
  •  Average overtime expenditures were $517,520 for police and $527,235 for fire departments.
  •  The average per capita total departmental expenditures 2013 were $224.22 for police and $136.04 for fire departments.

CAO Salary and Compensation Survey 2013

The 2013 ICMA Compensation Survey for Local Government Chief Appointed Officials was sent to all local governments in the ICMA database for which ICMA has a name in the CAO position. The survey was designed to collect information on compensation for CAOs that would reflect the norms around the country, and to examine practices in relation to the principles contained within the “ICMA Guidelines for Compensation.”

  • The overall median base salary for chief appointed officials (CAOs) overall is $105,000. Base salary is generally related to population size of the local government; however, even within each population category and within the same geographic region, the specifics are unique.
  • Forty-one percent of CAOs, as well as a majority of those in local governments with a population of 25,000 and over, reported that their base salaries are publically available on the local government website.
  •  In a majority of cases overall, benefit packages for CAOs are calculated in the same manner as for other employees of the local government.

Social Equity in Local Government Sustainability Policies and Programs 2012

The focus of the survey on Social Equity in Local Government Sustainability Policies and Programs was to collect additional information from governments with responses to ICMA’s 2010 Survey of Local Government Sustainability Programs and Practices that showed they had adopted a high level of sustainability activities targeted toward social equity, particularly focusing on lower-income groups. Additionally, data was collected from a control group of local governments who responded to the 2010 survey that have similar overall ratings in sustainability, but have not incorporated social equity actions. 

The electronic survey was sent to 300 local governments. They had the option to complete the survey online or to print out and complete a PDF of the survey and return it to ICMA. The respondents are divided in two comparison groups coded 2 for high sustainability, equity adopters and 1 for high sustainability, low equity.

Of the 300 localities that received the survey, 100 were in “group 1,” and 200 were in “group 2.”  The response was 34% for group 1(34 respondents) and 34% for group 2 (68 respondents).

Overall, in each section of the survey the group 2 respondents showed higher percentages reporting equity-related activities than did the respondents in group 1. In many instances the differences are pronounced.

Food Policy and Program Survey for Local Governments 2012 

ICMA and Michigan State University (MSU)’s Center for Regional Food Systems conducted this survey to collect data on what local governments are doing in relation to food system development. The following definition of food systems was provided: Food systems include all of the stakeholders, processes, and linkages involved in taking food from farm to plate.

The survey covers food access and production policies and regulation, land use and planning, economic development and public health, and federal prorgams to fund food system development.The results show that:

  • 5% report ordinances governing grocery stores, ensuring siting in under-served areas
  • 38% report policies/ordinances allowing chickens, goats, bees, etc., to be kept in nontraditional (e.g. residential) zones
  • 17% report reuse of vacant lots/buildings for community gardens or food processing
  • 32% report economic development efforts to encourage agricultural tourism, e.g., vineyard or food trail maps

Results show that many local governments are not aware of the extensive programs offered by USDA to help fund food system development.

ICMA E-Government survey 2011

The Electronic Government 2011 survey was mailed to all city-type governments with a population of 10,000 or greater and to all county governments that have either elected executives or appointed managers. An online option was also provided. The survey response is 30%. The survey is a collaboration among Dr. Donald F. Norris, Dr. Christopher Reddick, and ICMA, and the data are proprietary.

Results  E-Government survey show that

  • 95% of local governments allow individual departments to have their own web pages.
  • 82% have a policy requiring that the individual department websites have a look and feel consistent with the main website.
  • 27% of local governments use cloud computing; of those, 67% use it for software applications.
  • The positive changes reported by the highest percentages of survey respondents are
    • Improved communication with the public (35%)
    • Improved customer service (35%)

The survey covers functionality and management, financing, and social media.

ICMA E-Democracy Survey 2011

The survey was mailed to all city-type governments with a population of 10,000 or greater and to all county governments that have either elected executives or appointed managers. An online option was also provided. The survey response is 30%. The survey is a collaboration among Dr. Donald F. Norris, Dr. Christopher Reddick, and ICMA, and the data are proprietary.

“Citizen trust in government has increased” according to 35% those who have implemented e-democracy programs in the local government. With distrust in government often a media topic, it is particularly gratifying to learn that e-democracy initiatives have increased the trust level. Those who reported increased trust responded to an ICMA survey on e-democracy/e-participation conducted recently.

E-democracy involves the use of electronic means to promote and enhance citizen engagement and participation in local government activities, programs, and decision making. Although progress in e-democracy has been somewhat slow overall, on a recently conducted e-democracy survey respondents who have implemented programs identified the following benefits:

  • Quality of information available to local officials for decision making has increased.
  • Quality of information available to local officials for decision making has increased.
  • Citizen participation has increased
  • Citizen trust in government has increased.

 “It’s the right thing to do” is the response of 56% of local governments when asked why they engage in e-democracy/e-participation projects and activities. Anecdotally we know that there is concern among local officials that e-democracy could result in groups with special interests hijacking the issues, yet when asked which single  barrier to e-democracy has been the most difficult,  a plurality (39%) reported “lack of funding,” not concern about domination by particular groups. 

ICMA Solar SUrvey 2011

The Solar Survey was conducted in the fall of 2011 and closed in January 2012. Surveys were mailed to all 10,423 city-type and county governments with a population 2,500 and above. An online option was also available. The survey response rate is 24%, with 2,507 local governments responding.

  • Results show that 5% of local governments reported that they had adopted or established a solar installation goal.
  • One of the greatest challenges reported was the cost of solar installations.
  • 404 local governments have installed a solar system on local government owned land or facilities. The majority have used solar electric panels.

The survey covers code enforcement, the planning process, coordination with neighboring communities, regulation of solar PV installations, and financing options.


The survey was conducted in the fall of 2011. Surveys were mailed to the city clerk in all local governments with a population of 2,500 and over and to those under 2,500 that are in ICMA’s database. A second survey was sent to non-respondents. The survey response rate was 41%.

  • A majority of respondents reported a council-manager form of government.
  • 56% report that their form of government is established by charter, and 25% report state law.
  • A majority report that the chief appointed official has responsibility to develop and make recommendations for the budget to present to the council.
  • 54% report that their local government has provisions for initiatives, in which citizens are allowed to place charter, ordinance, or home rule changes on the ballot by collecting a required number of signatures on a petition.
  • 70% provide for legislative referendum.

The survey covers the role of the chief administrative officer and the roles of the council and chief elected official as well as term limits and other characteristics of local governments.

CAO Salaries and Benefits Remain Relatively Stable

Results of the 2011 ICMA Compensation Survey for Local Government Chief Appointed Officials show that salaries and benefits have remained relatively stable over the past decade. Increases in average salaries have been moderate and benefits remain relatively stable, although some, such as loans to purchase homes, have decreased.

  • Among the population groups, there is a consistent decline in average salary as population size decreases—from a high of $223,831 in local governments with over 1 million population to $66,120 in those under 2,500 population.
  • The vast majority (96%) of respondents do not receive additional compensation for attending meetings outside of the workday.
  • Seventy-eight percent of respondents report that they receive an annual performance evaluation.
  • 62% report that their salary is tied to performance.
  • Fifty-two percent of respondents report eligibility for a merit increase.
  • Only 25% of respondents report that they are eligible for a bonus.
  • Two retirement benefits are most prevalent—a defined benefit plan (60% report) and deferred compensation (47% report).
  • A majority of respondents receive life insurance (80%), professional association memberships (70%), and car expenses/allowance (60%).

local government sustainability survey results show progress

Results of a recent survey on sustainability practices among local governments show the following: 

·         Most local governments consider the environment and energy conservation key priorities:  A full 70% of respondents called “energy conservation” a “priority” (46%) or a “high priority” (24%).  Similarly, nearly two-thirds of local government respondents (62%), consider the “environment” a priority, including 21% of respondents calling it a “high priority.”

·         While governments are conscious of the need for sustainability, specific plans are slower to take hold:  When asked what specific planning actions related to sustainability and energy conservation they had taken, only 29% had adopted a resolution outlining specific policy goals – and that was the most popular response. Additionally, most localities had yet to assign dedicated staff to sustainability efforts (27% had), establish specific benchmarks related to sustainability(19%), established or appointed a task force (28%), or provided a budget specifically for their efforts (16%).

·         Actions to limit greenhouse gases are not widespread – except for tree planting:  While a full 45% of localities have a plan for tree preservation and planting, only 14% had established greenhouse gas limits for the local government, less than 10% for the community-at-large, and only about 3% for local businesses.

·         Localities show progress embracing energy conservation actions in and out of government:  A strong majority (63%) of localities had conducted energy audits of government buildings, and 56% had upgraded or retrofitted office lighting, and 44% had increased the purchase of fuel efficient government vehicles.  Meanwhile, few localities reported the establishment of public/private partnerships to establish energy reduction measures in local small businesses – only 6% reported doing so.

·         Actions to improve and protect water are more advanced, but still not widespread:  34% of localities had taken actions to conserve the quantity of water from aquifers, 33% had adopted a water price structure to encourage conservation, 30% had set limits on impervious surfaces on private property, and 28% had provided other incentives to encourage local water conservation behavior.

·         Approximately one-in-ten localities require LEED or Energy Star certification for all new government construction. Close to 8% require LEED or Energy Start certification for all retrofit government projects. 

The survey was developed with the input of ICMA’s Center for Sustainable Communities, the Center for Urban Innovation, Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability (ASU GIOS), the Alliance for Innovation, and others.  Survey distribution was conducted through a collaboration of ICMA, ASU GIOS and the Sustainable Cities Network, a multi-jurisdictional partnership.  The survey was provided in a print format because the local government response rate is both higher and more scientifically representative than for an electronic survey.

Economic Development Strategies Remain Key in Challenging Times

During this time of fiscal challenges for local governments, ICMA is committed to identifying strategies and programs that may be useful to local governments in meeting these challenges. ICMA and NLC have partnered to conduct the 2009 Economic Development Survey, and the results are now available.  

ICMA Survey Results Show Some Local Governments Bringing Services Back In House

Results of a recent survey “Profile of Local Government Service Delivery Choices” conducted by ICMA in the summer and fall of 2007, show that the primary reason local governments consider private service delivery is to decrease costs; yet, 22% of local governments reported that they had brought services back in-house during the past five years. The two top reasons given are unsatisfactory service quality (61%) and insufficient cost savings (52%).

For those local governments evaluating the feasibility of private service delivery, including consumers of the service in the evaluation process was reported by only 12% of local governments. Sixty-two percent reported involving the service deliverers in the evaluation.

The survey, which was mailed to 6,095 local governments, and has a response rate of 26%, covers the delivery method of 67 local government services—ranging from public works and transportation to libraries, parks and recreation, and legal services. To purchase the survey results, click here

ICMA Municipal Form of Government Survey Shows Increase in Filing Fee to Run for Elected Office

More than 3,800 cities responded to the 2006 survey, which covers form of government; provisions for referenda, initiative, and recall; councils; and other aspects of the structure, responsibility, and composition of municipal government. Among the highlights of the survey results are:

  • Overall, 60% of cities report a provision for a recall, which allows citizens to collect signatures on a petition to place on a ballot a question whether to recall an elected official. The highest percentage (70%) of cities with a provision for recall is in the Pacific Cost division.
  • Although the vast majority of cities have citizen boards or commissions (95%), they tend to serve an advisory rather than a decision or policy making role.
  • The average filing fee for running for a council seat has increased from $14 in 2001, to $66 in 2006 with the greatest increases in the South Atlantic ($98) and Pacific Coast ($158) divisions. 

ICMA Survey Finds Some Local Governments Provide Significant Resources to Citizen Task Forces

There has been a renewed focus on citizen engagement in academia, among community groups, and among elected and appointed local officials. ICMA’s recently completed State of the Profession 2006 survey examined opportunities for citizen engagement among local governments cross the country. Among the more progressive forms of citizen engagement found among local governments are instances in which the local government involves citizens in developing the strategic plan, formalizes the citizen role in problem solving, and provides funds and technical assistance to citizens tasked with solving a community problem. The survey also covered local government visioning and strategic planning, recruitment and succession planning, and council relations. For a copy of the aggregate survey results, click here.

ICMA Receives Sloan Foundation Funding for a National Study of 311- Customer Service Technology

A new national study of local government 311-customer service technology kicks off this summer with research on the 311 system operated by the City of San Antonio, Texas. 311-customer service systems allow the public to access their local government 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with such non-emergency calls as loss of water service, stray animals, and potholes. The systems provide crucial community feedback on what information citizens most need and want from their local government. They also give local governments an important opportunity to respond directly to their constituents, but their adoption by local governments across the country has been slow.

The San Antonio case study is the first step of a larger national effort to learn more about how 311 systems can help improve local government service to citizens. The study also involves the first national survey of local governments on their use of 311 and other customer service technology. Through the survey, ICMA will collect data on the extent to which 311 systems and other related technologies are being used by local governments.  The survey will explore successful implementation of these systems and how they are being used to respond to citizen needs and strengthen local government-constituent relationships.  The survey also will examine potential barriers to the implementation of these systems.

Now Available—Complimentary report on salaries $50,000 and over

Welcome to one of ICMA's member benefits—the report showing manager salaries that are $50,000 and above—brought to you by The Waters Consulting Group, Inc. (WCG)   ICMA has partnered with the compensation professionals at WCG to offer a Web-based version of the ICMA Annual Salary Survey.  The survey has been enhanced by the addition of fringe benefit information, enabling local governments to compare total compensation packages.  With a state-of-the-art Web-based service that is constantly updated, the new partnership provides local governments with a richer and more powerful tool to serve their needs.  The survey results are updated throughout the year and this report will have new data added as it is reported.

Because this complimentary report is part of your membership with ICMA and is proprietary information, please do not share this information with people who are not ICMA members. Click on the link below to download this free report.

Salaries $50,000 and Over Complimentary Report 

Highlights of ICMA's Homeland Security Survey

Local governments have taken steps to strengthen their capability to deal with future emergencies, according to a survey by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

Over half of respondents (60%) developed a comprehensive emergency management plan or amended an existing plan; 55% provided training for non-first responders (such as administrative staff); and 54% conducted an emergency drill or exercise. 

Homeland security issues cut across jurisdictional lines, and 91% of respondents report collaborating with other local governments, 75% with the state government, and 60% with a regional organization.  Not surprisingly, they also took steps to improve the communication and coordination among jurisdictions.  At least 61% adopted the National Incident Management System (NIMS), a protocol developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help ensure consistency of training and approach for first responders at all governmental levels.  Nearly a third of survey respondents hired or appointed a manager to help coordinate intergovernmental security functions. 

Cities and counties used their own funds for many homeland security activities, primarily for equipment (66%), disaster mitigation and preparedness (64%), drills or training exercises (63%), and disaster response (60%).  They also sought and received funding from both state and federal governments. 

By far the greatest number of funding requests were for equipment. Approximately 60% of respondents reported requesting state and/or federal funding for this purpose.  It appears that most requests for funding were granted, as the percentage reporting awards closely tracks the percentage requesting funds. Nonetheless, with the exception of requesting funds for equipment, a majority of local governments did not report requesting either federal or state funds. This may reflect the anecdotal information that the process of requesting funding was prohibitive for local governments. The average amount awarded by the federal government was $434,000.  Only 19% reported that the municipality had experienced budget shortfalls as a result of homeland security activities during the past two fiscal years.

The findings are based on responses from 2,786 local governments nationwide with populations over 2,500. Aggregate results are available by clicking here.

Highlights from ICMA’s 2004-2005 Economic Development Survey

The Economic Development survey was mailed in fall 2004 and spring 2005 to the chief administrative officers in municipalities with a population 10,000 and over and to the chief administrative officers of counties with populations 50,000 and over with the council-administrator or council-elected executive form of government. Of the 3,703 municipalities and counties that received surveys, 726 local governments responded (19.6%).

  • 15% of respondents report rapid expansion of their economic base over the last 5 years; a majority report slow-moderate growth over the same period.
  • Almost 40% of local governments anticipate moderate growth over the next 5 years.
  • In addition to the local government, the Chamber of Commerce is reported by the highest percent (70%) of respondents to be involved in developing economic development strategies.
  • After the general fund, tax increment financing districts are the revenue source for economic development reported by the highest percentage of local governments (28%).
  • 96% of responding local governments report a website as part of their economic development efforts, and 50% report online permit applications and other services. Almost 32% offer fiber optics.
  • Availability of land and cost of land are identified as the top two barriers to economic development.
  • Although 41% of respondents indicate that business retention is the focus of their economic development activities, only 24% report a written business development plan.

Aggregate results are available by clicking here.

Local Governments Cite Improved Customer Service and Communication with the Public as Benefits of E-Government

Nearly 70% of local governments report improved communication with the public as a result of their E-government initiatives, and 56% cited improved customer service, according to the results of a comprehensive survey of cities and counties conducted by ICMA. More than 3,400 cities and counties (42%) responded to the survey, which covered E-government services (current and future), financing, and management; online procurement; geographic information systems (GIS); and use of intranets. Other highlights of the survey include:

  • The vast majority of local governments (over 99%) have Internet connectivity.
  • All reporting jurisdictions with a population of 250,000 or more have a web site.
  • Close to 60% provide downloadable forms, online communication with elected and appointed officials, employment information and applications, and codes and ordinances on the local government Web site; nearly 76% post council agendas and minutes.
  • Less than 30% of respondents accept online requests for local government records or services (such as pothole repair), provide GIS/mapping data, or send electronic newsletters to residents and businesses, but 50% to 62% of those respondents plan to provide these services in the future.
  • The most frequently cited barriers to E-government initiatives are lack of financial resources (64%) and lack of technology/web staff (63%).

Aggregate results are available by clicking here.

How some Local Governments Are Responding to Budget Shortfalls

Reductions in state aid and other factors have contributed to tight budgets for local governments. According to the results of ICMA's survey on "Reinventing Government: Implementation at the Local Level," cities have introduced measures to respond. Among the most frequently reported are

  • Adding or increasing user fees (74%)
  • Freezing vacant positions (53%)
  • Using reserve funds (47%).

Some cities have reduced delivery of nonessential services, and others have identified a nontraditional source of revenue, such as auctioning property and providing services to a military base.

Aggregate results are available by clicking here.

For Some Local Governments Privatization Is Not the Answer

Twenty-two percent of local governments reported bringing back in-house services that were previously contracted out, according to the results of ICMA's survey "Profile of Local Government Service Delivery." With more than 1,200 local governments responding, the survey results show that:

  • Service quality was a reason for bringing service delivery back in-house for 75% of those reporting
  • Cost savings of contracting were insufficient for 51%
  • Of those that have contracted with the private sector, less than half conduct a systematic evaluation of the service delivery (47%)
  • Geography and population size are factors in privatization.

Aggregate results are available by clicking here.

Local Governments Assume Significant Financial Burden for Employee Health Care Benefits

The average annual local government expenditure on health care for current and retired employees was close to $3 million for FY 2002, according to the results of a comprehensive survey of cities and counties conducted by ICMA. More than 3,100 cities and counties responded (40%) to the survey, which covered benefits offered, premiums, employee contributions to copayments and premiums, coverage for retirees and part-time personnel, and total expenditures on health care.

  • 65.8%of local governments are fully insured; slightly under 25% have some form of self-insurance.
  • Of the 1,760 local governments that provided information about whether premium contributions are required for retired employees, 23% reported that no premium contribution is required.
  • Approximately 60% of local governments report that there will probably be an increase in the employee contribution to the premium in the next two years.
  • 98.9% of local governments do not base employee premium contributions on salary.
  • Of the nearly 1,593 local governments reporting on union employees’ contributions to the health care premiums, close to 50% report that union employees do not pay any premium

Aggregate results are available by clicking here.

Managers Report Improvements in Relationship with Council

Twenty-six percent of managers/administrators report that their relationship with the  council/governing board has improved, according to the results from ICMA’s 2002 State of the Profession-Fringe Benefits survey.  More than 2,700 (45.0%) managers/administrators in municipalities and counties responded to the survey.

Highlights of the survey results include

  • 7.2 years is the average tenure for managers/administrators in their current position, a slight increase from 6.9 years in the 2000 survey.
  • The average manager/administrator has been in the local government profession for approximately 18.5 years, an increase from 17.4 in the 2000 survey.
  • 67% of managers/administrators being “highly satisfied” with their position.
  • 60% of reporting managers/administrators have an MPA, MBA, or other graduate degree.

Among the issues identified as most important to local governments in the coming year are

  • Finding creating ways to generate new revenues (78.3% reported).
  • Providing health coverage for local government employees (65.6% reported).
  • Providing economic incentives to attract new business (59.6% reported).
  • Aging/deteriorating infrastructure (55.5% reported).

Aggregate results of the 2000 and 2002 State of the Profession surveys are available at in the survey results section.

2002 Electronic Government and 2001 Municipal Form of Government Survey Results Are Available

Results of these two surveys are now available online in the bookstore. Both surveys have a response rate of slightly more than 50 percent. Highlights include:

Electronic Government

  • 47.5% report that e-government has increased citizen contact with local government officials.
  • 63.4% use GIS programs to analyze information.
  • Almost 97% of local governments report use of general revenues to finance e-government efforts.

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