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Survey: Many cities slash services amid economic slump

New York (AP) — The economic downturn has taken a toll on U.S. cities, forcing them to slash jobs, raise taxes and fees and limit hours of operation at libraries, zoos, parks and other popular facilities, according to a survey.

The National League of Cities’ 2009 report on city fiscal conditions released Tuesday had some good news for city residents: About half of all cities maintained or even increased spending on public safety.

The NCL report was based on data collected from fiscal officers in 380 cities across the country. Nearly all of those surveyed have populations of 50,000 or more.

A steep drop in property tax revenues has had a major impact on cities, about 95 percent of which collect and rely on property tax revenue to fund services. About half have a local sales tax and 10 percent have a local income tax.

To meet their fiscal challenges, the report found that 67 percent of cities have cut jobs or enacted a hiring freeze while 62 percent have delayed or canceled capital projects. Only 14 percent have cut public safety so far, the report found.

To boost revenue, 27 percent of cities reported raising fees on services like water use and garbage collection; 25 percent hiked property taxes; and five percent raised their sales tax.

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