This is Simon Review Paper #51.


This paper assesses Illinois county government policies pertaining to the size, use, and replenishment of unreserved funds. As political forces push for reductions in taxes and in government itself, incentives for local governments to use less transparent means for managing finances increase. A better understanding of the impact which fund balance policies have on the amount of financial slack local governments keep on the one hand, and how counties use the funds on the other, is of increasing importance. This work expands on previous analyses of budgetary uncertainty and the possibility of using slack to stabilize service provision through times of revenue abundance and scarcity (Marlowe, 2004, 2005; Stewart, 2009, 2011a; Stewart, Hamman, and Pink-Harper, 2018; Tyer, 1993; Wang and Hou, 2012; Wolkoff, 1987).