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2010 Capstone Papers

All students in the MPA Program are required during their second year to complete a capstone project that draws on the cumulative lessons of their graduate experience. The project culminates in a paper and an oral presentation.

Projects are organized by topic, e.g., finances and fundraising, legal issues, environment and sustainability, engagement/partnership/collaboration, performance measurement and management, addressing emerging issues, and human resources.

Finances and Fundraising

Business as Usual or Political Suicide: Property Tax Increases in North Carolina — Lana Hygh

Conventional wisdom indicates that raising tax rates leads to voter dissatisfaction and turnover of elected officials as voters express their dissatisfaction at the ballot box. This capstone paper examines whether increasing property tax rates in North Carolina municipalities actually leads to higher turnover on elected boards. In three of four election cycles studied, turnover rates for municipalities that raised the tax rate were not significantly different than for municipalities that did not raise the tax rate. Consequently, re-election prospects should not be an overriding concern when making tax rate decisions.

The Food Fight: An Examination of the Prepared Meals and Beverage Tax as a Viable Revenue Generation Source in North Carolina — D'Anna Wade

The Prepared Meals and Beverage Tax generated over $235 million dollars in revenue over the last six years for eleven North Carolina jurisdictions. With budget cuts on the horizon, many local government officials may instinctively look to property tax increases to close their widening fiscal gaps. However, the Prepared Meals and Beverage Tax, which has gone largely underutilized, is another revenue raising mechanism some local governments may wish to explore. This paper examines the Prepared Meals and Beverage Tax as revenue generator, especially as it compares to the property tax.

Recovering the Price of Partnership: Capital Cost Recovery Methods in Water Purchasing Agreements — Andrew d’Adesky

In North Carolina, water partnerships are commonly formed through water purchasing agreements. Partnership, however, comes with a price. This capstone paper asks the following questions: How do utilities in North Carolina recover costs through these water purchasing agreements? Is a minimum purchase of water required? Are capital costs dealt with up-front or separately? Utilizing research and data collected by the UNC Environmental Finance Center in addition to a review of water purchasing contracts, this analysis breaks down the use of these agreements. This paper details the various methodologies for cost recovery and their implementation in North Carolina.

Pension Obligation Bonds: Are States and Localities Behaving Themselves or Do the Feds Need to Get Involved? — Allan Beckmann

Pension obligation bonds (POBs) are a tool used by some state and local governments across the country to attempt to create long-term cost savings in their pension liabilities. The issuing government borrows money, invests the money in the pension fund, and hopes the investments outperform the debt costs. From a theoretical standpoint, this financial instrument comes with a number of risks. This capstone paper examines the extent to which two potential pitfalls of POBs occur in practice, in order to identify whether or not a need exists for federal regulation of POBs.

What’s “Fair” in Funding Criteria? Allocating Federal Funds for Basic Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services — Erin Miller

Federal funding for domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA) services passes through state administrative agencies to local service providers. This two-pronged research study focuses on (1) learning which criteria North Carolina DV/SA program directors consider most important in a fair funding process and (2) whether/how other states allocate funds for basic DV/SA services. The results show that service providers in North Carolina believe service quality is the most important criterion to consider when allocating funding and that states struggle to develop processes and criteria that are fair to all service providers.

Evaluating GoodSearch: Effective E-Philanthropy or Fundraising Fad? — Ann Roper

Nonprofit organizations are increasingly engaging in online philanthropy to fundraise. The GoodSearch search engine donates $0.01 to a user’s designated charity for each Internet search conducted through the site. This mixed-method study seeks to determine which organizations raise more money than others through GoodSearch, and why. Analyses demonstrate that while GoodSearch generated less than $100 for 89 percent of the sample, factors such as mission, years of use, and online promotions increase revenue. These findings provide nonprofit managers insight into the effectiveness of GoodSearch as an illustration of e-philanthropy.

Legal Issues

Form or Fluff? Assessing the Proposed Advantages of Form-Based Codes for North Carolina Towns — Matt Boyer

Numerous North Carolina municipalities have replaced their conventional zoning ordinances with form-based development ordinances and many more municipalities are now considering them. This capstone paper compares nine municipal planning directors’ experiences administering form-based codes with the benefits touted by leading form-based code proponents. While the form-based codes generally promote better compatibility, diversity, and quality of public realm as claimed, their fulfillment of other claims, such as increased public participation and ease of enforcement, is inconclusive and possibly negative.

The Trail and the Bench: Elections and Their Effect on Opinion Writing in the North Carolina Court of Appeals — Adam Chase Parker

This capstone paper examines North Carolina Court of Appeals opinions from 2005 to 2008 to determine whether judges’ outputs are affected in election years. The study finds election judges produce fewer opinions than non-election judges. The decrease is found in published opinions, while unpublished opinions (concerning settled law) do not show a significant decrease. Clearance rates also fell for the entire court in election years. The study also finds election judges complete opinions faster in election years than non-election judges. Policy options and research are offered in the conclusion.

Keeping our Campuses Safe: Analyzing the Influence of Institutional Characteristics on Campus Crime Rates — Carrie Henderson

In the wake of rising concern over violent crimes on university campuses, this capstone paper examines whether institutional characteristics impact crime rates, using 16 universities in the UNC system as a baseline. A multivariate linear regression was used to analyze data from 91 institutions across the United States. While various characteristics were statistically significant, the practical significance of the results is limited based on the low number of observations. The findings suggest that universities are typically isolated from surrounding community crime and predicting campus crime based on institutional characteristics is complex.

Environment and Sustainability

Deleting Electronic Waste: Recommendations for Electronics Recycling Programs in North Carolina — Christopher Hansard

North Carolina local governments need performance measurement and best practice tools to make their electronics recycling programs successful. To aid development of these tools, interviews were conducted with 11 county recycling programs. The counties’ current performance measurements correlate with their program goals; however, most counties lack the data and analysis needed for higher-level evaluation of their programs. Therefore, this capstone paper recommends performance measures and best practice tools, which will help electronics recycling practitioners to more effectively administer and evaluate their programs.

LEEDing the Way: Lessons Learned from the Commitment Process of Universities in North Carolina Building to LEED Standards — Whitney Mitchell

their environmental impact, such as building to LEED standards for new construction. This capstone paper examines the motivations, drivers, challenges, and key factors to making the commitment to build to LEED standards for universities in North Carolina. This research suggests university administrators should find support from an upper-level administrator as well as cultivate support throughout the campus community, use the university’s culture as a tool, learn from other universities with similar characteristics, and research the cost of building to LEED standards at higher education institutions.


Terms of Engagement: Indicators of Institutionalized Community Engagement on UNC Campuses — Caroline Krisel

Community engagement is increasingly recognized as a core value of universities. However, much is unknown regarding how universities can institutionalize community engagement in their identity and culture. This paper focuses on the ten UNC campuses with the Carnegie Foundation’s community engagement designation to draw connections between engagement characteristics on each campus, and what the Carnegie Foundation and other literature consider institutionalized engagement. Through a survey with campus leaders and document analysis, this paper identifies how each campus’ institutionalization of community engagement varies based on institutional classification such as location and size.

Building Engagement: The Influence of Physical Structure on Social Interaction — Lindsey Davis

Student housing is expected to engage students in a campus community by providing activities that encourage student happiness, comfort, and sociability. Green space, common areas, and certain amenities are thought to encourage interaction, with an underlying belief that engaged individuals are highly likely to care for a community. This study seeks to understand how the design of a living environment impacts social success and community involvement. By studying the student response to both the suite-style and the corridor-style living environments on the UNC Campus, conclusions are drawn about how different physical spaces lead to different levels of community engagement.

The Why’s and How’s of Citizen Satisfaction Surveys: An Examination of the Relationships between Data Use and Achieving Desired Outcomes Among National Citizen Survey Participants — Bo Gattis

Jurisdictions choose to conduct citizen satisfaction surveys for a variety of reasons and use the results of these surveys in a variety of ways. This study examines whether, for National Citizen Survey (NCS) participants, there are relationships between how NCS data was used and if survey goals were met. The results of this study are intended to help local government professionals make better decisions about how to use citizen satisfaction survey data.

Collaboration Incentives: Local Government Experiences with ARRA — Catherine Durham

Components of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) incentivize collaboration among localities in an attempt to address community-wide issues and increase the impact of federal funding. This paper identifies factors influencing collaboration between local governments in North Carolina. The paper also identifies the extent of collaboration and the factors that promote or deter the process. Finally, this research provides recommendations for promoting collaboration when applying for external funding.

College-Community Economic Development Partnerships: What Works and Why — Michael Davis

Four small Appalachian colleges worked with their communities to create capacity for advancing local economic development. Among lessons learned are that consensus-based partnerships with members across campus can result in vibrant projects; that colleges can succeed both with informal and more structured partnership models; that colleges should try to align partnership and classroom activities; and that colleges must be able to adapt as key players come and go. Supported by details from each case, the report explores factors of success in creating productive college-community partnerships.

Performance Measurement and Management

Managerial Effect: Comparing Forms of Local Government — Terry Waterfield

The council-manager form of government differs from the mayor-council form of government because of the presence of a professional, non-elected manager with specific statutory authority. Many experts believe this results in tangible benefits to municipalities that adopt the council-manager form of government. This paper examines these two municipal forms of government in order to highlight potential advantages the council-manager form of government provides to a municipality.

Municipal PerformanceStat: How is Success Defined? What Factors Contribute to Success? — Jonathan Palmer

The PerformanceStat model of performance management is increasingly relevant for local governments. This capstone study examines and compares the relative success of jurisdictions using the model, and it examines which aspects of program design most significantly impact success. Elements of program design associated with success include the quality of the data an organization collects, ensuring that the management team is included in the process, and not inviting the public to the meeting.

Linking Individual Performance Appraisals with Departmental Outcomes: Does the type of individual performance appraisal system influence departmental performance? — Sean Gallagher

A number of professional organizations promote the use of performance measures by local governments to quantify progress toward organizational goals. Strategic human resource management proponents advocate aligning performance appraisal systems with organizational goals. Yet, little research exists that links performance appraisal systems to performance results or performance measures for local governments. This capstone study seeks to determine if there is a link between a department’s performance appraisal system and its results, as measured by North Carolina Benchmarking Project Data.

Addressing Emerging Issues

The Role of North Carolina County Finance Departments in Emergency Management — Daniel Sargent

Because of nationwide adoption of the National Incident Management System, local government departments not traditionally involved in disaster-related activities now have formalized roles in county emergency management. This capstone study examines the specific role of North Carolina county finance departments in emergency management. Findings show a wide variation in how and to what degree county finance departments are involved in these activities. This research suggests three factors that meaningfully influence the level of involvement of county finance departments in emergency management: staff relationships, prior disaster experience, and support of local leadership.

How Do We Get There? The Impact of Transportation Costs on Affordable Housing — Eric Moore

Recent research shows affordable housing coincides with increased transportation costs in major metropolitan areas. This study applies that research to explore housing and transportation affordability rates in rural and urban areas across North Carolina. Findings show the median household in North Carolina to be unaffordable before and after transportation costs are included. Statistics show population density has no impact on cost burdens. Geographic comparison shows a disparity between urban and rural areas in housing burden—a disparity that diminishes when transportation is added.

Enhancing North Carolina Child Welfare: Assessing Child and Family Team Meetings — Chanitta Deloatch

Child and Family Team (CFT) meetings are an important tool available to local Departments of Social Services for use in reducing the number of children in foster care. Through confidential structured interviews with CFT participants, this capstone study examines whether there are features of CFT meetings that help explain dissimilar foster care data among comparable counties. Hertford and Martin Counties were selected for this comparison study.

An Analysis of Contract Management Coursework in NASPAA-Accredited Master of Public Administration Programs — Victoria Cunningham

Contracting has become an integral part of both private and public sector business. Is it the responsibility of public administration programs to incorporate contracting knowledge and skills into the curriculum? This capstone project examines course catalogs from MPA programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) in order to determine the answers to two questions. First, are public administration students being trained in contract management? Second, how much coursework is being offered in contracting in MPA programs?

Human Resources

The Student Loan Repayment Program in the Federal Government: Examining Program Users and Program Attributes — Fred Thomas III

In 2001, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) granted federal government agencies authority to implement Student Loan Repayment Programs (SLRPs) to help recruit and retain talented workforces. Federal government agencies’ use of SLRPs has increased significantly since 2001 with varying levels and varying attributes. This capstone paper uses quantitative data, interviews, and case studies to examine current and past users and to articulate how these federal agencies are using SLRPs as a tool to recruit and retain the best and brightest personnel in the face of stiff competition from the private sector.

The Impact of Birth-Kindergarten and Preschool Add-on Teaching Licensure on Educational Outcomes in More at Four Classrooms — Kayla Fuga

More at Four regulations state that program teachers should have a Birth-Kindergarten (B-K) or Preschool Add-on teaching license; many do not. This capstone study analyzes data from pre- and post-tests on 10 different evaluations of a sample of 312 More at Four students. In only two of the 10 evaluations, students with a licensed teacher had greater gains when compared to students with a non-B-K licensed teacher. In the case of (1) letter and word identification and (2) print knowledge, teacher licensure positively impacts student outcomes.

Employee Perceptions of Furlough Fairness: The UNC-Chapel Hill Case — Ingrid Rosiuta

During difficult economic times, employers may institute furloughs as a cost-savings measure. Furloughs can affect workers in different ways, so policymakers need to know how employees perceive their furloughs. A sample of UNC-Chapel Hill employees was surveyed about their reactions to a 10-hour furlough instituted in May 2009. Analysis of their responses showed that 56% of those surveyed thought the furlough was fair. If furloughs were used again, employees suggested pro-rated furloughs for those with lower income and more communication from the University to increase the perception of furlough fairness.

Assessing Discipline Policies in Medium-Sized North Carolina Cities — Ashleigh Martin

This capstone study assesses discipline policies for North Carolina cities with populations between 10,000 and 25,000. The study examines variation in the policies and links that variation to implementation outcomes. Findings provide interesting insight into the policies. Most disciplinary actions occur in response to conduct violations; however, very few municipalities include any procedure for disciplining conduct violations. Many municipalities use the same policy, almost verbatim, that dates back to a model policy written by Donald Hayman in 1976 during his tenure with the Institute of Government.

The Implications of “Regarded as Disabled” for Public Employers — Jessie Peed

This capstone paper examines the legal meaning of the term “regarded as disabled” within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its implications for public sector employers. Specifically, this paper provides recommendations for human resources practices in the public sector. These recommendations are based on a qualitative analysis of legislation, legislative intent, and case law under the ADA; and the projected consequences of the changes made to this law in the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.