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2011 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., performance management, environment and sustainability, government and the internet, budget and taxes, managing public services, emerging issues, equality/integration policies and public administration law/criminal justice.
In 2001 the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) passed Standard 1710, recommending a minimum per-company staffing of four firefighters. Many local government managers disagree with 1710, calling it one-size-fits-all, and there is no definitive proof that four-person companies improve performance and reduce fire loss. This study looks at staffing data over a two week period to determine what percentage of career fire departments in North Carolina fully comply with NFPA 1710 and how this affects
Fire department emergency response time is one of the most important facets of emergency response. But the definitions and methods of reporting response times vary. National organizations make recommendations about how to measure and report response times, but there is nothing requiring departments to report times a certain way—or report anything at all. This capstone examines what departments across the southeastern United States report as response time on their municipal websites, as well as why the departments use the measures they do.
The organizational location of the budget function varies in local governments, with four common locations being within finance,
administrative services, an independent office, or as a sub-unit of the mayor or manager’s office. This paper examines the relationship between these locations and management tools such as performance measurement and strategic planning
used during the budget process.
Local preference policies give local vendors an advantage in public contracting. While North Carolina local governments’ authority is limited in adopting formal local preference policies, local governments in other states have been practicing formal local preference for some time. This study gauges the extent to which North Carolina local governments practice local preference formally or informally, and studies the types and perceived effectiveness of local preference policies used outside of the state. Finally, this
paper identifies considerations and makes policy design recommendations for local governments considering a formal local preference policy.
The US fell into recession in 2007. Every level of government experienced revenue losses simultaneously. North Carolina’s municipalities were impacted but each responded differently. Data show that many managers communicated with elected officials about the recession and proposed various budget-balancing tactics. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to examine budget messages and financial reports to analyze relationships between communication about the recession and financial
condition. Findings provide weak evidence that communication reflected an underlying strategy that made any difference. However, some municipalities’ aggressiveness proves interesting. This paper includes recommendations to North Carolina municipal managers.
Environment and Sustainability
Nearly half of all municipal solid waste in the US is generated by businesses. Yet most local governments choose not to involve themselves with commercial recycling service provision. A better understanding of the perceived benefits of, and barriers to, local government involvement in commercial recycling can provide valuable insight into the factors that influence involvement decisions. This capstone study analyzes perceived benefits and barriers from the perspective of 17 local governments in North Carolina to
uncover associated decision factors and practical recommendations.
In North Carolina, waste from construction and demolition activities (C&D) is sent to landfills or transfer stations designated for C&D waste. Private companies own one third of these facilities in North Carolina, where waste is either separated for reuse and recycling or disposed. It is the goal of the State to increase the amount of construction and demolition materials recovered for reuse and recycling. This study explores methods to increase reuse and recycling at private facilities. This paper recommends developing
end-user markets for key materials and increasing education and outreach.
Private land trusts, conservation groups, and all levels of government increasingly are using conservation easements to protect ecologically important lands from development. Two land trusts in central North Carolina released a report in September 2010 that scored parcels in the Upper Neuse River Basin on each parcel’s importance to maintaining water quality. This study models the impact on the tax rolls of Orange and Durham counties if the parcels identified as “high priority” in each county were encumbered with conservation easements or secured through fee simple acquisition.
Government and the Internet
Social media are inexpensive, if not free, online tools used to communicate information, facilitate conversation, and receive feedback. Numerous government agencies in North Carolina employ a social site, with counties and municipalities at the forefront. This paper explores how and why Parks and Recreation Departments in North Carolina use Facebook and Twitter, and it outlines key elements to include in a social media policy. The promising practices outlined in this report can help local governments take control of
social media within their organization.
Facebook boasts the largest online community in the world, with 550 million members and counting. With almost half of the American
population participating on Facebook, the platform offers local governments a unique opportunity to efficiently engage and inform
citizens without adding significant expense to already lean governmental budgets. This capstone explores how local governments use Facebook to increase citizen engagement and offers recommendations for jurisdictions seeking to expand their Facebook presence.
The 2010 Federal Broadband Plan calls for pervasive broadband Internet at globally competitive speeds. North Carolina has benefited
from this national initiative through more than $275 million in 2010 federal grants for expansion of higher-speed broadband Internet, especially to underserved rural areas. As North Carolina works to spur economic growth and create jobs by building Internet infrastructure and increasing access, a review of the effects of broadband to date will guide how the state moves forward.
This paper examines the impact of high-speed broadband adoption rates on economic, societal, and educational indicators in North Carolina’s 100 counties.
Budget and Taxes
There is a common assumption among public administrators that multi-year capital budgeting, most commonly operationalized
through a Capital Improvement Program (CIP), positively impacts the financial condition of governmental entities. Despite the prevalence of this assumption, empirical studies testing its validity are rare. The purpose of this capstone is to determine whether capital budgeting is a significant variant of financial condition among a sample population of North Carolina municipalities. Findings will provide local government managers with insight into the nature of governmental financial condition and the value of capital budgeting within their organization.
During the past century, mergers have significantly decreased the number of school administrative units in North Carolina. Three methods (legislative enactment, county commissioner’s plan, and local board plan) have been used to merge school units over the
last twenty-five years. Data analysis shows that method of merger impacts the average yearly change in county appropriations for current expense, when compared to the pre-merger trend.
This study examines how current economic conditions affect the shift in tax burden for one North Carolina county. It focuses on a
revaluation conducted as of January 1, 2010, which is supported by sales from 2008 and 2009. Specifically, it pulls data from Onslow
County, North Carolina, for each of the last four revaluations and groups parcels into 21 different census tracts. Demographic variables of racial composition and median household income for each census tract is pulled into the equation and juxtaposed with changes after each revaluation.
Scotland County's School Funding Floor: Does it Provide a Positive Return on Investment? - Jennifer Warren Butler
A 1963 North Carolina state law created a “floor” on the local school funding contribution solely for Scotland County by requiring the
county to fund the school system at no less than a minimum limit determined by a specified formula. Current debate centers on whether this legal mandate is a good investment for the taxpayers of Scotland County. This paper seeks to answer two questions. First, does the mandate make a difference in the county’s level of school funding? Second, does the mandated level of funding affect student performance?
Managing Public Services
Wherever You Go, There They Are? Bicycle Parking in Chapel Hill — Michael Ousdahl
Aiming to enhance community livability, municipalities continue to promote the economic, environmental, and health benefits of bicycling. Consistent with this objective, municipalities have increased efforts to install new bicycle parking facilities and improve existing ones. While certain resources are readily committed, few inventories and limited research exist to allow municipalities
to examine how usage of these facilities interacts with infrastructure, land use, and the built environment. This research begins to fill this gap through an examination of bicycle parking in the Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The Nonprofit Leadership Certificate: From Credits to Career — Francinia D. McKeithan
The Nonprofit Leadership Certificate Program at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has risen to answer the nonprofit sector’s call for the professional skill development nonprofits need to manage their organizations. The study collected survey responses from 101 certificate alumni. Overall, respondents expressed satisfaction with the effect the Nonprofit Leadership Certificate had on their professional lives. This paper examines the survey responses, draws program-specific conclusions based on the responses, makes connections to existing literature, and provides recommendations for future study.
Data collected through North Carolina’s Spay and Neuter Reimbursement Program indicates statewide euthanasia rates hover in the 70 percent range, and this translates into consumption of a tremendous amount of public and private resources. Even so, statewide rates have steadily decreased since data collection began in 2002. This study identified North Carolina companion animal facilities that decreased their euthanasia rates between 2004 and 2008 and then interviewed staff members at these facilities to learn what intentional and unintentional factors they believe contributed to this decrease. In addition, a comparative analysis was conducted
to assess differences between reduced-rate facilities and non-reduced-rate facilities.
This project examines how North Carolina economic development entities integrate tourism into local economic development efforts.
Originally intended to study successful merging of these organizations into single entities, the research instead reveals subtle and complex relationships using formal and informal integrative methods. This paper presents the findings from a survey of county managers, statistical analysis of the survey results, and interviews with various levels of leadership from public and private organizations involved in local economic and tourism development.
Citizens’ Academies: A Tool for Increasing Civic Engagement — Julie Hochsztein
Citizens’ academies are a new tool used by local governments to teach residents about the functions of local government. Additionally, they build relationships and encourage people to participate in civic functions. This study explores participants’ views on the effects of attending this type of program with respect to their postacademy civic activities. Results show that, while citizens’ academy participants are often more engaged before participating in the program, citizen engagement increases significantly across
civic indicators for almost all participants.
Do social workers make better child welfare workers? Current research presents conflicting answers to this question. This study examines the relationship between the professionalism of staff and outcomes for children including length of stay in foster care,
re-entry rates and re-abuse rates across all 100 local Departments of Social Services in North Carolina. Findings suggest a
significant correlation between the level of social work education and length of stay in foster care.
This capstone focuses on two federal affordable housing grant programs: HOPE VI and the newly created Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI). As the possibility exists that HOPE VI will end with final approval of the FY2011 federal budget, it is important for public housing authorities to recognize that while the programs are similar, substantial differences exist between them. This study inventories the activity demonstrated in North Carolina HOPE VI developments and their sponsoring public housing authorities that
fulfill CNI requirements. Based on the patterns revealed, recommendations will be made for housing authorities interested in pursuing CNI funds.
Estimates by the US Census Bureau project that immigrants represent 7.1 percent of the state’s total population. Federal and state
policies allow immigrants to access many public programs. This capstone assesses North Carolina local government responsiveness by providing an inventory of immigrant programs across departments. The research shows that local governments generally offer services in line with federal mandates, with the exception being education and health departments, which offer additional programs.
More than 14,000 refugees have been resettled in North Carolina in the past 10 years. This study identifies key challenges and opportunities for integration faced by refugees in North Carolina from the perspective of refugee resettlement directors in the Piedmont and Coastal regions. The study also tests the applicability of key recommendations made in a community diagnosis of refugees from Burma living in Chapel Hill and Carrboro to other communities. The findings identify local resources that help refugees overcome barriers as well as recommendations for helping refugees achieve self-sufficiency.
Seven of the 62 state-recognized American Indian tribes in the United States are in North Carolina. Compared with their federally recognized counterparts, these tribes typically have more limited legal, financial, and political resources. Considering the constraints of state recognition, this paper seeks to identify knowledge, skills, and abilities for governing that North Carolina tribal leaders feel are needed to effectively advance their tribes’ political, social, and economic agendas.
Field placements are considered the “signature pedagogy” of social work education and the equivalent of classroom learning within social work curricula. Despite the importance of field placements to student learning, masters of social work programs receive little guidance on how to select placements for their students. This paper examines the factors that field directors (or their equivalents) use when placing students and determines if and how these factors differ in cases of international placement.
Public Administration Law/Criminal Justice
Delinquency among girls has increased in the last twenty years. Consequently, scholars are focusing on how to meet the needs of girls experiencing stressors associated with delinquency. This study identifies girls’ life-skills programs in Durham, North Carolina; examines which risk and protective factors each program is designed to address; and determines program capacity and how fully each is utilized. The study identifies 17 programs. An analysis of promising and actual practices reveals that programs need to
place greater emphasis on family influences and physical, sexual, and emotional victimization.
Under current law records made in the transaction of public business are considered public and subject to inspection. Yet, this
aspiration of an open and accountable government through public records law is just that—an aspiration instead of a realization.
Public content is being created at an exponential rate and policies that guide the management of public records are confusing, to say the least. This paper calls for a return to original principles of public records law so that the system of accountability can be truly effective.
Structured sentencing in North Carolina was implemented in 1994 to create a predictable, stable, and fair sentencing system. Modeled after a 2002 study by the NC Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission, this study seeks to understand whether similarly situated offenders under structured sentencing receive “breaks” (charge reductions, inactive sentences, and minimum sentence lengths) based on legal and extralegal factors. Statistical analyses reveal that while outcomes for offenders can be predicted by
legally relevant factors (i.e., offense seriousness and criminal history), legally irrelevant factors (such as age and gender) also influence offender outcomes.
Cases addressed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals are reviewed by panels composed of three judges. A majority opinion requires the agreement of at least two judges; therefore, a dissent by one judge is possible, and frequently occurs. This capstone paper examines whether the rate of dissent has increased between 1999 and 2008, whether length of service impacts a judge’s tendency to dissent, and the ultimate impact these factors have on the appellate process in the State of North Carolina.
As a way to decrease costs and cut down on jail overcrowding, counties are starting to look towards alternative forms of incarceration, such as using electronic monitoring (EM) to keep someone in house arrest. However, the majority of counties in North Carolina are not using EM for child support enforcement. This study examines the perceptions of North Carolina child support supervisors, sheriffs, and chief district judges about the use of EM for child support enforcement.
What works in preventing and addressing juvenile delinquency? Is the juvenile diversion system in North Carolina working as intended? This study addresses those questions by examining one particular juvenile-diversion program model: community-based programs that engage adolescents and their families in building communication and conflict-resolution skills. Interviews with program directors across the state provide on-the-ground insight into what’s working and what’s not, while a focused quantitative analysis offers a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of these programs in practice.