Rural residential development poses several policy questions for state and local policymakers. Rural residential development affects wildlife, public land access, open spaces, and ultimately fiscal structure of the county. The fiscal impact model developed in this research partially validates the AFT results that rural residential development costs taxpayers more than it contributes in revenues; and conversely, that agricultural land contributes more to county coffers than it asks for in services. However, relying on simply averages to make the case is risky. County land use and planning policy should encourage agricultural land protection in order to capture the fiscal savings as well as the attending flows of public goods associated with non-fragmented lands.
The two sets of results suggest that the type of rural residential development may affect the fiscal impact to the county. Development distance from public service nodes, the composition of the in-migrating households, the density of development and the natural resource land base all may be important factors to integrate into a fiscal impacts model. Such data should be obtained and analyzed in order to assist county officials with planning strategies.
The AFT cost of community service methodology provides a simple way of calculating ratios that can be used in public policy formation that protects open spaces. It is important that the community leaders and policy makers use the ratios with caution. The results of the general test suggest that there is not a significant difference between rural residential revenues and public expenditures attributed to rural residents. However the results of the simulation indicate that rural residential development costs taxpayers more than it contributes on average but not necessarily at the margin. The mix of services and service recipients in this case are simply re-allocated in order for county budgets to balance.
It is important here to point out that this estimate does not include the broad array of other public good values associated with agricultural land which includes wildlife habitat, water quality, and viewshed. Thus this fiscal value estimate is a conservative measure of the cost and benefit disparity resulting from dispersed rural residential development.