1. Research Question One:
In the first place, suburban newcomers benefit from the fiscal disparity between suburbia and old urban core as well as cheaper land in the suburbs. However, in order to answer whether the costs of sprawl will be borne by all taxpayers, it is important to look at the fiscal impact of sprawl on taxpayers over time. Therefore, the study will look at whether their tax rate have increased or decreased from 1985 to 1995 and whether that is associated with the increase of low-density developments in their localities. 

(a) Methods:

A regression model will be estimated using the only available tax burden indicator - tax rate change – as its dependent variable. Since low-density single family land use is the major form of sprawl (MPSO 1995 and Porter 1997), independent variables will include the change in single family land use as the indicator of the degree of sprawl. Multifamily land use will not be considered because the debates on whether discontinuous, patch work development leads to higher density is unclear given the imposition of maximum density in zoning regulations in suburbs (Peiser 1990 and Breslaw 1990). Intervening variables are: (1) those related to growth such as increase in population, households and jobs (in order to separate out the effect of growth from sprawl (Atkinson 1996)); (2) those related to municipal expenditure and revenue such as changes in higher density residential, commercial, and industrial land uses (based on the assumption of fiscal impacts of land uses and for controlling secondary effects) as well as population level which affects the allocation of money from the state level; (3) those that affect tax rate given the same amount of total property tax levied such as assessment value; and (4) those related to the quality of infrastructure of public service required such as change in income indicator (Burchell and Newman 1996).

For most of the regression models, the units of analysis are the MCD that have faced increases in single family land use in Southeast Michigan. It will be assumed that local governments’ say on zoning makes them independent from each other. The fiscal impact of sprawl on households will be investigated on the level of municipalities, school districts, and the aggregate of both. As a result, the dependent variables of six estimate regression models are MCD tax rate, school tax rate, and total tax rate. In terms of spillover effect in looking at the school and total tax rate, land use changes in a MCD may affect the tax rate in another MCD if they are within the same school district. One way to control for that is to include, as independent variables in the regression models, weighted land use changes of the school districts to which a MCD belongs. 

3. Research Question Two:
How much does tax rate indicate actual households’ tax burdens? It is true that households’ actual tax bills increase while tax rate increases in a growing community where land value increases. However, almost half of the suburban and rural MCDs in Southeast Michigan have decreased tax rates over the ten years. It is unclear whether the tax bills of the households in these communities increased over the ten years. Similarly, faced with increased tax rate and depreciating land value, it is unclear whether the tax bills of the households in decaying urban MCDs increased.

(a) Methods:

The study will sample households that existed during the ten years in these MCDs to study the change in their tax bills. Spatial Sampling using a grid to obtain samples that are spatially representative of the study region might need to be used along with traditional sampling techniques. This information will be used to help interpret the results of the regression calibrated to predict tax rates.