Both rural and urban municipal officials, faced with increased local resistance to higher taxes, increasing expenditure needs, weakening financial support from higher levels of government, and the growing pressure to "do more with less" have accelerated their search for alternative ways of delivering local public services. The downsizing of government has been brought to the forefront of public discussion in part due to the general conservative shift at the federal and state level and the need to maintain a balanced budget at the local level. Related private sector trends downsizing middle management as a means to become "leaner and meaner," reducing duplication and waste, and increasing earnings, profit levels, and returns to nvestors. At the same time many local public officials are faced with rising costs to maintain an aging infrastructure, accommodating the needs of special populations, satisfying rules and regulations imposed by higher levels of government, funding new investments to meet the demands of a growing economy in some instances, or maintaining critical services in the face declining economies. In short, the rules of the game for effective management of local governments have changed.