City budget recognized as coherent, well-written

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  • | 12:00 p.m. March 31, 2008
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by Mike Sharkey

Staff Writer

Gaining national recognition for its budget isn’t becoming old hat for the City. It has become practically a given.

Last week, the City was recognized for the 21st time with the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the 2007-08 fiscal year budget. The award isn’t based so much on the City’s fiscal responsibility or budget adherence, but rather on the City’s ability to prepare a coherent, well-written budget.

“They satisfied the criteria,” said John Fishbein, senior manager of technical services for GFOA. “There are 27 criteria we use to analyze budgets.”

Fishbein said his office gets over 1,200 budgets from various size municipalities all over the country. He said anywhere from 300 to 400 meet all 27 criteria. Those that do are passed on to three analysts each.

“I’m glad to see our budget being recognized on a national level,” said Mayor John Peyton in a release. “It is important for our citizens to be able to understand how their money is spent, and that’s particularly true in these challenging times.”

Assistant Budget Officer Heath Beach said although the City has been recognized 21 times now, he said each budget presents its own issues and opportunities for his office to improve its processes.

“It is absolutely of the entire office,” said Beach of his 11 staffers. “We have seven analysts. We do a lot with very little.”

Beach said his office was required to submit four copies of the current fiscal year budget for review and consideration. Three anonymous reviewers scrutinized the budget through the 27 criteria that are broken into four categories. In order to receive recognition, a budget must address at least the mandatory criteria. The following are the four categories and the mandatory criteria within those categories:

The budget as a policy document

• The document should include a coherent statement of entity-wide long-term financial policies.

• The document shall include a budget message that articulates priorities and issues for the budget for the new year.

The budget as a financial plan

• The document shall present a summary of major revenues and expenditures, as well as other financing sources and uses, to provide an overview of the total resources budgeted by the organization.

• The document shall include summaries of revenues and other financing sources, and of expenditures and other financing uses for the prior year, the current year budget and/or estimated current year, and proposed budget year.

• The document shall describe major revenue sources, explain the underlying assumptions for the revenue estimates, and discuss significant revenue trends.

• The document shall include projected changes in fund balances, as defined by the entity in the document, for appropriated governmental funds included in the budget presentation (fund equity if no governmental funds are included in the document).

• The document should include budgeted capital expenditures, whether authorized in the operating budget or in a separate capital budget.

• The document shall include financial data on current debt obligations, describe the relationship between current debt levels and legal debt limits, and explain the effects of existing debt levels on current and future operations.

The budget as an operations guide

• The document shall describe activities, services or functions carried out by organizational units.

• The document shall include an organization chart(s) for the entire organization.

• A schedule or summary table of personnel or position counts for prior, current and budgeted years shall be provided.

The budget as a communications device

• The document shall describe the process for preparing, reviewing and adopting the budget for the coming fiscal year. It also should describe the procedures for amending the budget after adoption.

• Charts and graphs should be used, where appropriate, to highlight financial and statistical information.

• The document shall include a table of contents to make it easy to locate information in the document.



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