Budget Critique Under Gfoa Guidlines

Topics: California Society of Municipal Finance Officers, Government Finance Officers Association of Texas, Finance Pages: 5 (1569 words) Published: October 14, 2012
Critique of the City of Campbell, California Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Budget Matthew Morton
University of South Dakota

Perhaps no other function of government is more important than the budget process and the resulting budget document. According to the Government Finance Officers Association [GFOA], (1998) “A good budget process is far more than the preparation of a legal document that appropriates funds for a series of line items. Good budgeting is a broadly defined process that has political, managerial, planning, communication and financial dimensions”. The budget document needs to be more than an accounting statement that reconciles revenues and expenditures. A good budget document serves to ensure that government is efficiently using the scarce resources it possesses and in turn delivering the goods and services needed by the public. The budget document must also be “strategic in nature, encompassing a multi-year financial and operating plan that allocates resources on the basis of identified goals” (GFAO 1998). In short, a good budget document and budget process translate an organizations policies, plans and political commitments into an actionable plan whose performance can be tracked against stated objectives to measure overall operational efficiency and organizational success. In order for a successful budget document to be written it is of paramount importance to first recognize and understand the features of a good budget document. The City of Campbell, California has won the GFOA Distinguished Budget Award for eighteen consecutive years. According to the GFOA, in order to receive the Distinguished Budget Award “the published budget document must excel in the following four areas; first the budget must serve as a policy document, second the budget must serve as a financial plan, third the budget must serve as a communication device, and finally the budget must serve as an operations guide” (Takahashi, 2011, p. xviii). It is within the broad framework of these four areas, and their associated sub criteria as discussed in the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program publication, which the forgoing critique and analysis of the City of Campbell California’s budget is based. First, the budget must serve as a policy document that “includes a coherent statement of organization-wide, strategic goals and strategies that address long term concerns and issues” (“Distinguished Budget Presentation,” p. 1). The City of Campbell’s approach to satisfying these criteria is threefold, beginning on page 3 and continuing through page 7. Takahashi clearly identifies the stated community vision, community goals and mission statement paying special attention to note “the City’s role is to deliver critical public services in an efficient, professional and timely manner” (p. 3). The budget provides a list of over forty five specific strategic plan elements and objectives upon which city operations are measured. The section concludes by making the critical linkage between articulation of these goals and objectives and the need for quality and consistent feedback to adjust service levels. This is important as feedback becomes the benchmark for action and “tells us what the budget process ought to be doing – moving resources to the best advantage of the population” (Mikesell p. 43). The budget document “should describe the entity’s short-term factors that influence the decisions made in the development of the budget for the upcoming year” (“Distinguished Budget Presentation,” p. 1). Not only does the City of Campbell’s budget describe these factors in detail, it moves toward the logical outcome of summarizing how changes in service levels might need to occur in order to respond to changing short term financial conditions. While all the variables cannot be known, it was revelatory to see the City of Campbell try to forecast these changes within a rational rubric, providing preparation for several likely scenarios. Second...
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