Public financial Management
Public officials play a critical role in budget allocations. The main aim of a public official is to allocate available funds in a manner such that the general public receives the greatest benefits from the application of the funds. The public sector must ensure that scarce resources are allocated in a manner that optimizes their usefulness. It is imperative for public officials to take into consideration the preferences of the local citizens while making budget allocation decisions. In order for growth to be achieved at the local city levels, fiscal resources must be managed in a prudent manner so as to support market-led growth. Budget allocation plans should satisfy three key elements: responsiveness, responsibility, and accountability. Responsiveness of budgets relates to the level in which the allocation of budgets matches the publics’ expectations. Responsibility is achieved when budget allocation is conducted in an efficient and equitable manner, with minimal risks being involved. Accountability relates to the level in which public officials can be made to account for every resource spent for public use.
Budget allocation calls for greater scrutiny in the application of public funds to minimize incidences of fraud and improve accountability in the public sector (Quah, 2016). Independent evaluations are often conducted across many states to ensure that public funds are used objectively and in a manner that maximizes public benefit. Developing countries are often faced with accountability issues in allocation of public funds. Due to the endemic corruption in the developing countries, there is need for public sector reforms that can help ensure public funds are used for the benefit of the greater public. In the U.S., there is greater accountability in allocation of public funds due to a number of reforms that were implemented in the public sector. This paper provides a detailed report of the best way in which $10 million dollar budget can be allocated to best support the needs of a city with a population of about 250,000 residents.
The proposed expenditure plan for the local city level place more emphasis on supporting the core services required by the citizens. The core services in the city include: enhancing the public safety, maintenance of the general physical infrastructure, infrastructure, improvement of transport and communication facilities, and lastly enhancing investment in the region. This proposed expenditure plan is based on the policy of fiscal prudence which advocates for careful utilization of public funds. Fiscal prudence is of great importance since it will ensure that the available resources will adequately be utilized to cater for the main mission as well as to support other critical financial undertakings. In the management of public funds, it is necessarily to exercise caution especially in relation to public debt. Credit limit establishes the maximum amount of debt financing that the city can take. The proposed expenditure plan is $10 million dollars, with the possibility of an additional 100% matching federal funds.
The sample budget allocation covers capital requirements of the city, operational requirements, and subsidization of non-profit organizations. The operating budget will comprise about 60% of the entire budget allocations, while capital requirements and economic incentives will take about 40% of the entire budget. The following is a simple budget overview showing the operating budget and the capital improvements budget to be applied in the city. This budget preparation assumes that the public officials will satisfy all the federal requirements and thus access 100% additional federal funds.
Table 1.1 Total Budget Program Allocations for the City
|Total Budget Program|
|Operating Budget Requirements||$12,000,000|
|Capital Improvements budget||$8,000,000|
|Total Budget Allocations||$20,000,000|
This budget is prepared in accordance to the city’s long-term strategic plan of ensuring that it achieves financial sustainability and most importantly growth.
The operational requirements are divided into a number of subsections. The following table shows the structured operating budget allocations for the city.
Table 1.2 Operational requirements budget summary.
|Operational requirements budget summary|
|General or common fund||$5,066,493|
Transport and Communication Sector
|Internal Service budget||$54,000|
Solid waste management
Parks and other facilities
|Total Budget Allocation||$12,000000|
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The general fund comprise of the mayor’s appropriations for the various positions in the city. These appropriations are used to cater for salaries and wages of various staff working at the local city level. Some of these positions include court interpreters, clerks, program analysts, staffing for capital improvements, library staffing, code inspectors, fire inspectors, and other positions directly under the local city authority. There are a number of departments attached to the general fund which include City Clerk, City Attorney, City Manager, Community Development, Internal Services, Community Services, and City Court department. The General Fund will create additional employment opportunities. It is estimated that about 30 permanent positions will be created and about 20 temporary positions. This will also stimulate the creation of indirect employment opportunities.
Capital requirements budget summary
The following table shows the capital requirements budget summary that will be used in the proposed expenditure plan.
Table 1.3 Capital requirements budget summary
|Capital Requirements Budget Summary|
|Enterprise program funds
|Special purpose programs
|General purpose programs
Improvement of parks
Fire medical rescue
Street lighting installation
The capital requirements budget summary addresses the city’s critical infrastructure needs. Funding for the capital budget is derived from a number of sources which include: general obligation bonds, supported bonds, grants and donations, and special revenues. As earlier mentioned, it is important to take into consideration the debt limits especially when financing through issuance of government bonds. This is because issuance of bonds has a significant impact on interest rates and the general performance of the economy. The city’s debt limit levels can safely be determined by using the limited property value. This involves the use of an established formula to determine the value of a particular property and consequently the applicable tax rates.
The Capital Budget primarily comprises of the city’s major projects that are in progress and meant for enhancing public safety, health, and maintenance of key assets. The budget will thus cater for a variety of projects such as infrastructural developments, improving the emergency services department by acquiring modern equipment, improvement of communication facilities, development of pars, road development, and among other projects. The city’s annual budget can be appropriated depending on the various categories of major expenses. The following chart shows the sample budget allocation plan based on expenditure type.
Fig. 1.1 Budget Appropriations based on Expenditure type
From the above chart, it is possible to see how the budget will be allocated to cover various critical expenses. The personnel costs comprise of the largest share of the total budget. Personnel costs are those associated with payment of wages, salaries and other benefits for all employees who are under the city’s payroll. Expenditure in capital projects is the second largest in the budget proposal, comprising of 28% of the total budget. The services sector/supplies will also cost a substantial portion of the entire budget, with 22% of the total budget going towards service provision. Another important consideration in the proposed expenditure plan is debt servicing. It is proposed that 14% of the total budget go to towards debt repayment. Debt servicing is important for the local city. It will help in securing more debts in future since the city will gain a positive reputation by reducing its debt levels. Countries as well as international financial institutions are more willing to lend to states that have good debt repayment history.
The City’s Overall Financial Assessment
Over the years, the city has employed sound financial management policies that have enhanced its strong financial standing. This has mainly been through the use of appropriate fiscal policies that encourage controlled spending and maximum savings. The financial sustainability of the expenditure plan decisions are assessed based on five-year financial forecasts. Financial forecasts should be updated yearly so as to reflect the current economic trends. A variety of sources, both internal and external, should be used in making the financial projections and models. Financial forecasts are important since they provide policy makers with a long-term view of how current decisions will affect its future potential to sustain itself financially. The financial forecasts are thus a key pillar in ensuring financial stability of the city in the long-run.
There are a number of indicators that can give policymakers clues concerning the financial strengths of the city. First, fund balances can be used to determine the city’s financial potentials. Fund balances related to the unassigned revenues in the general fund. The financial reserves held by the city can also be a good indicator of its financial strength. The financial reserves represent the share of revenues that the city has in stock and can use especially during emergency needs. Bond ratings are also used as indicators of financial strength. There are various international financial organizations that provide details on bond ratings such as Standard & Poor and Moody. High bond ratings can significantly reduce interest rates pegged on the city’s debt (Brigham, & Ehrhardt, 2008). The city’s debt management plan can also be used as an indicator of its financial strength. It is important to establish sound debt management practices so as to build a strong positive debt portfolio. Lastly, the development activities of the city can be used as a measure of its financial strength. High development activities are an indication good financial strength.
Control & management of public expenditure
It is of great significance for the city to establish control measures and sound management practices of public expenditure. Control & management of public expenditure ensures that the budget is consistent with current macroeconomic constraints (“International Monetary Fund” (n.d)). The budget preparation process is a critical process that involves careful execution of duties by various organizations involved in the budget preparation process. The principles of budget are used to checking the use of public expenditure in the public domain. There are a number of basic principles that guide the budget allocation process. The principles state that budget allocation should have the following core characteristics: it should be realistic, comprehensive, transparent, policy-oriented, and the entire budget process should show accountability especially in relation to budget execution.
Comprehensiveness of the budget process relates to whether gross estimates are applied and the completeness of government operations. Transparency relates to whether the budget process satisfies all outlined national and international standards. The realisms element assesses whether the budget is hedged on a robust macroeconomic framework. The element also looks at the applicability of the financing provisions made. There are three critical characteristics of an effective budget process. These include unity, annuality, and universality. Unity of the budget system means that revenues and expenditures are used together in establishing yearly budget estimates. Annuality of budgets relates to the period covered by the budget (“OECD,” 2004). Budget preparation is an annual process, including its execution. Universality of the budget process involves the manner in which resources are allocated. Available resources should be used for a common purpose rather than for specific purpose.
Responsibility in budget control and management
It is important to outline responsibility in the budget preparation process. At the local city level, the finance department should be charged with developing the budget. However, this may differ between countries or states. In virtually all nations including the developed nations, authorities face a daunting task in ensuring accountability relating to the control and management of public expenditures. A weak accounting framework is one of the major reasons why most countries face challenges in maintaining accountability relating to the control and management of public expenditure. Accountability is critical to accumulating wealth and establishing successful economy (Oyeriende & Iyoha, 2010). In most countries, presence of laws or anti-corruption agencies may not deter individuals from embezzling public funds. However, it is only a robust accounting framework that can help ensure accountability in the control and management of public expenditure.
Ways in which the local city can improve on public expenditure management
The local city can improve on public expenditure management by conducting internal and external audits. Traditionally, authorities were content with internal audits. However, the internal checks can easily become subverted. Independent analysis of public expenditure is thus critical in ensuring accountability in the control and management of public expenditure. Most local governments have realized the need to control public expenditure and establish accountability in the sector. The second way in which local governments can improve on public expenditure management involves establishing a sound institutional framework. In public expenditure management, there should be clearly outlined principles that guide the budget process. The constitution should enumerate a list of laws that ought to be followed. In addition, there should be a balance between the executive and legislative powers. Power legislative bodies such as the parliament should have the legal jurisdiction to scrutinize the budget allocation process.
There should also be a clearly defined budget process. The budget preparation process follows a sequel of steps that gives policymakers time to evaluate each step and whether the milestones in each of the step has been accomplished before proceeding to the next step. The procedures used in the budget preparation process should be integrated to ensure a smooth budget process. During the budget preparation process, constraints should be clearly outlined and included in a report. The draft budget should be present to a legal body with the appropriate mandate to scrutinize it well. According to (Allen & Tommasi, 2001), the draft budget should include an outline of the fiscal policy objectives identified by the government, budget policies, macroeconomic framework, and an analysis of the key fiscal risks that may impact its implementation.
It is important to take into consideration the budget execution and monitoring process as a way to improving the control and management of public expenditure. A legally established body with higher authority such as parliament of finance ministry should be charged with monitoring the budget to ensure that it does not go beyond normal limits. There should be sound systems for checking personnel expenditures as well as the budget allocations. Comparisons should be made between actual spending and budget forecasts to ensure that they are in line. Public expenditure management should also involve financial control strategies. There are a number of procedures that are critical in ensuring sound internal control. These include: financial reporting standards, clear audit trail, well-defined procurement procedures, and a modern accounting system. Having an effective procurement process is a major step towards ensuring accountability in the budget process. Procurement practices can be improved through implementing a sound legislative framework, developing efficient complaints procedures, and through establishing an organization responsible for streamlining the procurement process in a country.
Government Financial Reporting Requirements
Government financial reporting can be defined as the process whereby financial information relating to performance is recorded in a specified manner for accountability purposes. Local authorities which follow the laid down financial reporting requirements are more accountable in their actions. It is also easier for policymakers to utilize the financial reports for the purpose of planning and policy formulation. The government requires multiple reports in relation to the budget process. The major purpose of these reports is to enhance accountability in relation to the way local governments make use of public funds. The Budget and Accounting Procedures Act formulated in 1990 was the first attempt by the Federal Government to enhance accountability through provision of budget reports and other information. The act required various executive agencies to issue budget reports to the Treasury Secretary.
Federal financial reporting objectives
The Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) outlines four key objectives in relation to federal financial reporting. The four include: stewardship, budgetary integrity, systems & control, and operating performance (Hatch, 2013). All financial reports prepared should satisfy the four aforementioned objectives. In satisfying budgetary integrity requirements, the financial report should include detailed information concerning the manner in which budgetary resources were acquired and how they were used. In other words, there should be clearly defined revenue sources along with amounts obtained and expenses incurred. The stewardship objective involves giving a report about the financial position of the government. In this case, it involves giving a report about the local government’s financial position. The stewardship objective will require the local government to declare the kind of economic resources it has the claims against them. This is simply the financial health of the local entity, along with future prospective. The stewardship objective thus provides policymakers with a future outlook with regard to sustainability of resources (Hatch, 2013).
The other objective is operating performance which provides details about program accomplishments. A federal financial report should provide details about accomplishments made, activity or program costs, and general information about sustainability of funds (Hatch, 2013). For example, a statement of net cost can be used to indicate the actual costs of operations in the budget process. Systems and control is another important federal financial reporting objective. This objective makes a recommendation that the financial reports should enable users to determine if all the necessary financial reporting standards and controls were observed. As per this objective, users should also be able to know whether other federal financial reporting standards were followed to the latter. Systems and control reports objective can be achieved by giving details on the internal controls employed in the budget process.
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Financial reporting standards and requirements are currently regulated by congress through three statutes namely: Accountability of Tax Dollars Act of 2002, Government Management Reform Act (GMRA) of 2002, and Chief Financial Officers Act (CFO Act) of 1990 (Hatch, 2013). The CFO Act of 1990 is extremely important in proving guidelines for government financial reporting standards and procedures. The act requires relevant authorities to submit audited financial statement, provides a legal framework for leadership structures, devises long-term planning, and improves accountability reporting protocols. The GMRA act aims at introducing reforms in the running of the Federal government by evaluation of the current financial management practices and human resource planning. ATDA act of 2002 was meant to strengthen the CFO Act such that it could cater to multiple branch agencies. The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) is legally mandated to outline principles governing accounting and financial reporting systems.
Local city budget policies
A number of policies will be observed in budget allocation by the local level city authorities. These policies reflect the goals and objectives that are meant to be achieved in the application of the budget. Strong policies provide a framework for comparison between current budgetary performance and the proposed budget.
- In the operating budget, current revenue will be used to support current expenditure. In a situation where the current operating expenditures exceed the current revenue, the general fund balance can be used to bridge the gap, provided that all the necessary policies are observed.
- Projections for revenue and expenditure are to be conducted biannually over a period of five years.
- Financial systems will be used to measure expenditures and to evaluate the program performance.
- Current operations will not be financed using the current portion of long-term debt.
- Capital projects that are bonds supported will not go beyond the useful life of the bonds that support them.
- The city must keep maintaining its physical assets on a regular basis to avoid high cost in future.
- The city will channel 25 percent of the current revenue towards retained earnings.
- The city’s accounting and financial reporting will be conducted in accordance to GASB policy framework.
Analyzing financial statements & budgets to make appropriate administrative decisions
As a policymaker, it is imperative to conduct researches on various economic aspects in order to make appropriate decisions concerning the budget allocations or expenditure plan. It is important to analyze financial statements and budgets in order to reach conclusive decisions. The analysis may take various forms such as fiscal analysis, policy evaluation, or a combination of fiscal & policy analysis. A fiscal analysis concentrates on establishing fiscal issues such as federal legislation, regulations, initiatives, and other reports. It is also important to perform a policy analysis in order to make appropriate administrative decisions. A policy analysis enables individuals to make informed decisions in regard to government regulations and programs. Policy analysis is important since it helps decision makers to analyze the impacts of a particular policy to the public or organizations. Lastly, policymakers can perform a combination of policy and fiscal analysis in order to make appropriate administration decisions.
There are specific steps that policymakers should use in analyzing financial statements and budgets. Six basic steps can be used helping policymakers come up with appropriate administrative decisions. The first step is to clearly define the problem or need. In this step, policymakers should thoroughly assess the magnitude of the problem by conducting a quantitative analysis of the issue. It is also important to determine the extent of the problem or the population affected by the problem. The second step involves gathering information relating to the specific problem. In situations where policymakers are unable to obtain particular information, they may make assumptions based on historical or comparative data. It is important to test data in order to verify its accuracy. The third step involves analyzing the various alternatives available. There might be various options available to a policymaker with regard to particular problems or issues at hand. For instance, the local government may have various options in case of a deficit budget such as raising taxes, borrowing funds, relying on donations, creating incentives, and among other options.
The next step in analyzing financial statements and budgets involves establishing the criteria for determining the best alternatives. Various criteria may be used such as feasibility, efficiency, uncertainty & risks involved, effectiveness, consistency to expectations, and the outlined priorities. Once a criteria has been established, the policymaker should evaluate the available alternatives by weighing each of them against predetermined measures. The final step involves making a recommendation about the best alternative. In this step, the policymaker combines all the gathered information and tries to draw conclusions based on the results. Policymakers should be creative in developing a viable solution to the problem. The policymaker should take into consideration the existing administration’s ideas and opinions and include at least one of them as a viable solution. The policymaker should provide more than one recommendations to enable the administration consider a set of different alternatives.
Applying budgets as a disciplinary process
The budget system should be time-efficient and provide maximum gains. Various local authority officials should develop estimates of the amount the appropriate amounts that can be adequately used to fund their programs or organizations. The local government should conduct annual analysis of expenditure needs instead of relying on previous year spending. This is mostly because priorities may change or new needs may emerge which impact the way budget allocations are made. The city authorities should be able to account for every money spent. The city should use advanced accounting systems that can help in eliminating overheads and inefficiencies in the entire budget allocation process. Many local governments lack mechanisms for keeping track of all costs that they incur. The lack of a sound budgeting and accounting system may lower the quality of the budget process and lead to high inefficiencies in the entire process. Budget committees are vital in the budget implementation process. The caliber of employees working in these committees greatly determine its effectiveness.
There are four ways in which budget committees can enhance the effectiveness of the budget process. First, there is need for biennial budgeting. This involves allowing the budget cycle to run for a period of two years, in contrast to the yearly budget cycles that are common in most parts of the world. Extending the period may be of benefit since it gives more room to budget committees to manage resources. In the annual budget cycles, the budget committees spend a lot of time in planning and implementation of the annual budget cycle. The second step in to adopt standard capital budgeting and cost accounting techniques. These techniques are important because they give more clarity on overheads, expenses and costs. Majority of local city authorities lack the relevant tools that can enable them keep track of indirect overhead costs. Activity-based techniques can be useful in assessing the entire cost of various programs.
The next method is to encourage those in charge of fund administration to ensure efficiency by use of rewards. Altering the incentive structures in place can help fund administrators focus more on achieving efficiencies in fund administration. The last method is to restructure the budget process and make it simple. The budget process has remained the same for over four decades. The current budget process is dogged by complexities in the system, particularly in the manner in which it is administered. There are numerous committees with overlapping duties and responsibilities which creates confusion. Restructuring the budget process can therefore be of great benefit and save on costs.
The budget process
The budget process is a critical process in ensuring that budget allocation takes place effectively. Budget preparation is importance since it gives department room for reassessing their goals or objectives and the strategies for achieving them. There are a number of phases employed in the budget preparation process.
- Policy phase – This is the first phase of the budget preparation process. This phase is guided by the goals and objectives of the council. These act as the directives that establish the tone to be followed. Various departments discuss their needs and forward these to the relevant individuals (In Cruz-Cunha et al., 2014).
- Financial capacity stage – This is the second phase in the process. The financial capacity phase entails forecasting as part of the decision making process. In this phase, short-term and long-term projections are made. Financial projections are then prepared covering each major fund to be applied. These forecasts cover a period of five years. Those involved in the budget preparation process may then examine a number of different scenarios that may have an impact on each of the funds.
- Outreach phase – This involves a series of meetings that are conducted by the policymakers to discuss the overall goals and objectives in relation to the city. A number of items may be discussed during the meetings such as timelines, available resources for allocation, budget guidelines, and fiscal constraints.
- Assessment of needs – this is the next stage in the budget implementation process. In this stage, different departments assess their programs, needs and the current micro and macroeconomic conditions. In this phase, the departments carefully scrutinize their ongoing programs in order to find areas of improvement or recommend for elimination.
- Development phase – this phase involves the review of budget requests from various departments, financial capacity of the city, manager priorities, and departmental needs evaluation. A preliminary budget is then developed.
- Implementation phase – this is the final phase of the budget process. The proposed budget is submitted to the relevant authority which is often the council (In Cruz-Cunha et al., 2014).
Comprehensive Budget Plan for the operational budget
The general fund is expected to reduce following a $201,300 deficit occasioned by discontinuation of a temporary sales tax. The deficit will reduce with time since the economy is expected to grow steadily over the five year period. The transit fund is expected to remain relatively stable in the first few years. From 2018, a deficit may be experienced due to high expenditures to be incurred in the improvement of parking in the city. The sports development fund may experience a $ 25,278 deficit in the middle of the five year forecast. This deficit will be occasioned by a cut in debt service costs. The water/sewerage fund is expected to remain relatively the same over the five year period, experiencing small surpluses towards the end of the period. This is because of the low population growth in the city hence fewer new connections. The population growth in the city is 0.2% which indicates a low population increase. Population growth helps in revenue projections from various sources such as social services and recreation. Population also impacts shared revenue calculations (Burchell & Listokin, 2012).
City revenues are projected to increase over the coming years. The growth in revenues will largely be driven by an increase in state sales tax. High revenues will also be driven by growth in the tourism sector. The development sector is experiencing a resurgence in activities from the recent economic recession. Construction has increased remarkably and is expected to maintain growth over the coming period. According to Baker (2016), spending in hotel construction in the U.S. increased by 13 percent in 2015 , while that in construction of office blocks went up by 15 percent. A 3% growth in institutional development was also achieved. Growth in the commercial and residential sectors is expected to rise in the coming period. In the fringe benefits sector, health insurance costs are projected to rise in the next five year period. The high insurance costs will be driven by a greater maturity in the workforce and a high number of retiring employees. Inflation rate will remain stable due to a relatively stable economy.
Strategic priority of policymakers and the city council
Policymakers and the city council are working with an aim to fulfill five key strategic priorities. These priorities include: enhancing the safety and security of all citizens; improving the quality of life of all residents, creating strong community links and connections; ensuring long-term sustainable growth and development; and maintaining robust financial stability of the region in the long-run. The following chart shows the council’s strategic priorities in order of their relevance.
A large portion of the budget will be spent in enhancing the quality of life of the local citizens. This portion of budget will be used to improve core infrastructural amenities. This is part of the asset maintenance efforts by the city. This budget will cover things such as streets maintenance, water, parks, and other capital programs. The key objective is to improve all the neighborhoods and ensure that council services are close and easily available to all the residents. The second strategic priority is to implement sustainable growth in the region. There are a number of ways the city can implement sustainable growth. First, there is need to reduce utility bills so that production costs also fall. Reduction in utility bills can attract investment into the region. Improving energy efficiency is another way in which sustainable growth can be achieved. This will be helpful in reducing electricity bills for the residents as well as the investors. The city plans to achieve a 20% reduction in the total amount of energy consumed by total households annually. The city will also shift to green sources of energy as alternative energy sources.
The role of nonprofit organizations
Nonprofit organizations have a critical role to play in shaping the economy of the region. These organizations are critical in provision of public services that the local authority may be unable to provide to its citizens (Horne, Johnson, & Van Slyke, 2005). In addition, nonprofit organizations can support the local government in provision of public services through partnerships. The role played by nonprofit organizations in city environments has increased tremendously in the last decade. Nonprofit organizations have become increasingly important since they are able to provide core services in a non-coercive way unlike governments (Salamon, 2003). They are also non-distributive in terms of profit which makes them more attractive in delivery of public services. Nonprofit organizations are independent of government and control their own activities. The board of directors which is responsible for the management of these entities does not benefit from their activities which makes them ideal for delivery of sensitive public services. Subsidizing nonprofit organizations would thus be beneficial to the general public since there would be corresponding improvement in provision of services.
In conclusion, budgets are of great importance in the control and management of public expenditure. Budgets serve as the key to decision making at both the local and national levels. The budget should reflect the needs of the citizens. In order for the budget to reflect the needs of the citizens, policymakers must conduct in-depth analysis of the current budget, programs to be implemented, federal policies, current needs of the locals, and others. This helps ensure that the budget reflects the needs of the majority. In planning budgets, policymakers must ensure that they take into consideration budget constraints. All budgets are limited by inadequacy of resources and hence the city must carefully plan on how to allocate the limited resources for maximum social benefit.
Whole paper with all the diagrams
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