How much time does your government spend budgeting? In many governments, it may seem that endless hours are devoted to budgeting and budget management. It is important not to be discouraged, as time spent budgeting can be good news. A budget should be more than an annual task that is checked off the list once it has been adopted—it should be a mechanism to help your government achieve goals. In order to make sure that your government’s budget is useful in achieving both short-term and long-term financial goals, your government should develop consistent policies surrounding the budgeting process.
The National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting has developed a useful resource for governments titled Recommended Budget Practices: A Framework for Improved State and Local Government Budgeting. The detailed framework is available from the Government Finance Officers Association. The following key takeaways from this framework are consistent with what Baker Tilly state and local government specialists see as being the most effective strategies in practice:
- Identifying broad goals for your government based on an assessment of operations and consideration of desired service levels, capital assets, and management.
- Developing programs and policies consistent with achieving identified goals.
- Developing a budget consistent with achieving the goals, adopted policies, and state statutes.
- Clearly documenting instructions and timelines for preparation, review, modification, and adoption of the budget.
- Regularly evaluating your government’s performance, making adjustments as needed.
- Reevaluating your goals or exploring other strategies if your government is not achieving the intended results.
Budgeting is more than just the production of an annual document. An effective budgeting process can help shape your government’s future. As opportunities or challenges arise, it will be important to revisit established policies to ensure that they still align with any change in goals.
For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly state and local government specialists can help, contact our team.