Each student will analyze the budget and budgetary trends for a local government (city or county government). The paper will be formatted as follows:
Overview and budget process and format
Expenditure and revenue trends
Conclusion and Recommendation
Below are the components of the project(see syllabus for due dates):
Selection of government
Draft of the first section (overview and budget process/format section)
Draft of the second section (expenditure and revenue trends section)
The primary source of data will be the budget of the government that you are analyzing. You may be able to get copies of these from the government. Many
governments now also have budget documents posted on their Web site. You may also want to review Census data for socio-demographic information about
the area. Finally, you might search newspaper indexes to find information on major recent budget issues.
Amendment: all papers must be done individually. No group assignments.
There is no “cookie-cutter” approach to this project. Each government is different, so the focus of the analyses will vary somewhat. The following sections
are intended to provide guidelines for you to consider, but your paper may be quite different from this. You are expected to organize the report in the manner
best suited to the entity you are studying.
B. Overview and Budget Process/Format
The paper should be written as if you were briefing a new budget director for this government. The new director is moving here from another part of the
country, and knows very little about the area or the budget issues. This section should first include a brief overview of the state or locality, including
factors/trends that may affect the budget (e.g., location, population, income levels, primary types of employment, etc.)
This section should also address the budget process and the format of the budget. You may include the following, for example:
Is the budget annual or biannual?
What is the fiscal year?
Brief descriiption of the process
Form of government (e.g., a city could be operated by a council-manager, mayor-council, or commission form)
Elected officials (number and term of legislators, executive)
Do citizens appear to play any role in the budget process?
What budget format is used?
Does the executive (e.g., Mayor or Governor) have veto authority?
Does the budget include performance information? If so, does it appear to be primarily related to workload/activities, or results/outcomes?
Does the budget include forecasts for future years, and/or data for prior years?
To what extent do you find the budget document to be a readable communication tool?
What type of budget information, if any, is included on the government’s web site?
C. Expenditure and Revenue Trends
This section will analyze major sources of expenditures and revenues, as well as trends over time. For trends, use the most current budget year available as
well as one prior year (most budgets will include data for at least one or two prior years; it will probably be most interesting to use the oldest year and the
most recent year for comparison). For the “older” comparison year, you can use either actual or budgeted revenues and expenditures.
Use tables or graphs to help display key information. You should have at least one table for expenditures and one table for revenues, using the same format
as the first homework assignment. Some jurisdictions may have a large number of departments and/or revenue sources, so it may be helpful to aggregate
some data in your tables (for example, in an expenditure table, you could list the largest departments, then combine the other departments into an “other”
category). You may want to show the breakdown of expenditures in different ways, such as the following example:
City of Somewhere
% of Total
% of Total
Expenditures by Department