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Managing Local Government Funds For The New Year: 10 Tips To Strategic Budget Planning

By Mary Malcolm

As this year comes to a close, governments’ approach their own finale of the fiscal year. Similarly to the universal financial stresses of the holiday season, budgets tighten in the last months of the fiscal year. Operations do not slow, bills remain due, and funding cannot cease in the final stretch of the year. This being so, careful, calculated budgeting must be commenced throughout every phase of financial planning for the year ahead. 

Local government officials oversee countless facets of their municipalities, so ensuring all programs are upheld and organizations remain operating as per normal standards cannot be exaggerated. This, of course, can be mitigated at the beginning of the year with money being pre-assigned to essential funding outlets and proper forecasting for potential disaster relief or any unforeseen commencements.

Managing a lump sum of money and deciding how to allocate it can be challenging. While the concept seems straightforward, determining the distribution for various purposes may lead to disagreements. Local municipalities often face budget constraints, making budgets appear small and restrictive. This article aims to offer tips to ease or prevent year-end financial burdens before the fiscal year concludes.

Why Budgeting Ahead of Time is Important

Trust is arguably the most valuable asset to be established between a government and their respective population within the municipality. Trust can be earned via transparency and honesty, two excellent concepts to implement into your budget planning. Clear and concise goals and financial plans remaining visible throughout the year offers a basis to reference at any point in time. 

Further, giving all access to these goals and plans keeps from any surprises or upset that may arise from feelings of secrecy or improper commitment of allotted money. With agreement and understanding from all say-havers, with the best interest of the greater population in mind, everyone can remain on the same page making certain for a seamless year ahead. 

Check out GovPilot's Budgeting Guide for Local Governments here. 

Where Budget Funds Are Most Commonly Allocated 

Safety remains a top priority for representatives in government, this is reflected within local government budgets. Funding will always be reserved for police, law enforcement, and emergency services. First responders such as the fire department and paramedics are free to those who solicit those services, but the money comes from somewhere. That somewhere just so happens to be from funding and meticulous budget planning done by your representatives. 

  • Infrastructure Repair or Development 

In tandem with safety concerns, maintaining the infrastructure within your community is a key player in the preservation of you and your neighbors safety. Water and sewage systems may not be the first thought when considering infrastructure, but should functionality be impeded, it would impact the community in a treacherous way. Similarly, assuring roads, bridges, and public transportation are all up to code regulation standards are safeguards for the livelihood and prosperity of citizens. Additionally, public buildings and facilities that may provide relief for members must remain updated and repaired as needed to maintain access to those invaluable resources.  

Curious about What is Disaster Resilient Infrastructure? Learn here. 

  • Education 

A huge point of contingency between the public and government officials is funding for education. Agreeably, education is the greatest resource to equip our youth, and it has been said that you are never done learning, so education should always remain of top priority in funding allocation. This includes educational programs that support the community such as libraries, continuing education classes, or employment workshops. 

Equitable access to resources in the community means offering subsidies to, not only public health programs and clinics, but social services to vulnerable populations such as the elderly and low-income families. In the mission to reach tranquility within the community, creating the conditions for all to be prosperous is the first step.  

Maintaining parks and recreational facilities offers space for the community to host engagement opportunities that pipeline to the increased well being of community members. Getting involved is a great way to boost the quality of living for citizens, and creating a space to do so is a great motivator. 

Ensure your municipality has a strong Modern Local Parks & Recreation Strategy

Supporting local businesses can boost community revenue. This may create more job opportunities and contribute to economic growth through initiatives like job training programs and local business incentives.

Ensure economic development for your citizens with GovPilot’s Guide to Upward Mobility Planning At The Local Level 

Governments must remain conscientious of the housing market and how that may be affecting their community’s access to affordable housing. Homelessness prevention programs give direction and serve as a resource to those struggling with homelessness. Creating outreach programs offers a helping hand to those who do not know where to begin and can be put in safer living conditions until a more permanent solution can be ascertained. 

Consider GovPilot’s Vacant Property Management Software.

  • Environmental Sustainability 

Conservation efforts being considered in the municipal budget provides comfort in the longevity of the community. Things such as waste management or recycling programs work to boost the sustainability and welfare of the community, keeping the roads clean and air quality high. 

With our Local Government Sustainability Guide, managing sustainability is easy.

10 Tips To Strategic Budget Planning

Budget planning is vital, and doing it strategically is smart. Here are some key tips: 

1. Interdepartmental Budget Planning 

A comprehensive budget process that incorporates pertinent departments allows for everyone to offer input and put in requests as necessary. Following the proper provisions in getting realistic revenue estimates gets funds allocated based on priority and as a direct reflection of the community’s unique needs. 

Learn more from our Interdepartmental Government Communication Strategy guide.

2. Think Long-Term 

When promising funding, consider the sustainability of that promise. Regardless of how positive the resource may be to the community, this may only prove fruitful for a limited time, as it may only continue with ongoing sponsorship. Although challenging, finding alternatives to more expensive programs would grant long-term availability. Another consideration must be the administration of funds in the hypothetical emergencies brought on by unforeseen circumstances. Should disaster strike, the community would be devastated by zero chartered capital. 

3. Demonstrate Transparency and Accountability

Budget decisions impact more than just the government officials who decide them, it impacts the population as a whole. Therefore, including the public in a way where they feel as though they are being considered wholeheartedly creates trust and understanding. Leading with transparency lifts the veil that may cause feelings of secrecy or calculated discretion. Remaining open about budget limitations, with clear communication about constraints and challenges shows accountability that the general public will be more receptive to.

Learn How Local Governments Can & Should Use the Cloud for everyday time savings and Government Data Storage.

4. Analyze Performance Metrics and KPI’s

Identifying key performance indicators as a measure of the effectiveness of programs permits standardized evaluation across the board. As performance is analyzed, effectiveness is determined, and budget allowance is adjusted accordingly. If a successful program, that previously received a handsome allotment no longer performs, the budget must be reconsidered for a program that is performing. 

Read our KPI guide for Setting Measurable Goals in the Public Sector.

5. Keep Priorities in Mind

Local government budgets must tailor to the individuality of their municipality and match their specific needs. The prioritization of services essential to your specific community is instrumental in meeting your needs and achieving your strategic goals. 

6. Do Not Forget Community Engagement 

Hosting public meetings, collecting data via surveys and online forums all work to consider the opinions of the masses. Making concentrated effort to incorporate the thoughts and ideas of the populations you serve better suits the initiatives being prioritized to the needs of the people. 

Consider these 4 Examples of Civic Engagement in Local Government

7. Spend Responsibly 

If there are miscalculations or unexpected expenses, you may end up deficit spending. All budgets share the goal of remaining balanced, spending exactly what you are afforded without longing for more. Getting ahead of potential miscalculations can be done with regular monitoring of expenditure reports, ensuring they align with projected goals and approved budgets. 

8. Risk Management 

Strategic analysis of behaviors and patterns may bring potential risks to the attention of government officials. Catching risks early on or predicting them before they have occurred is ideal in the implementation of risk management. Contingency plans for unexpected events that may have an impact on the balance of the budget could be pivotal in new year budget planning, avoiding consequences outright. 

Check out GovPilot's disaster risk management guides here:

Want to learn more about risk management? Check out our guide on Local Government Risk Management & Mitigation.

9. Prioritize Technology and Automation 

The utilization of modern technology and the automation of budgeting makes concerns of human error obsolete. Streamlining processes enhances accuracy and facilitates objective analysis and budgeting. Ultimately, having access to real-time financial information makes for more pragmatic decision making

Learn how GovPilot can streamline Workflow Automation For Governments.

10. Consider Performance-Based Budgeting 

Sometimes deciding what program gets funding over another can be very difficult and it may be hard to remain objective. Predicating decision making on something observable and concrete such as numbers related to performance eases the turmoil that decision may elicit. Initiatives that are impactful and helping the community are entitled to funding, keeping everyone on track for the goals outlined by respective departments. 

Prioritize Early Budget Planning For The New Year 

Encouraging local government officials to proactively initiate budgeting is crucial. It is imperative to assess the diverse areas requiring resource allocation and recognize the advantages of planning a year in advance. 

Schedule a consultation with GovPilot today to streamline this process and ensure effective fiscal planning in your new year budget!

Local Government Budgeting FAQ’s

  • Why is budgeting so important? 

Budgeting is the only way to ensure that money is funneled into the appropriate places without going over or under your spending limit. Over promising and under delivering may be detrimental when the stakes are as high as a community’s welfare. 

  • Why should local governments budget ahead of time? 

Local governments yield a unique power that has the ability to affect the lives of community members, using that power to increase the quality of life is crucial to instilling trust in government officials. Taking the care and consideration of properly budgeting, allocating funds to what the community will actually benefit from is how to build a strong, prosperous community. 

Learn about Improving Municipal Services With GovPilot

  • Where should local government funds be allocated? 

The needs of every community are going to be individualized, there is no standardized outline all municipalities should implement. Listening to the members they serve is the best way to determine what the community needs and where funds should be allocated. 

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Tags: More Money or More Problems, Digital Transformation, GovTech