Budgetary reporting requirements

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Budgetary reporting requirements are requirements set forth by governments on expected revenues and expenses for the following fiscal year. For instance, a municipality might be required to report its police department's budget separate from its fire department's (i.e. requirements by agency). Another example might require line-item reporting for personnel and non-personnel expenses. Or another requirement might require the budget to forecast revenues up to a certain amount of years only. By implementing budgetary reporting requirements, governments increase the transparency in their budget process and solidify the goals and objectives for the next fiscal year. These requirements provide plenty of benefits to those outside government. But, governments are opening the door to critique and analysis from outside entities on their financial decisions.

CONCEPT


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Goals


Specific Example

On April 26th, before the start of the new fiscal year, the Mayor of the City of New York releases his or her preliminary budget.[1] The budget is divided into certain categories: Expense Budget, Revenue Budget, Contract Budget, and Capital Budget.[2] The budget is then analyzed by the Independent Budget Office (IBO), and goes for the final vote in the City Council in June.

The entire budget process is derived from the City Charter of New York. More importantly, each budget reporting requirement is set forth in Chapter 6 of the Charter. For instance, on page 44 of the City Charter (Clause 100b) budget reports are required to separate personnel and non-personnel requests by "program, purpose, activity or institution."[3]

Tradeoffs

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Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:

  1. Increased awareness and opposition to eliminating popular programs if no longer policy priorities.
  2. Increased scrutiny, advocacy, and lobbying due to the availability of additional information.
  3. Additional administrative and compliance costs of compiling and sharing reports.
Compatibility Assessment

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If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:

  1. Does the government have the available resources (staff, technology, knowledge) to produce certain budgetary reporting?
  2. Is there a demand by the general public for certain budgetary information?
  3. Is there a demand by higher levels of government or non-government agencies for certain budgetary information?
  4. Is the information proposed to be required in the budgetary reports not available through other published sources of information?
  5. Will providing certain information in the budgetary reports help simplify some of the complex details found in the budget?
Design

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The following questions should be considered when determining how to implement this policy:

  1. What type of content will be required for inclusion (e.g., number of budgeted positions, budgeted funding, prior year funding, performance data)?
  2. At what level should the information be required to be provided (e.g., by department, by category)?
  3. At what point during the budget process should certain information be reported?
  4. Which internal users will be involved in the development of the budget report?
  5. How, if at all, will internal/external users be able to provide feedback?
  6. Will budgetary reporting requirements differ among budgets (e.g., preliminary budgets and final budgets)?


ADOPTION


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PolicyGraphics

Each state and the District of Columbia have budgetary reporting requirements similar or distinct from each other.

Adopters
  • Notable entities who have implemented or adopted this policy include:
    • City of New York. The City of New York follows budgetary reporting requirements set forth in its City Charter.
    • Country of United States of America. Federal government agencies follow budgetary reporting requirements set forth in Circular No. A-11 provided by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.


STAKEHOLDERS


Supporters

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Opponents

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  • Electeds - State and Provincial Legislators. Assumption: This policy helps increase the transparency in government expenditures, therefore surfacing any corruption taking place. For instance, former Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, withheld certain spending from being reported to the public[4]. A desire by corrupt elected officials might bring a desire to secure line-item programs to disproportionately benefit their districts. By implementing this policy, an additional "check-and-balance" is put on these officials, making what is voluntary release of budgetary information into required reporting.
  • Electeds - Local Legislators. Assumption: Certain elected officials (trustees) might believe that the general public is unfit to be involved in the budget process.
  • Government Agencies - Departments of Budgets. Assumption: Certain budget offices where resources are low might be overburdened with additional budgetary reporting requirements.

REFERENCES


Research

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Alt, James E., David Dreyer Lassen, and Shanna Rose. "The causes of fiscal transparency: evidence from the U.S. states." IMF Staff Papers Annual 2006: 30+. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.

Resources

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Footnotes
  1. "The Road to Adopting New York City's Budget." New York City Independent Budget Office. http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/IBORoadmap.pdf
  2. "Understanding New York City's Budget: A Guide." New York City Independent Budget Office. June 2013. http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/understandingthebudget.pdf
  3. New York City Charter: As Amended Through July 2004, City of New York, July 2004. http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/pdf/section%201133_citycharter.pdf
  4. Weiser, Benjamin and Susanne Craig. "Sheldon Silver's Grants Suppressed in Budget Reports, Official Testifies in Corruption Trial." The New York Times. November 9, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/nyregion/sheldon-silvers-grants-suppressed-in-budget-reports-official-testifies-in-corruption-trial.html
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