Each county government should plan, develop, adopt and manage operating budgets for the various operations. During this budget process, a forum should be established where various factions, interests, and operations are discussed, debated, and reviewed. The final product should be a budget that reflects a consensus of all the players involved. Even though conflicts cannot be eliminated, an attempt should be made to identify these potential conflicts and minimize them with a good budgeting system. It is important to develop procedures for the budgeting process.
Before January 1, time should be devoted to reviewing the current budget and beginning the budgeting process for the next fiscal year. Department heads and committees of the legislative body should meet to hear concerns relating to services and the current budget. It is very important that all interests are heard; the merits of these interests discussed; and, in the end, a consensus reached thereby ensuring a positive environment in developing the next fiscal year’s budget.
Some ideas that could be implemented during the planning time are
- Reviewing current problems relating to services with the department heads and “brain-storming” possible solutions.
- Attempting to solve these problems within the present budget appropriations.
- Reviewing the present economic conditions of the county or community.
- Determining the status of revenue estimates for the current budget by asking the following questions: (1) Are the local sales tax collections running as expected? (2) What about the property tax and other local taxes?
- Reviewing the status of expenditure estimates. Are the estimates sufficient to provide the services planned for the current fiscal year?
- Identifying steps the county can take to improve the prior year’s process by asking (1) what information is needed? (2) how can the information be presented to help the decision-making process? (3) do the members of the legislative body and department heads have ideas for improving the budgeting process?
In order for all department heads to have time to develop the budget information needed to meet deadlines, it is imperative they be informed of the applicable budgetary timeline for the county. With the passage of Public Chapter 1080 in 2016, most counties now have the option to adopt their own budget timeline or follow the applicable statutory timeline. It is important all interested parties in the county are aware of the applicable timeline. An example of a budgeting calendar which could be adopted locally can be found here: Sample Budget Calendar