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Understanding Municipal Finance: Resources and Tools

Overseeing agency finances is one of an elected official’s most important responsibilities. To assist local officials with this duty, the Institute for Local Government (ILG) recently updated its publication Understanding the Basics of County and City Revenues. Local governments provide essential services, including public safety (police, fire and emergency services), parks and recreation, roads, flood protection, sewers, water, refuse disposal, recycling and other utilities. This publication explains how local governments pay for such services and facilities using various revenue streams.

Understanding the Basics of County and City Revenues discusses the services that local governments provide to their residents and examines in detail the revenues that enable cities, counties and special districts to provide these services, including:

  • Taxes;
  • Service charges, assessments and fees;
  • Revenues from other government agencies;
  • Rent for use of public property;
  • Fines, forfeitures and penalties; and
  • Other revenues.

Financial management and budgeting can be challenging to master. ILG offers a variety of other resources to help elected officials, staff and the public understand local financial planning and management. Financial Management for Elected Officials: Questions to Ask provides guidance for elected official to help ensure that good practices are being implemented. Budget Creation and Monitoring outlines the process for creating a budget, including establishing goals and priorities for the agency, allocating resources according to those goals and priorities and comparing actual expenses and revenues with those estimated in the current budget.

Visit to find additional financial management and budgeting resources.

Resources to Help Engage the Public in Budgeting and Finance

Involving the community can inform the budget process and help residents understand the difficult choices that budgeting entails. Public Engagement in Budgeting provides an overview of how to engage the public in the budget process and covers reasons to involve the public, tips on asking the right questions, tools to consider and a strategy for sustaining public engagement.

Once an agency is familiar with the benefits of engaging the public in the budgeting process, the Budget Tool Box outlines a number of ways local officials can enhance community involvement. These include budget education and outreach, surveys, workshops, advisory committees, deliberative forums, participatory budgeting and working with existing neighborhood councils and committees.

This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Western City
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