The City of Moreno Valley Budget Critique

City of Moreno Valley’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2013/2014-2014/2015

The budget for the city of Moreno, California, fiscal year 2014/2015 can be found at the following link: http://www.moreno-valley.ca.us/city_hall/departments/fin-man-serv/budgetoffice.shtml

The city of Moreno valley has adopted a two-year operating budget to plan the use of resources available. The budget for the fiscal year 2014/2015 is part of the 2 year budget cycle that began on July 1st 2013. The budget included all the sources of funding of the city, incorporating the General Fund, the Successor Agency of The Former Redevelopment Agency and Community Services District.

The budget for the city of Moreno valley begins with a comprehensive table of contents on its first pages. The inclusion of a table of contents is important as it allows for easy access to specific information in the budget and a quick preview of the contents of the budget document. This is important considering that the document is 315 pages long. On page 1, the budget provides a well detailed organizational chart that breaks down the structure of the city’s government and strategically places the citizens of the city at the top. It is important that any good budget gives a brief explanation of the process that went into its conception. Beginning on page 9, the city of Moreno valley accomplishes this admirably. A succinct explanation of the timeframe within which the budget was structured, examined and adopted. Additionally, the budget provides an explanation of how citizens can review the budget and the probable reasons for doing so. On page 10 the document presents a flow chart of the operating budgeting process. The section closes with a tabular representation of the steps of the budgeting process in a chronological order.

The budget begins by presenting the challenges of the budget, which has been specified as a huge budget deficit. The present proposed general fund budget for the city of Moreno valley of which the FY 2014/2015 is part of has a budget deficit. The shortfall in revenues, together with the increased cost of providing services is a constant feature of the budget. The budget has significantly reduced funding for public services only leaving core levels of acceptable service, while at the same time absorbing cuts. However, it notes that it has significantly reduced from the amount it was in the previous years. Although a balanced budget has become a difficult goal to achieve as a result of the expenditure meant for a general fund subsidy for street lights, the additional staffing and opening of a newly opened fire station, as well as an increase in the cost of living allocation for city staff, the city has tried to minimize this through minimization of some service provision expenditures. This has formed a prominent feature of the 2013/14 and 2014/15 budget as it emphasizes on cutting down on expenditures that could further increase the already big budget deficit. This has involved a significant erosion of service provision to the public. The budget fails to include any capital improvements expenditures.

To ensure there is constant monitoring, measurement, and evaluation of the budget performances, the city of Moreno valley has adopted a framework where the city council is updated on the financial position of the city with regards to the budget. This is achieved through first quarter and mid-year budget reviews. This ensures that that there is a platform through which expenditures and revenue deviations from the budget can be identified and due action is taken to correct the deviation. From page 5 to page 8 the budget document provides a summary of the city’s financial position with regards to its staffing, providing a succinct  summary of the number of employees, each broken down into the position and the number of employees in that position. This is good budget practice as it allows for transparency. On page 29, the budget presents a summarized chart of the various sources of revenue that will finance that financial year budget. These revenue sources have been broken down into specific sections such as property tax, charges for services, utility user’s tax and sales tax among others. Each of these revenue sources have further been represented as a percentage of the total revenue collected. On page 30, the budget presents a breakdown of all the expenditures to be incurred in that financial year, further representing each of them as a percentage of the total expenditure.

From page 45, the budget has presented a list of the targeted goals of the city council of Moreno valley. Each goal is explained in detail to allow for easy understanding. Beginning page 49, the budget has divided the city council into departments; each department outlines its mission goal and department goal as well as structure of the department and the proposed operating budget of the department.

Budget Critique: City of Anaheim’s Budget 2014/2015

The budget for the city of Anaheim, California, fiscal year 2014 can be found at the following link: http://www.anaheim.net/images/articles/467/FY%20201415%20City_of_Anaheim_Budget_Adopted_FINAL.pdf

The budget for the city of Anaheim has been the recipient ofthe Government Finance Officers Associations’ Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards for several years. Not unexpectedly, considering those marks of distinction, the City’s of Anaheim’s budget is organized in a manner fundamentally congruent with the guidelines learnt in class and consistent with the specifications of the Government Finance Officers Association [GFOA].

The budget begins with a comprehensive table of contents, which facilitates easy access to specific information in the budget that a reader might be looking for. This is critical, especially for a document that features a daunting 160 pages. An organization chart (pg. 3) follows breaking down the structure of the city’s government, while providing the names of each office holder.

It is an essential part of any good budget to give a brief explanation of the process or steps that went into its conception. Starting from page 20, the city of Anaheim accomplishes this admirably. A succinct explanation of the timeframe within which the budget was structured, examined and adopted. Additionally, the budget provides an explanation of how citizens can review the budget and the probable reasons for doing so. The section closes with a tabular representation of the steps of the budgeting process in a chronological order. On page 145, the budget presents the operational definition of some key terms, this a good inclusion as it helps in assisting the reader understand the budget.

The budget of the city of Anaheim represents a sundry plan that allows for novel programs and meticulous investment in the city. The budget reflects a commitment to the community and focusses on strengthening public safety, fostering economic growth and improving community infrastructure. The budget represents an increase of 3.7% from the 2013/14 budget. It pledged an investment in excess of $316 million for community centers, new or upgraded parks, utility system improvements, and continuing street and transportation improvements.  Based on a five year plan, the budget includes an additional $2.9 million in public safety and neighborhood services enhancements on an ongoing basis. This encompasses staffing increases for the city general, community services, police, planning and fire. The city has also included an additional $3 million in past projects and acquisitions to benefit public safety and neighborhood services financed by additional revenue from increased transient occupancy tax and sales. The FY 2014/2015 budget represents four areas of community support and service. These are: Keeping us safe, providing the necessities, ensuring quality of life and administering efficient government.

The city’s budget has been founded on several policies. The financial management policy from page 20 outlines the best budget practices, the budget process and the basis of budgeting as well as the capital improvement program practices. The revenue and expenditure policy statement insists on a balanced budget in which on its annual general fund budget, net of one-time expenditures do not exceed projected recurring revenues;  city fees that recover the total direct and indirect costs. The capital financing  and debt management policies insist on ideal funding practices, such as not using long term borrowing to finance current operations or normal maintenance, maintaining a high reliance on pay-as-you-go financing,

To ensure monitoring, measuring and evaluation of the performance of the budget all the major expenditures in the budget have been categories based on the sector from page 107. Additionally, the projects under each department have been further segmented into total project cost, the FY 2014/2015 input fund for the project, and the project’s indicator and output as well as source of fund. This ensures the funds are easily traceable to a particular project thus facilitating monitoring and evaluation.

Capital improvement programs have been presented form page 103. The organization of the city’s capital investments has been itemized into three segments. The first segmentpresents some of the diverse sources of funds to be utilized in the five-year capital plan. The second segment includes a one page rundown of the sources of funds structured by year and the estimated capital requirement for the eight categories. The final segmentpresents projects categorized into one of the eight categories.

The staffing and equipment changes have been presented from page 94 on the general fund expenditures overview. The city’s budget has taken into consideration economic growth changes and in view of the staffing and equipment changes, it has reevaluated the existing services levels and systematically enhanced services as appropriate.

However, the budget suffers from some shortcomings. First, the citizens of the City of Anaheim have not been included at the pinnacle of the organizational chart showing the structure of the city’s government. Despite this being a fairly miniature omission, its inclusion would have given the citizens of the city a sense of ownership with regards to the budget. This would go along way in ensuring or encouraging the citizens to participate in the implementation of the budget. Secondly, the budget also failed to include a form of a “reader’s guide” in the budget, that would have assisted citizens who might not be conversant with the intricacies of budgeting. A “Readers guide” provides a summary of each chapter in the budget.

These shortcomings notwithstanding, the budget for the city of Anaheim is a prototype and indeed deserves the marks of distinction. It is well organized, planned and comprehensive, and control have been put ion place to ensure there is correct usage of the funds for the intended purpose.

 

References

City Council of Moreno Valley. (2013). City of Moreno: Operating Budget 2013/2014 to 2014/2015 FY. City of Moreno Valley: City of Moreno Valley. Retrieved from http://www.moreno-valley.ca.us/city_hall/departments/fin-man-serv/budgetoffice.shtml

City of Anaheim. (2014). City of Anaheim 2014/2015 Fiscal Year Budget. Anaheim: City of Anaheim. Retrieved October 11, 2014, from http://www.anaheim.net/title/Finance/Financial%2FBudget+Documents/

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