This course reviews the overall public budgeting process, including discussing the public arena in which it takes place. Because the budget environment can sometimes be fraught with political overtones and sometimes skewed or one-sided enthusiasts, a thorough, yet practical approach must be taken to develop an agency's budget. Simply put, the budget process is the planned acquisition and allocation of an organization's financial, human, and capital resources. Because the resources in public organizations are limited, policy makers and managers alike are concerned with the optimal allocation of those limited resources. That optimum criteria includes the efficient and effective provision of responsive service as well as the long term preservation and development of the organization's economic base. This optimal course of action is often a function of societal values and political power which has been known to frustrate professional public administrators.

Most state and local government organizations are mandated to adopt a balanced budget. Some use "creative" strategies to avoid increasing taxes/fees and/or decrease services in order to balance the budget. These common, but potentially fiscally unsound budget-balancing techniques include stopgap measures, such as halting major maintenance or purchases until some "future" and better time. More acceptable purchasing and inventory management practices can often help identify the pitfalls of this practice to others. These practices are reviewed and evaluated during the regular audits conducted as dictated by state law.

Skills are developed by knowing:

  • The social and political climate surrounding budget development
  • Factors that can lead to accurate and stable revenue estimates.
  • The process of balancing budget needs and funds available
  • Purchasing and inventory management systems that can lead to successful audits

Once completed, participants should be able to:

  • Understand the types of budgets and their relationship to each other
  • List the stages of budget cycle and the activities associated with each
  • Discuss various techniques associated with forecasting and estimating budget revenues
  • Identify the purpose of a purchasing management system
  • Recognize components of an effective purchasing policy including ethical considerations and procurement document considerations.
  • Understand the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing pools

Key Concepts:

  • Public budgeting and accounting must be a very open process with many opportunities for citizen input (and support building)
  • Sustainable and predictable revenues are vital for an agency's success
  • Proper purchasing and inventory management methods are the key to positive audits

Offering format

On-line, independent study



Offering level (Basic, Intermediate, or Advanced)


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