Jul 31, 2020

GFOA’s Fiscal First Aid Resources for Local Governments and School Districts

Matt BubnessBy Matt Bubness

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) supports local governments of all shapes, sizes, and types on a range of financial management topics, including accounting and financial reporting, budgeting, debt management, and treasury operations, to name a few.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a range of new issues and uncertainty for local governments, so the GFOA developed a Fiscal First Aid toolkit to provide assistance. The Fiscal First Aid toolkit, which builds off lessons learned during the Great Recession of 2008, includes a 12-step framework to help manage a financial emergency – including both near and long term strategies to emerge from a crisis with a more resilient organization. Resources, including white papers, recordings, and other tools, are freely available.

Binders of policies and best practicesNear-Term Treatments (Step 5 of the Fiscal First Aid toolkit) offers recommendations on areas to examine for potential cost savings and advice on why some strategies could have longer range, more adverse impacts. As part of the process of selecting a cost-savings strategy, GFOA strongly suggests ensuring the crisis is framed and communicated appropriately for a clear understanding of the problem at hand. The categories GFOA recommends that all governments evaluate for near term strategies or treatments include the following:

  • Control personnel costs
  • Enhance purchasing practices
  • Increase revenues
  • Pooling resources and partnering
  • Debt, capital, and equipment spending

Included in each area is more specific advice, such as better vacancy control to monitor hiring practices to ensure only truly essential positions are filled, to examining budget contingencies that may be held by each department or unit in an organization and the budgetary savings that may result from pooling these contingencies. All of these Step 5 near-term treatments and recommendations are covered in depth here.

The GFOA has a host of other information to help support local governments. This includes best practice statements that cover a wide range of financial management topics. The GFOA also created specific resources for schools to help improve their budget process by ensuring strategic allocation of resources toward areas affecting student achievement. More information and resources can be found on GFOA’s Smarter School Spending website.

The GFOA continues to update and expand its content and offerings to respond to the needs of local governments. This includes keeping abreast of the latest changes from GASB, how to budget more equitably, and a project to provide better guidance on implementing and maintaining an effective budget process.

Matt was a speaker at PICPA’s School District Conference on May 28, 2020. His session is available as an on-demand course. You can also find other content related to school district accounting.

Matt Bubness is a senior manager with the GFOA Research and Consulting Center where he leads the outreach effort related to best practices in budgeting for school districts and community colleges that are a part of GFOA’s new awards centered on budget process improvements. He also staffs GFOA’s Committee on Governmental Budgeting and Fiscal Policy and leads consulting engagements related to process improvements. He can be reached at mbubness@gfoa.org.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.