How to improve your annual budgeting process and publish an award-worthy budget book

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An annual budget book is more than a collection of financial reports that your government agency has spent many hours collecting and putting together. Although it’s a mandatory reporting component to yearly budget, it’s also an opportunity to showcase to citizens and stakeholders how hard your government has worked on their behalf – the tough decisions made and the success stories to be celebrated. What is more, your budget book communicates your strategic plans and goals for the community, the programs and services that serve to achieve those goals, what it will cost to run those programs and services, and where the money might come from.


Due to its significance, your government agency wants to ensure the information contained in your budget book is easy for citizens to understand and clearly captures what you are trying to achieve. Since there isn’t a mandatory format for budget documents, most governments prepare their budget book to their own preferences, but there is a method you may not have considered that can improve your budgeting process, as well as possibly win your organization a prestigious award.


The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) introduced the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award Program in 1984 to “encourage and assist state and local governments to prepare budget documents of the very highest quality that reflect both the guidelines established by the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting and the GFOA’s best practices on budgeting”. The award provides an independent review and critique of a government’s budget book with the expectation that participating governments will focus on continuously improving their budgeting process and submit to the award every year. Hundreds of local governments in the U.S. and Canada take part every year for the opportunity to be recognized for producing an outstanding budget book.


The GFOA award program criteria


If your government agency wants to prepare an exceptional budget book, the GFOA provides a number of best practices to help you prepare budget documents to improve communication and transparency with citizens. But to go one step further, your organization can follow the GFOA’s criteria for submitting a budget book to the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award Program. The criteria encompasses GFOA’s best practices for strategically developing a budget, as well as a framework for creating a budget book of the highest quality.


The criteria is based on the four essential purposes of the budget:


Policy document

The budget book identifies your agency’s financial goals and objectives, and the policies that will lead to their successful achievement.


Financial plan

The budget book outlines your agency’s current financial state, describes assumptions and forecasts where the organization is going based on those assumptions.


Operations guide

The budget book describes current operations for programs and services, measuring their efficiency and effectiveness.


Communications tool

The budget book shares your agency’s challenges, priorities, goals and objectives.


Even if your organization doesn’t feel ready to submit a budget book to the GFOA’s award program, there are a number of benefits to following their award criteria, including:


Practical method for improving the budget book

Your agency will have a clear set of goals and standards for putting together a high quality budget book.


Accountability and transparency

By following the award criteria, your agency will be creating a budget book focused on being more accountable and transparent to citizens and stakeholders.


Confirmation of good financial management

Since the criteria is based on the GFOA’s best practices, your agency can be confident they are following a best practices framework for budgeting.


Ready to share

Your agency will have a high quality budget book ready to share with citizens and stakeholders that will improve communication and increase support for your budget.


A smarter approach to budget book creation


Before your organization can create an annual budget book that follows GFOA’s award criteria, you face the time-consuming task of putting together the budget. If your city, town or county is still budgeting with Excel, this may mean juggling multiple spreadsheets and dealing with not only potential errors, but version control issues. It may also mean countless hours of updating and manual checking, duplicating content and consolidating data. As well, there is the descriptive narrative and graphics that are normally part of an annual budget book that needs to be collected from various departments and documents..


To streamline your budgeting process and budget book creation, your organization may want to consider moving to a  software solution that encourages one source of budget data truth. Specifically, Questica Budget is a dynamic multi-user system that helps you manage your operating, salary and capital budgets with accuracy and efficiency. Integrated with Questica Budget Book powered by CaseWare, your government agency will have a data-driven solution to create a budget book quickly and easily.


Whether you have considered submitting your budget to the GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award Program or not, the award submission criteria is a practical method for improving your budgeting process and creating a comprehensive annual budget book that results in an effective communication tool to share with citizens and stakeholders. Save your city, town or county the laborious task of managing multiple spreadsheets and compiling information by using a data-driven tool like Questica Budget Book powered by CaseWare. Working seamlessly with Questica Budget, Questica Budget Book provides a user-friendly and cost-effective solution for creating a GFOA award compliant budget book. Your government agency will be so proud of your new budget book, you may just reconsider sending in that award application.


Questica Budget Book powered by Caseware


Questica Budget Book powered by CaseWare is a user-friendly and comprehensive document management and financial reporting tool that allows your government agency to create, collaborate, edit, approve and publish an award compliant Budget Book without the headaches of multiple spreadsheets/documents, version control issues, manual updates, and duplicating content/visuals such as charts, graphs, tables and images. Unlike other budget book automation tools that use a spreadsheet application with a user interface, Questica Budget Book is a database driven solution with a direct transfer of data and information from your agency’s budget in Questica Budget to Questica Budget Book in CaseWare. To learn more about Questica’s products and how our software solutions can help you manage the budget with confidence – watch a product video, read one of our case studies/white papers or request a demo today!


About Questica

For over 20 years, Questica been working with public sector organizations – governments, hospitals and healthcare facilities, colleges and universities, K-12 schools and non-profits – to better enable data-driven budgeting and decision-making, while increasing data accuracy, saving time and improving stakeholder trust. Our customers are using our Questica Budget suite to drive budget transformation by creating a single source of data truth. Almost 700 organizations across North America in 46 states and 11 provinces/territories have eliminated spreadsheets opting for smarter planning, budgeting, performance measures, management, reporting, transparency and engagement with our software solutions. To learn more about Questica and how our software solutions can help your organization – check out our resources and news/blog sections, or request a demo today!