For the fifth year in a row, the City of Takoma Park received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for its current fiscal year budget. “In order to receive this award, a governmental unit must publish a budget document that meets program criteria as a policy document, as a financial plan, as an operations guide, and as a communications device,” said Michele Mark Levine, Director of GFOA’s Technical Services Center, in a press release. “This award is the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting. Its attainment represents a significant achievement by the organization.”
The award was created in 1984 by the GFOA 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,” according to its website.
“It requires a lot of hard work from everyone,” says Susan Cheung, Takoma Park’s finance director. “We always have a nice design on our cover sheet on the budget document to make it look different and fresh each year. It’s a lot of work and collaboration between our department, other department heads, the city manager, and the city council.”
“Through the years, Takoma Park has improved its budget year-over-year,” says Cheung. “At our first attempt at submitting to GFOA, we got it,” says Cheung. “It was an extremely proud moment because it was all the work between my budget specialist and myself to achieve those high standards. We want to have improvement every year on our budget, and we’ve done better each year since our first budget award.”
Takoma Park scored “Proficient” or “Outstanding” in each of the GFOA’s category expect for one, Long-range Operating Financial Plans. “We’re trying our very best and looking into the criteria to get this award and want to make improvements every year,” Cheung says. “Most of the budget award criteria we were mostly proficient, and we wanted to be outstanding. The last item that we’re trying to improve is long-range financial planning. So we’re working with a company to work on long-term financial planning and are hoping to have a proposal for the city council in the spring.”
The GFOA says that around 1,800 state, city, and county governments, as well as special districts, school districts, and more have been recognized for transparency in budgeting.
“We want the budget to be presentable and easy to read for residents,” says Cheung. “Finance staff will do a lot of graphs and comparisons and make sure all the information is presented nicely. The most important part of the Table of Contents is the automated link so you can click the link and navigate the 400-page document and jump directly to the area you’d want to look through. Even if a resident doesn’t have a financial background, they should be able to
read the budget.”
The GFOA represents public finance officials in the U.S. and Canada and strives to advance excellence in public finance, according to its website. For more on the award, visit GFOA’s website. To check out Takoma Park’s budget, visit the Budgets and Financial Documents webpage.