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Best of breed examples: guidelines for your government budget.

Preparing High Quality Budget Documents

John Fishbein

Government Finance Officers Association

2006, 270pp $45, GFOA members $70, nonmembers

The GFOA's recently released publication Preparing High Quality Budget Documents builds on a strong tradition of exemplary practices in governmental budgeting. Filled from beginning to end with real-life examples of the best of governmental budgeting, this comprehensive text by John Fishbein should be added to every budget practitioner's reference library as an authoritative source of best practices.

In 1984, the GFOA established its Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program to encourage governments to prepare budget documents of the highest quality to meet the needs of decision makers and citizens. The budget awards program establishes criteria to help the government finance officer craft a budget document that is effective as a policy document, an operations guide, a financial plan, and a communication device. This book provides explanations and numerous examples of the program's criteria. The illustrations, taken from exemplary budgets submitted to the program, highlight specific lessons to be learned, as well as common errors to be avoided. The examples selected represent a broad cross section of state and local governments of all types and sizes from both the United States and Canada.

The budget awards program has been revised in the last few years since a previous GFOA publication Budget Awards Program: Illustrations and Examples of Program Criteria, published in 1999, which was also based on examples from the budget awards program. Some criteria are new and other criteria have changed. This is the first authoritative guidance on the revised program criteria. In the relative short time between the two publications, the improvement in the quality of the examples is evident.

Many participants in GFONs budget awards program have a common question: "where can I see good examples reflecting the program's criteria." This book provides the best answer. Each example is accompanied with notes that highlight the specific quality being illustrated.

Another key feature of this book is the common references to the principles of the National Advisory Council for State and Local Budgeting (NACSLB).The NACSLB is considered one of the best contemporary "best of" resources on the subject. Integration of the NACSLB work provides an important connection to the award criteria and the many examples provided. The book parses the recommended practices of the NACSLB into the award criterion where appropriate.

Like the awards program, the book starts with a review of the policy framework of budgeting. Next in the awards program and in this text is a review of the financial elements of the governmental budgeting. The operating and communications elements of the budget program complete this book. The awards criteria and relevant excerpts from the NACSLB principles are complemented by numerous examples from each of the criterion. The examples are taken from the best examples of budget work collected by the review program. With more than 1,000 budgets from across the United States and Canada submitted to the program annually, we can be assured that the "best of breed" presented for each element represents the highest level of governmental budgeting today A team of experienced budget reviewers, who have led the review program to its current prominence, helped the author collect, screen, and determine which examples to include.

The combination of the budget awards criteria, relevant excerpts from the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting, best examples of governmental budgeting, and comments drawing the reader to the key insights in each particular illustration provides for the best resource available on the subject. Preparing High Quality Budget Documents is a must for those of us looking for ways to improve the budget information we provide to our communities.

Preparing High Quality Budget Documents can be ordered online from the GFOA at Source/Orders/index.cfm?section=Orders Books. For more information on the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, see the GFONs Web site at or send an e-mail to

MICHAEL E. BAILEY is finance and information services administrator for the City of Renton, Washington, is a member of the GFOA Committee on Governmental Budgeting and Fiscal Policy and a reviewer for the GFOA's Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program.
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Title Annotation:The Bookshelf; Preparing High Quality Budget Documents
Author:Bailey, Michael E.
Publication:Government Finance Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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