Understanding Rockville’s Budget Books

By Mark Pierzchala, last updated 4/3/14 07:24am

Photo credit Rockville 11 screenshot  

This is the second of a series of articles by former Rockville Councilmember Mark Pierzchala on how the budget process in Rockville works and how you can be involved in that process. Mark Pierzchala was a Rockville Councilmember from 2009 to 2013 and was known for his budgetary knowledge. During that time he was also on Rockville's Retirement Board and the board of Rockville Economic Development, Inc. He owns a small business and is a member of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.

[Photo: Anne Wallace, President of the Association of Administrative Municipal Employees, distributes print copies of her testimony to the Mayor, Councilmembers and City staff, in preparation for testifying at the first FY2015 budget hearing on March 31, 2014 in Rockville City Hall. Three additional public hearings will be held April 7, April 21 and April 28.]

You are a first-term councilmember and in March the City Manager’s proposed budget comes out. You get hard copies of the Proposed Operating Budget and the Proposed Capital Improvements Program (which may be viewed online here).

Between the two books there are 480 pages and more than 950 tables in 23 sections containing thousands of figures. There are graphs, charts, footnotes, and a text narrative. They cover 12 funds and 10 departments containing 26 divisions and 138 cost centers. So how do you cope?

Elected officials control the budget at the fund level and need to understand how fund-level budgets reflect their policy objectives. The budget books are organized to help this high-level review and to provide detail when necessary.

1. Executive Summary
For the operating budget, Barbara Matthews’ Executive Summary is a very good warm-up. It gives economic context, shifts in priorities, and highlights.

2. Policies and Goals
In this second section, the City's financial management policies are spelled out, as well as the purpose and constitution of City Boards and Commissions.

3. Operating Funds

Rockville Budget Funds

The Fund Overview figure (shown above and viewable online here) shows how 12 funds relate to each other. The All Funds Summary that follows (pages 3-2 and 3-3) holds data in 11 columns (operating funds) and 58 rows. There is a categorical breakout of revenues, expenditures, and reserves and also departmental data. This summary is a grand one-year snapshot that illustrates the vastness of the City’s operations and further describes how funds interconnect. The rest of Section 3 gives abundant fund-level data.

Rockville Budget Funds

4. Five Year Forecast
Section 4 contains 5-Year Forecasts for the General Fund and 6 Enterprise Funds. There are data for past years from FY10, proposed FY15, and projections for the next 4 fiscal years through FY19. The projections allow officials to see future impacts of FY15 decisions.

5. Appendix, including Organization Structure, Pay Scales and Cost Center Summary
The Cost Center Summary in the Appendix (pages 16-9 to 16-11) lists the City’s departments, divisions and cost centers. There are staffing levels and costs for each center and cross references to detailed breakouts. This table gives a good idea of the duties City Staff perform for residents.

When an elected official (or Rockville citizen) understands the 5 budget book parts listed above, and understands how the rest of the budget data supports them, then the budget books are not so daunting.

In this series:

Posted April 24, 2014: Rockville's Budget: Something Has To Give

Posted April 10, 2014: Rockville's Looming Budget Challenges

Posted April 3, 2014: Understanding Rockville's Budget Books

Posted March 27, 2014: Rockville's Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

Filed under Around Town

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