Texas local governments can begin and end their fiscal year any month of the year, but are required by law to complete certain steps prior to the start of each budget cycle. A local government’s budget calendar enhances transparency by comprehensively outlining dates, times, goals and meetings and provides an organized framework to prepare, approve, implement and evaluate the budget.
A good budget calendar includes city staff budgeting deadlines; city council or commission budget workshops; a schedule for public notices of budget hearings; a schedule for discussing a proposed tax rate and adopting a tax rate. The local government should also file the budget calendar as a public document. City officials in Mesquite, Texas’ 18th largest city with more than 136,000 residents, have used a budget calendar for more than 20 years.
“Using a budget calendar achieves two things for local governments,” says Mesquite City Manager Ed Barron. “It keeps staff and the officials focused on deadlines and it keeps them accountable for their actions.”
Neither Mesquite nor the smaller city of Marshall, which has slightly more than 24,000 residents, have substantially modified their budget calendars since they were first used in the late 1980s. Marshall City Manager Frank Johnson says a budget calendar can help small local governments immensely.
“It maps out things, such as meeting certain legal requirements, notifying the public of various meetings and budget adoption, ahead of time,” he says. View Marshall’s budget calendar (PDF).
A budget calendar also can improve the transparency of the budget process for citizens.
Transparency in government means citizens must be able to see through its workings, to know exactly what goes on when public officials transact public business.
Any city that vies to be recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) must include a budget calendar in the budget. Local government budget documents are evaluated as either proficient or outstanding in four major categories: as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide and a communications device. (Refer to the group’s Best Practices in Public Budgeting for more details.)
A budget calendar “must be provided to supplement (not replace) the narrative information provided on the budget process,” Johnson says.
Whether the local government entity is large or small, a budget calendar is an appropriate tool. Texas’ second largest city, Dallas begins its new budget process the same week as the current fiscal year begins. The detailed Dallas 2009-10 calendar (below) is included in its budget transmission document.
The City of Dallas’ budget process consists of a 12-month schedule of presentations, hearings and deliberations. The FY 2009-10 budget process dates are as follows:
In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 855, which requires state agencies to publish a list of the three most commonly used Web browsers on their websites. The Texas Comptroller’s most commonly used Web browsers are Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari.