By Katherine Minkiewicz
The Cotati City Council was presented with two awards Tuesday evening for their excellence in budgeting for the 2017-2018 fiscal year and for their work in helping to make the lengthy documents more understandable and readily available to its residents.
The recognition was given from both the Governmental Finance Officers Association and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers, after the city submitted their adopted 2017-2018 budget for review by both entities. Budget documents are then also vetted and reviewed by outside, independent reviewers.
In order to achieve recognition for the award, the budget must meet precise criteria and is rated in various categories that determine its level of transparency and excellence.
According to Norm Veloso, director of administrative services for the City of Cotati, there are over 20 different criteria and 14 mandatory criteria to be met.
“The categories are pretty extensive and the 14 mandatory categories have to be met to receive an award,” Veloso said.
Facets that make up the four main categories are, budget as a document, budget as a financial plan, budget as an operations guide and budget as a communication. The budget must also be scrutinized for its functionality as a city budget.
“Aside from the basic function of budgeting for planned revenues and expenses, budgets are a key communication tool to convey the city’s priorities to the general public,” according to the agenda item report by Veloso.
And that 2017-2018 budget seemed to have met the criteria for functionality and transparency. In checking to see if the city’s budget
‘Cotati awards’ see page 14
‘Cotati awards’ Continued form page 1
was easily accessible, a quick “Google” search of “City of Cotati 2017-2018 Budget” brought up the link to the documents quite easily. To view the latest budget, visit, www.ci.cotati.ca.us/sections/departments/budget-financials.cfm.
The City of Cotati website also maintains records of its past years adopted budgets going back all the way to the 2005-2006 fiscal year.
“The city council has continued to prioritize making the city budget more accessible to the community. Therefore, the GFOA and CSFMO awards are benchmarks for developing budget documents using the best practices to make (them)... more transparent and understandable,” Veloso writes.
Thus, the budget is broken up into several sections; introduction and overview, financial structure/policy/process, financial summaries, capital and debt, cabinet level information and document wide criteria. It also provides a glossary of budget terms in order for people to sift through the financial jargon.
During the review process, the reviewers also provide the municipality with comments and suggestions on ways to improve the budget documents. However, these comments are confidential.
“In terms of suggestions they said a few improvements can be made here and there,” Veloso said. “But this represents a significant achievement.” According to Veloso, under 4 percent of California cities meet the strict criteria to obtain the award from the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers.
Initiatives included in this year’s budget plan encompass a wide array of goals, such as maintenance of the existing programs by “continuing to operate within our means,” the funding of basic, routine departmental needs, meeting the general funds reserves policy upwards of 25 percent, figuring out cost savings and the funding of capital improvement projects.
Vice Mayor John Dell’Osso offered his thanks to city staff who worked to make this award possible and said of the achievement, “I think this is a big thing for Cotati, so kudos to you and your staff for working on this and getting back such a big award.”
Council member Susan Harvey also expressed praise towards city staff for their work in this program and was pleased to see the success. “Thank you and I think you’ve done a great job and we’ve come a long way (in terms of creating a sound and clear budget).”
Yet, not all present at the meeting supported the award. George Barich of Cotati contested the clarity and success of the budget.
Nevertheless, the budgeting excellence award will be valid for one year and in order to continue participation in the program, the city must submit their budget for the following year within 90 days of the budget submission to the CFOA. The city will also have to fill out an application in addition to submitting the new fiscal year budget.