C.L. Coonrod & Company provides professional services in the area of local government budgeting and planning.
Practically all of the firm’s clients are:
- Cities and towns
- Fire Protection Districts
- Other Special Taxing Districts
The regulation of local government budgets has become more and more complex, and the Department of Local Government Finance and other state agencies have become stricter in the application of these rules. Consequently, many local officials realize that professional assistance is needed to deal with the opportunities and traps that exist in the budget process. Also, more and more local units of government are trying to control spending and tax rates. Many of these officials realize that forward planning and a thorough understanding of the regulations is necessary in order to control local government finances.
Budgeting involves more than just filling out state prescribed forms and following traditional conventions. Expertise in the regulations is needed to recommend budget structures that are the most advantageous. For most local units, hiring an internal budget staff with this level of expertise is more expensive and less effective than hiring us. Effective budget staffers command high salaries as well as expensive office space, computer equipment, and fringe benefits. It is difficult to find, hire, train, manage, and retain a good budget staff. It is much less expensive, in most cases, to engage our firm. That way, your locality pays only for the time used and is assured of having a competent professional available. The general rule applies here: use internal resources for tasks that are routine or require constant attention, all year round. But, hire outside consultants when the job requires a high degree of training and is non-routine or seasonal. We offer the advantage of being able to share ideas among clients. Without breaking confidences, we can identify innovations that worked well for one client and recommend them promptly to other clients. Internal staff cannot do so as effectively.
A client might hire us, even though the client has an excellent fiscal officer, for the same reason you occasionally visit a medical specialist, even though you have complete confidence in your family doctor. Likewise, you might hire a specialist to prepare your annual tax returns, even though you know how to keep your own books on a day-to-day basis.
Also, you might hire an attorney to write your will, even though you already know exactly what you want to do with your estate.
Your fiscal officer is your best resource day-to-day and month-to-month. However, he or she probably prepares only one budget, for one local unit, per year. It is difficult for anyone to be an expert based on one experience per year.
By contrast, we prepare or consult on dozens of budgets each year for dozens of different local units, and we focus on budget-related regulations every day. Although your fiscal officer will always know more than we do about your internal needs and about issues unique to your locality, we are in a better position to prepare projections based on State-imposed formulas and to identify the related opportunities and traps that lie within.
Also, frankly, your fiscal officer is probably too busy to do what we do. Fiscal officers must spend a great deal of time participating in meetings, supervising pressing daytoday work, and responding to immediate problems. It is unrealistic to expect such an executive to block out the uninterrupted time needed to research regulations and prepare projections.
We charge all our clients the same hourly rates. Over the course of a year, our fees typically range from $7500 to $46,000 annually, depending on the size and needs of the unit. Also, there may be additional charges for special projects. The cost usually is much less than using internal staff, and the service usually pays for itself in revenue and savings opportunities identified in the budget process.
Typically, the Firm monitors its clients’ financial affairs and performs the following functions in the course of a year.
- Assist in developing and maintaining a fiscal plan, based on discussions with the client regarding plans and policies the client has adopted and expects to adopt. The fiscal plans will include projections of revenues and expenditures for each major fund. In developing these projections, we will review certain calculations by the Department of Local Government Finance, the Department of Revenue, and others, to help assure that revenue calculations are being made correctly.
- Identify opportunities for tax levy appeals, or other opportunities to increase revenue, and advise on the procedures for securing them.
- Attend appeal hearings as appropriate.
- Identify the need for and assist in the establishment of cumulative funds.
- Review the budget advertisement.
- Translate the plans into a budget structure, presented on the appropriate prescribed forms, enabling the client to adopt budgets that are consistent with the plans.
- Assist in assuring that the budget, as adopted, will be acceptable to the Department of Local Government Finance. If it appears the budget will not be acceptable, we advise the client in advance of the amounts of budget cuts or other changes the DLGF will require.
- Review final budget orders by the DLGF to assure that they are consistent with decisions made at the budget hearing.
- Monitor the accounting for local option income taxes at the state and county levels to help assure distributions are made correctly to the client.
Our clients frequently ask us to undertake special projects, and we do so if we feel we have the right expertise. Otherwise, we make referrals to other professionals. Some projects we frequently undertake are as follows:
- Make detailed projections of labor costs in instances where persons are entitled to COLA’s, step increases, clothing allowances, and other compensation adjustments beyond a base salary. These projections are especially helpful in projecting the costs of adding new public safety personnel. They are also helpful in collective bargaining negotiations.
- Assist in reviewing cash management arrangements, and, where appropriate, assist in writing requests for proposals (RFP’s) for banking services and assist in evaluating the proposals.
- Review internal accounting controls designed to provide reasonable assurance that the Administration’s policies are being carried out and that assets are properly safeguarded.
- Prepare monthly management reports for the General Fund based on information taken from the ledgers. The reports show the original budget, budget revisions, the total budget, a budget year-to-date, a comparison to actual transactions to-date, and a variance analysis. We endeavor to bring to our client’s attention problems that become apparent as a result of preparing the monthly report.