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Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Government has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for its 2014 budget from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). Dutchess County’s budget documents were revamped for the 2014 county budget to provide greater transparency and make it easier to understand for residents. Budget documents were restructured to provide more fiscal summaries, budget processing detail and an in-depth overview of how county government functions.
“This award recognizes our commitment to transparency and accountability, and to a long-term vision that demonstrates careful financial planning on behalf of our taxpayers,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro. "Congratulations to Dutchess County’s management team, departments and our County Legislature who all contributed to our award winning budget.”
The award represents a significant achievement by the county, reflecting a commitment to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting. In order to receive the budget award, the county had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. The guidelines are designed to assess how well the county’s budget serves as a policy document, financial plan, operations guide and communications device. Budget documents must be rated “proficient” in all four categories, and the fourteen mandatory criteria within those categories, to receive the award.
Dutchess County Legislature Budget, Finance & Personnel Committee Chairman Dale Borchert said, “This is a well deserved honor for the Dutchess County Budget Office. The county budget is complex and challenging and too often difficult to understand. The changes made to the budget documents have made it easier for legislators to get through the voluminous amount of information and make well-informed decisions. More importantly, the changes make it easier for the public to learn how their tax dollars are being utilized.”
County Budget Director Val Sommerville said, “We are honored to receive this award recognizing our county budget as a nationwide model. It’s a team effort to put together the annual budget which is our financial and operational blueprint for the fiscal year. I am grateful for the dedication and long hours the budget staff put in to make these changes possible.”
Changes to the county budget documents included:
Dutchess at a Glance - includes population and demographic information, data about the local economy, and information about local history and culture.
Additionally, the traditional budget message from the County Executive was replaced with an easy to read “Budget in Brief” document that provides budget highlights and information about key components of the budget. The Budget in Brief provides key breakouts of mandated and optional services provided by Dutchess County government. Budget Director Sommerville noted, “With 70% of net county costs consumed by state and federal mandates, the breakdowns provided in the Budget in Brief help residents understand what expense areas county government can impact and which ones cannot be changed.”
The changes to the budget documents were part of ongoing efforts to get the public engaged in the county budget development and implementation. Other initiatives have included annual online budget surveys, multiple town hall budget forums, and even a countywide tele-town hall conference call with County Executive Molinaro – all designed to answer questions, respond to comments and get feedback and ideas from residents.
Molinaro said, “The county budget directly impacts the lives of all residents. We want each of them to be part of the decisions that are made on their behalf. We are very pleased to be nationally recognized with the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, but more importantly, we are proud to have budget documents that are accessible to and transparent for residents and taxpayers."
The GFOA is a nonprofit association serving nearly 18,000 government finance professionals throughout North America. The GFOA established the Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program (Budget Awards Program) in 1984 to encourage and assist state and local governments to prepare budget documents of the very highest quality that reflect both the guidelines established by the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting and the GFOA’s best practices on budgeting and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal.
GFOA Vice President Dawn Donovan, who is the Comptroller for the Town of Eastchester, will present Dutchess County’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award this evening at 7pm at the Dutchess County Legislature’s board meeting in the Legislature’s Chamber at the County Office Building.