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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts for Finance Advisor

Is Your Utility Rate Study Talking to Your Asset Management Strategy?

Is Your Utility Rate Study Talking to Your Asset Management Strategy?

August 13, 2018 by FCS GROUP
Category: Finance Advisor , Asset Management

Using asset management to inform your utility financial plan and rate strategy improves the accuracy of forecasts and facilitates better investment in infrastructure. This blog post offers an overview of the ways an agency can start aligning asset management and rate studies. 

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Having Great Budget Discussions

Having Great Budget Discussions

March 26, 2018 by Mike Bailey
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Finance Advisor

Budget discussions offer local governments the opportunity to identify concerns, priorities, and goals. It's also a great opportunity to get and provide updates on key issues, challenges, and accomplishments across the organization. Finance Advisor Mike Bailey offers suggestions on how to make your budget conversations work more efficiently.

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Sewer Rate Structure Alternatives for Utilities

Sewer Rate Structure Alternatives for Utilities

October 11, 2017 by FCS GROUP
Category: Finance Advisor , Utilities - Billing and Collection

What options are there for utilities in determining how to structure sewer usage rates, depending on the customer type? A volume-based rate option for all consumers is one, but an agency must consider which approach to take and it must make sure that such an approach aligns with organizational policy objectives. 

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Funding Utility Infrastructure

Funding Utility Infrastructure

June 14, 2017 by Courtney Black
Category: Public Works Finance , Finance Advisor , Utilities

The facilities that make up your utility infrastructure won’t last forever. This post looks at how asset management options can help a utility avoid significant funding challenges or impacts to ratepayers during infrastructure replacement.

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Financial Management of Municipal Court Services

Financial Management of Municipal Court Services

August 18, 2016 by Tracey Dunlap
Category: Finance Advisor , Financial Management

This Advisor column addresses how municipalities can work together with the judicial system to provide effective financial management of the municipal courts.

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It’s Time to Sharpen those Budget Skills

It’s Time to Sharpen those Budget Skills

July 7, 2016 by Mike Bailey
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Finance Advisor

In a recent AWC survey, public officials identified budget topics as their second most important area of interest (after economic development). This article explores the survey results more deeply and sees how they align ewith the efforts of organizations like MRSC and AWC to help you create your best budget.

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Keeping Up with Inflation: Strategies for Increasing Revenue to Keep Up with Cost Increases

Keeping Up with Inflation: Strategies for Increasing Revenue to Keep Up with Cost Increases

May 31, 2016 by Shawn Hunstock
Category: Revenues , Finance Advisor

One of the strategies cities can use to maximize revenue potential is to ensure they are getting all the revenue they can from their existing revenue sources. For cities in Washington the three largest revenue sources are property tax, sales tax, and utility taxes. For the most part, cities have very little influence on the amount of revenue that is generated from these three sources to cover current and future costs.

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Does Your City have Too Many Funds?

Does Your City have Too Many Funds?

April 14, 2016 by Randy Hinchliffe
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Finance Advisor , Financial Management , Fund Balance and Reserves

Not too long ago, I read a short tidbit in one of the local newspapers about the adoption of a nearby city’s budget. I was struck by the fact that the city had 28 different funds in its budget. With so many funds to account for, it got me thinking about the criteria for establishing funds and when a city might have too many funds.

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It’s Not Too Early to Think about Laying the Foundation for Your Next Budget

It’s Not Too Early to Think about Laying the Foundation for Your Next Budget

February 9, 2016 by Mike Bailey
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Finance Advisor

If you want to have a great budget experience next fall (and who doesn't?), then it is never too early to think about how to lay the best foundation. Building a budget starts with a strong policy discussion and early policy guidance.

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Small City Perspective: Is State Shared Revenue a Necessity or Burden?

Small City Perspective: Is State Shared Revenue a Necessity or Burden?

January 15, 2016 by Randy Hinchliffe
Category: Revenues , Finance Advisor

Randy Hinchliffe from the City of Waitsburg provides his perspective on dealing with the lack of local control of state shared revenues.

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Budgeting During Periods of Economic Instability

Budgeting During Periods of Economic Instability

December 4, 2015 by Stan Finkelstein
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Finance Advisor

Many local governments have been significantly affected by the Great Recession and its aftermath, making it more difficult to address a variety of critical financial issues. This blog post provides seven rules of prudent fiscal management.

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Year-End Budget Amendment: What To Do and When To Do It

Year-End Budget Amendment: What To Do and When To Do It

November 20, 2015 by Shawn Hunstock
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Finance Advisor

This blog post provides some suggested steps for the year-end budget amendment process, along with a few considerations you may want to keep in mind.

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A Few Simple Tips for Presenting Financial Information to Non-Financial Audiences

A Few Simple Tips for Presenting Financial Information to Non-Financial Audiences

August 27, 2015 by Tracey Dunlap
Category: Finance , Finance Advisor

Presentations of financial information are a routine part of municipal operations; however, they are not always the most widely anticipated. Tracey Dunlap provides some good tips for making your data more understandable.

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Are You Calculating Your City Utility Tax Correctly?

Are You Calculating Your City Utility Tax Correctly?

July 10, 2015 by FCS GROUP
Category: Revenues , Finance Advisor

While reviewing city utility finances, we often notice a discrepancy between the city code and how the utility tax is calculated. As a result, many cities collect less money from their utility taxes than is allowed under their city code.

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Building the Budget around the Community it Serves

Building the Budget around the Community it Serves

June 23, 2015 by Mike Bailey
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Finance Advisor

Redmond Finance Director Mike Bailey explains how Redmond shifted its budgeting process to better focus on citizen priorities.
 

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Open Data Portals for Washington Local Government Finance Data

Open Data Portals for Washington Local Government Finance Data

March 8, 2015 by Mike Bailey
Category: Public Participation , Finance Advisor

There is a lot of attention these days on the transparency of government spending, as there should be. This post exmaines the State Auditor's Office Local Government Financial Reporting System and other open data portals.

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Why is Property Tax So Complicated?

Why is Property Tax So Complicated?

February 2, 2015 by Tracey Dunlap
Category: Finance Advisor , Property Taxes

In this month's Finance Advisor column, Tracey Dunlap, City of Kirkland Director of Finance and Administration, gives us a "property tax 101" overview of the limits on regular property taxes.

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When Do You Need to Contract With a Registered Municipal Advisor?

January 6, 2015 by FCS GROUP
Category: Finance , Finance Advisor

Even as the economy improves and growth within our communities has sponsored the ability to spend again, echoes of the past recession linger with several Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act initiated changes taking effect. This time it is about a recently created government-contractor role termed, “Municipal Advisor” and applies to various financial consultants who previously have provided services to the public sector in an unregulated environment.

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Fall is in the Air – and Budget Workshops are Filling Your Agendas

September 11, 2014 by Mike Bailey
Category: Budgets and Budgeting , Finance Advisor

You can tell that summer is winding down. The nights are longer – and cooler; Seahawk football has returned; and councils are about to start their workshops to review the preliminary budget. While the Seahawks are always an interesting subject, this article will focus on how to make the best use of your upcoming budget workshops and hopefully create the “best budget” for your organization.

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Capital Project Financial Management - Seeking the "Universal Translator"

July 31, 2014 by Tracey Dunlap
Category: Public Works Finance , Finance Advisor

How can local government finance and project management staff improve consistency in communications to better manage capital projects?

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Reprioritizing in the Rebound

September 1, 2013 by Tracey Dunlap
Category: Finance Advisor , Financial Management , Fund Balance and Reserves

At a recent retreat, the Kirkland City Council discussed how to proactively plan what to do with increased revenues as the economy recovers; in other words, reprioritizing in the rebound. Some of the key points from that discussion are provided below and might be of use in putting recent positive economic news into context. I began the discussion of the topic with the following quote:

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Water Utilities and Fire Hydrants: Legislative Update

May 1, 2013 by FCS GROUP
Category: Fire Protection , Water Utilities , Finance Advisor

The State Legislature has passed legislation (SHB 1512; SSB 5605,) that focuses on "solving" the problem created by the Lane v. City of Seattle decision. This act provides specific guidance and options for water utilities on how to legally recover fire protection costs...

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Award Program for Small Entities

April 1, 2013 by Mike Bailey
Category: Finance Advisor , Financial Reporting

In this column I wanted to pass along news that I'm hoping will be an opportunity for many of our smaller governments here in Washington State to get outside recognition for their financial reporting work. The Government Finance Officers Association has had a financial reporting recognition program in place for decades and many of our larger governments have been able to benefit from it. While I...

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Lessons Learned from Two Successful Levy Lid Lifts

January 31, 2013 by Tracey Dunlap
Category: Finance Advisor , Property Taxes

The City of Kirkland was fortunate to have two levy lid lift measures pass on the November 2012 general election ballot. The city's finance director explains how the city approached the two measures and what may have contributed to their success.

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Regionalizing Local Government Services

November 1, 2012 by Glenn Olson
Category: Interlocal Cooperation , Finance Advisor

Governments often assume they will realize savings by regionalizing services. In Clark County we thought we should test that hypothesis. We made the study of regionalization an important part of the county's reconfiguration project. What we found was the relationship between...

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A Bright Light for Those of Us Who Want to Improve Public Service

September 1, 2012 by Mike Bailey
Category: Management , Finance Advisor

That is how I think of the State Auditor Office's newest offering - the Local Government Performance Center (LGPC). Described as "a resource center for local governments that need to solve problems, reduce costs, and improve the value of their services to citizens," the LGPC will offer a variety of resources and...

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Have You Reviewed Your Excise Tax Worksheets Lately?

July 31, 2012 by FCS GROUP
Category: Revenues , Finance Advisor

Is your utility taking full advantage of the deductions and exemptions specified in state law? Given that the tax rules applicable to utilities in the State of Washington are complex and can change over time, it is relatively easy to overpay or underpay taxes.

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Some Tips on Time Commitment and Management for Busy Financial Professionals

May 1, 2012 by Tracey Dunlap
Category: Management , Finance Advisor

I was recently asked to provide some tips on time commitment and management based on my experience as a consultant, and I thought some of the information would be useful for busy finance professionals in these busy economic times. So this is the first tip - use information in multiple forums!

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Keeping Internal Controls Fresh in Your Organization

March 1, 2012 by Tracey Dunlap
Category: Finance Advisor

Kirkland tries to keep the issue of internal controls before management and staff in a variety of ways, including periodic “internal control moments” at senior management meetings, ad hoc training on specific topics, inviting departments with issues to the exit conference, etc. The city recently completed a large annexation and we decided that this would be a great time to do some organization-wide training.

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Year-End is a good time to get a financial "checkup"

March 1, 2012 by Mike Bailey
Category: Finance Advisor , Investments

The end of the year approaches.  I know because my budget is in the capable hands of our city council.  Another way I know is that we have started our annual year-end "checkup." In this article, we will share some ideas about  how you can use the "slower time" around the holidays to review some important financial vital signs.

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Who Makes the City and County Accounting Rules We Must Follow?

March 1, 2012 by Mike Bailey
Category: Finance Advisor

RCW 43.09.200 says the Washington State Auditor shall prescribe a uniform system of accounting and reporting for all local governments. This is not totally unique in the country as a few other states have a statewide office establishing the accounting rules. What is completely unique is that the State Auditor then conducts the audits of all these local governments.

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Finance 101

March 1, 2012 by Toni Nelson
Category: Finance Advisor

In anticipation of the coming budget season, we thought a discussion on the characteristics that make governmental accounting unique would be helpful.

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Property Taxes in Washington

March 1, 2012 by Glenn Olson
Category: Finance Advisor

This article explains the basics of how property assessment and taxes are calculated, and why a large increase in assessment may not mean a large increase in taxes.

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Financial Statements - GAAP or Cash Basis? You Decide

March 1, 2012 by Mike Bailey
Category: Finance Advisor

Is GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) was better for local governments than the non-GAAP cash basis alternative offered by the Washington State Auditor's Office? This blog post explores the issues to consider.

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