Financial excellence ensures the effective and efficient allocation of city resources for the delivery of quality services to residents. It creates trust and confidence that city resources are used appropriately. At the core of financial excellence is integrity and innovation. The Phoenix Financial Excellence strategic plan strives to maintain fiscally sound and sustainable financial plans and budgets that reflect community values and residents’ priorities.
Maintain high bond ratings.
A bond rating is a measure of the credit quality of the city. Factors considered in a rating are the health of the local economy, stability and volatility of revenues, level of reserves for liquidity during unexpected financial conditions, as well as sound financial practices, polices and structures or systems that allow flexibility to address challenges. An entity with a long-term outlook and has plans to address unexpected changes is positively considered. In essence a bond rating reflects an independent view of financial excellence. A higher bond rating will usually result in lower borrowing costs.
- Implement a plan to achieve a general fund budgetary fund balance of at least 5 percent of total expenditures within the next five years to provide the necessary liquidity to address revenue volatility and unexpected expenses.
- Develop a multi-year financial plan for the general fund that maintains long-term bond ratings.
- Develop and maintain financial policies that achieve high bond ratings.
- Maximize current revenues by taking steps to ensure collection of established taxes, rates, fees, and fines.
Prioritize capital and funding plans for critical infrastructure.
With the significant downturn in the state, local and national economy and the associated impact on revenues, the financial capacity to fund and finance additional capital projects has been significantly reduced. As a result, a focus on maintaining existing infrastructure must be balanced with the need for new infrastructure. This includes prioritizing the use of the remaining 2006 general obligation (GO) bond capacity and other resources and investigating alternative methods to finance priority capital needs.
- Establish a five-year capital planning process that prioritizes the evaluation of existing facilities and infrastructure and considers repair and/or replacement for use of available funds.
- Identify and evaluate alternative approaches to finance capital investments as part of the capital decision-making process.
- Prioritize the use of existing resources, for example remaining GO bond funds and pay-as-you-go (cash) funding, to address the highest priority needs.
Provide accurate and reliable revenue and expenditure forecasting.
To ensure available resources are allocated to the highest priority needs, accurate and reliable forecasts of both revenues and expenditures are needed. This requires access to the necessary resources and expertise to ensure all critical factors are considered in revenue forecasts and all factors that impact expenditures are considered and modeled. Accuracy of expenditure forecasts also requires discipline of all city departments to ensure expenditures are monitored and managed. Without accurate forecasts and management of expenditures, reserve levels may be tapped below critical levels and services may be unnecessarily reduced.
- Maintain a fiscally responsible revenue forecast based on external and internal inputs and consistent with best practices to efficiently allocate resources.
- Establish an expenditure forecast that aligns with the city’s strategic priorities.
- Develop multi-year performance measures and benchmarks to monitor the effectiveness of financial operations.
- Develop multi-year forecasts that contemplate various economic scenarios that assist in the development of alternative planning strategies.
- Develop structures and incentives to encourage and reward managers and employees for maintaining discipline in managing expenditures.
Maintain a transparent financial environment, free of fraud, waste and abuse.
One of the most important aspects of financial excellence is the ability to assure the public, business community, investors and the rating agencies that systems and processes are in place to prevent fraud, waste and abuse of public funds. An important element of preventing fraud, waste and abuse, is regular financial reports that are easy to access, accurate and understandable. Financial excellence requires the implementation of quality financial systems, staff training, internal controls and regular internal and external audits to prevent fraud, waste and abuse.
- Maintain comprehensive and continuous auditing of high-risk areas.
- Implement strong citywide policies and practices that promote ethical behavior.
- Provide accurate financial information on at least a quarterly basis that is easily accessible and understandable to internal and external audiences.
- Continue to ensure all steps are taken to receive financial excellence awards for budgeting and financial reporting from the Governmental and Financial Officers Association (GFOA) each year.
- Highlight financial successes and educate residents on the importance of high-quality credit ratings, e.g. AAA ratings.