Magazine article Government Finance Review

Budget Retreats for Financial Planning: The City of Cape Coral Experience

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Budget Retreats for Financial Planning: The City of Cape Coral Experience

Article excerpt

The City of Cape Coral, Florida, is located in southwest Florida and occupies an area of approximately 114 square miles. The city's population has increased 24 percent since 1990 to 93,017 residents. By 2015, the city's population base is expected to reach 150,000. During the past 10 years, the city's median age has decreased from 48 to 42 years of age. Cape Coral's significant population growth has created pressure to build new infrastructure and improve and expand service delivery to the increasing number of young families moving into the jurisdiction.

Like other governments undergoing a rapid population increase, the City of Cape Coral faces challenges to enhance services, while trying to minimize tax increases at the same time. Given its rapid demographic changes, how does Cape Coral involve its city council, staff, citizens' advisory boards, and the community at large to develop an appropriate financial plan for the jurisdiction?

The City of Cape Coral has developed and implemented an approach that integrates strategic planning, trend and forecasting analyses, and financial performance review to create budget guidelines that address opportunities for a structured program of orderly growth patterns, affordable service delivery, and diversified revenue stream. Specifically, Cape Coral has integrated the following processes into its budget framework:

1) strategic planning work session;

2) budget retreat and performance review;

a) first-quarter financial performance;

b) financial management policies;

c) trends;

d) fiscal forecast;

e) strategic plan summary;

f) budget guidelines;

g) council direction; and,

3) citizen's guide to municipal financial management.

Strategic Planning Work Session

The city operates under an October to September fiscal year. Three months into the fiscal year, a strategic planning work session with the city council and staff is conducted to address how the city will make decisions about future growth, accomplish outcomes, and measure and evaluate success rates.

In 1997, Cape Coral identified six priority areas to be the focused on for future initiatives. The priority areas were:

1) economic development;

2) infrastructure;

3) services;

4) human resources;

5) progressive government; and

6) budget/revenue.

City officials identified 75 initiatives that would address the six priority issues. The 1998 budget priorities complemented the above strategic planning outcomes.

In December 1998, the priority areas were amended to four citywide goals focusing on 1) economic stability and diversity, 2) service delivery, 3) public safety, and 4) customer service.

Upon evaluating input from the community, civic associations, council-appointed boards and commissions, the city council identified 10 specific objectives to be accomplished within one year, as well as 20 projects to be undertaken over the next five years. The 10 specific objectives will be integrated into the current and following years' budget development.

Budget Retreat

Approximately two months after the strategic planning work session, city leaders convened a budget retreat with the same people involved in the strategic planning session. The retreat was intended to provide the participants with a review of the city's financial performance, financial management policies, and trends and forecasts. The retreat ended with developing the budget guidelines for the upcoming fiscal year.

Financial Performance - First Quarter. While each department's staff monitors the financial performance of their own department on at least a monthly basis, the Financial Services Department publishes a quarterly performance report on the city's major operating funds, grant activity, and selected special revenue accounts. …

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