Clinton earns top budget award for fourth straight year

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

December 26, 2013

For the fourth consecutive year, the City of Clinton has received the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting.

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has announced that the City of Clinton and its Finance Department has received the GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for its budget, with special recognition for its Capital Improvement Plan for the second straight year.

“We are extremely proud to have received this award for the fourth consecutive year, especially receiving special capital budgeting recognition two years running,” said city manager Shawn Purvis. “We put a tremendous amount of time into our budget document because it represents one of the biggest policy decisions made year in and year out.”

Purvis said the city and its finance staff expect the document to outline its short and long-term goals, demonstrate the city’s strategies to accomplish those goals and provide guidance for day-to-day operations.

“By taking the time to develop this document, we hold ourselves accountable to serving our citizens in the most fiscally responsible manner possible,” he stated.

The GFOA praised Clinton for doing just that, saying the budget award recognizes those staffs that go above and beyond in budget planning. For budgets including fiscal period 2012, over 1,340 entries are expected to receive the award.

“Award recipients have pioneered efforts to improve the quality of budgeting and provide an excellent example for other governments throughout North America,” stated the GFOA, which serves over 17,800 government finance professionals throughout the continent.

Its Budget Presentation Awards Program is the only national awards program in governmental budgeting and recognition is given as part of that program to those government entities meeting the highest of standards.

“It reflects the commitment of the governing body and staff to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting,” the GFOA stated. “In order to receive the budget award, the entity had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation.”

Those guidelines are designed to assess how well a budget serves as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide and a communications device. Budget documents must be rated “proficient” in all four categories, and the 14 mandatory criteria within those categories to receive the award.

Staffing shakeup

It is a distinction that has now been garnered by the City of Clinton four times in as many budget cycles. However, Purvis said the city will have to deal with significant staffing transitions in order to continue to keep the bar high, but the top standard the city has set for itself will remain very much in place.

“The budget process will be more difficult this year with our transitions,” Purvis said. “We expect to continue preparing our budget in the same manner, if not better. I personally expect it to be more difficult as we are still looking for a new finance director and that person will naturally have a learning curve with our budget.”

Reorganization over the past few years saw the merging of the assistant manager and finance director positions based on existing personnel and the needs of the city. Purvis, who served as assistant manager for all four GFOA budgeting awards, stepped into that dual role in 2011 and served in it for the past two budget cycles before being promoted to city manager earlier this year upon John Connet’s departure.

That reorganization resulted in no increase in staff. To maintain staffing levels, the city is seeking only to fill the vacant finance director position, with no current plans to fill the vacant assistant manager position.

“(The finance director position) is one of the most difficult municipal positions to fill on its own merits, let alone trying to fill a combination assistant manager-finance director position,” Purvis stated.

Regardless, the city manager said staffing shakeups are an obstacle that the city will have to surmount, and he is confident that it will — to put forth another solid budget and earn a fifth straight budget award next year.

“It may take a few extra long nights and weekends, but we will produce a budget document of which City Council and our citizens can be proud,” he said. “We will do what is necessary.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at