28th November, 2017

The Long View – Best Practices in Municipal Budgeting

Plastic Lumber Trail MarkerFor city managers, city council members and mayors across the country, maintaining a longer term perspective on municipal budget allocation can be a challenge.  Municipal budgeting has always been a complex stew of politics, compromise, and competing visions of the role of government in serving the citizenry.  Re-election cycles and the inevitable ‘squeaky wheels’ tend to keep elected officials focused on here-and-now issues which can impact decision making with sometimes unfortunate long term consequences.

The National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting (NACSLB) aware of these challenges (even way back 1998), published Recommended Budget Practices: A Framework for Improved State and Local Government Budgeting, to encourage practices that illuminate the key issues and choices facing a community.

This framework which has been crafted or endorsed by dozens of organizations including the Government Finance Officers Association, the National League of Cities and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees emphasizes three major themes:

  • Budgeting should have a long-range perspective
  • City government should craft long term goals
  • Performance measurement is critical

Put simply:

Budgeting should have a long-range perspective, and not be simply an exercise in balancing revenues and expenditures one year at a time.  Decision makers and other stakeholders should have an understanding of the financial implications of spending options being considered because — the cheapest possible solution today may well end up costing your city and your taxpayers more in the long run.   This is bad for both the citizenry you represent and your chances for re-election.

For example:

When the parks and maintenance department requests a budget for updating or repairing wooden fencing, benches, posts and other wooden structures, the natural tendency is to replace those items with wood.  Whether it is the responsibility of the department, the city council or the constituents to consider options other than wood is debatable – but the framework suggests options should be considered.

Recycled plastic lumber like products offered by Bedford Technology will almost certainly cost more than wood.   However, they will not need to be replaced in year two, or three or for many years, saving a lot more money than the difference in initial cost.   The return on investment is plain to see.  A long term analysis of this decision by either the appropriate manager or the council would almost certainly point to plastic lumber as a smart decision.

And smart decisions benefit everyone.

Consider SelectForce® and FiberForce® plastic lumber from Bedford Technology for your city’s wood structures like fences, posts, benches and buildings. They’re superior to wood, healthier for animals and less expensive to maintain over time. Plus, you can drill and cut them the same as traditional building products.

Plastic lumber from Bedford Technology is made from sustainable, recycled plastic materials – like milk jugs – and they won’t rot, splinter, split, rust or fade.  And, since they are made from solid, impact resistant HDPE they difficult to vandalize and maintain their appearance.

SelectForce ® and FiberForce ®  have textured surface finishes and come in a variety of colors so you can build it once, build it right and keep your citizens happy with plastic lumber from Bedford Technology.

Learn more about plastic lumber from Bedford Technology here


Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Government Finance Officers Association

National League of Cities