OPM: Municipal Benchmarking
Municipal Financial Services


MUNICIPAL BENCHMARKS

Information Regarding Municipal Benchmarking

The State of Connecticut working with its municipalities, has now made available financial and non-financial benchmarks of key municipal information that can be found on The State of Connecticut Municipal Benchmark Website at: https://ucoa.ct.gov/benchmarking.


The benchmarks are as a result of the joint Benchmarking Project between the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and the State Dept. of Education (SDE).

** see the links below **

Description of the Mapping and Benchmarking Tool


Background Regarding the Benchmarking Project

Public Act (PA) 11-57 directed and authorized the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to  develop a benchmarking system that includes financial and nonfinancial data from various sources.  In addition, Section 257 of PA 13-247 (see pertaining statute Sec. 7-406c), authorized and directed OPM to design, develop and implement a uniform system of accounting for municipal revenues and expenditures.  The uniform system of accounting was required to include a uniform chart of accounts (UCOA) to be used to report financial data at the municipal level.  Furthermore, municipalities by June 30, 2015, are required to implement the UCOA by completing and filing annual reports with OPM as may be required by the Secretary of OPM in order to increase transparency and meet the State’s benchmarking goals.  A similar initiative, in accordance with PA 11-57 and Section 15 of PA 12-116 (see pertaining statute Sec. 10-10c), is underway with respect to education expenditures made by school districts.  OPM and SDE have been coordinating our efforts in this regard.

These public acts authorizing the development of a State and Local Benchmarking System and UCOA for reporting by municipalities and school districts, provided an important opportunity to create a tool available to and of benefit to local and state policy makers, taxpayers and those researching these matters.  The UCOA was developed in consultation with the State Department of Education (SDE), the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and the Council of Small Towns (COST).   To assist with understanding and using the UCOA, separate UCOA Accounting Manuals (municipal, education), were also developed by OPM and SDE.  It is important to emphasize that, although the UCOA will provide a structure for reporting expenditures and revenues, neither municipalities nor school districts are required to replace their current chart of accounts with the UCOA.   Those municipalities in the process of or planning to create a new chart of accounts are, however, encouraged to consider use of the UCOA and associated accounting manual that was developed.


Electronic Mapping Tool for Municipal and Board of Education Financial Information

OPM’s consultant for the project, Blum Shapiro, was directed to identify a mechanism that would meet the State’s data collection and benchmarking needs without significantly altering the underlying financial accounting systems of municipalities and school districts from which such information would ultimately be derived.  The creation of a mapping tool, from local charts of accounts to the State UCOA, was determined to be the best approach to meet this objective. 

The mapping tool does not require a one-for-one mapping of each and every account in a local financial accounting system to its uniform account counterpart included in the UCOA.  The information is being mapped based upon the benchmarking needs of each agency to conform with authoritative legislation and after soliciting feedback from municipal and educational stakeholders.  Below is more information in regard to the mapping of municipal financial information that has occurred from the inception of the project.  The mapping of school district financial data is proceeding independently by SDE.


Mapping of Municipal Financial Information

Understanding that in the past financial information to the State by municipalities was transmitted primarily through the issuance and filing of annual financial audit reports, the reporting and mapping of municipal financial information is being conducted in incremental phases beginning with high-level mapping and moving towards more detailed mapping.   In calendar year 2014 requests were made to all municipalities to transmit their FY 2012-13 general ledger financial information from their local accounting systems to Blum Shapiro, the State’s Consultant for this project.  The information from the local charts of accounts was then cross-walked to the UCOA at a high level (General Fund expenditures by function, General Fund revenues by major objects).  This high-level phase 1 mapping approach is considered low risk and tantamount to a PILOT.  Problems encountered with the high level municipal mapping were successfully resolved.

Phase 2 mapping occurred in calendar year 2015 whereby FY 2013-14 municipal financial information was requested from each municipality with most municipalities submitting the financial information from their local accounting systems as requested.  Once submitted, the 2014 financial information were further mapped to other funds as well as the General Fund by Blum Shapiro and expenditures in the local chart of accounts were cross-walked to high departmental levels within their associated functions based upon the UCOA.  In addition, major object mapping was performed for the salaries and employee benefits object categories.

The need for changes in the mapping of municipal financial information in subsequent years will be assessed by OPM based upon feedback from stakeholders or changes deemed necessary by OPM.


Creation of Benchmarking Analytical Tools and Interactive Website

Municipal revenue, expenditure and selected non-financial information is being made available using an interactive reporting tool developed by OPM’s consultant, Blum Shapiro. This tool will provide revenue and expenditure information from each town and allow geographical and population-based groupings of municipalities. OPM also plans to use this data for its own reporting and to make the underlying data available for municipalities, researchers and citizens to do their own analysis.

In order to assist with the implementation of this initiative and to ease the reporting burdens on cities and towns, the reporting of municipal financial information occurred in the following phases:

  • Phase 1.  Reporting by General Fund major object revenue categories (e.g. Property Taxes, Intergovernmental) and functional expenditure levels (e.g. General Government, Public Safety).  Initial Test of the Mapping System for reporting at this level occurred in Calendar Year 2014 (based upon FY 2013 municipal financial information collected).
  • Phase 2.  Reporting revenues for the General Fund and other Funds by major objects and reporting expenditures at functional and higher level department (e.g. Police, Town Clerk) grouping levels for General Fund and other funds.  In addition, major object reporting for salaries and employee benefits.  Mapping of the FY 2014 municipal financial information begun in Calendar Year 2015 and the benchmarking of the information will be presented on the State of Connecticut Municipal Benchmarks Website during the first half of Calendar Year 2016.  Click here for further details on Phase 2 Implementation.
  • Phase 3.  Reporting expenditure at a more detailed level below the Phase 2 departmental level /major object – wages and employee benefits level reporting — implementation to be determined based upon Phase 2 Reporting feedback from stakeholders and OPM’s assessment.

 

Limitations and Considerations in Making Comparisons between Jurisdictions

This new information and benchmarking tool provides important information about municipal expenditures and revenues within and comparatively between cities and towns statewide, geographically and population groups; however, there are differences in how municipalities categorize certain revenues and expenditures that must be must be considered when making such comparisons in this early iteration of the benchmarking tool.  A few examples of these include:

  • State grants or reimbursements for Education Purposes.  Some towns may include certain education grants as general revenues, while other may use these grants or reimbursements to “net fund” certain programs or will treat these grants as special funds outside the general fund.

  • Employee Benefits (including pensions and health care) and Capital Costs.  Some municipalities may allocate these costs to individual departments, including for the Board of Education, while others may centralize these costs under “General Government” or “Other”.  Some jurisdictions may have centralized accounts for these expenses on both the municipal and education sides of the budget.

  • Transfers from Other Funds.  These may include enterprise funds or other special funds.  Again, for example, some of these transfers may be considered as revenues in the General Fund in some jurisdictions, while they are expenditure offsets in others.

As the work on the benchmarking project proceeds, work will be done to address these and other issues.  These efforts will include OPM working with SDE on a process to transmit certain of the detailed education data that resides in SDE data warehouse into the municipal data warehouse to enhance the municipal benchmarking system.

 








Content Last Modified on 5/2/2016 11:09:04 AM