(Fargo, ND) -- Terri Gayhart, Fargo's Finance Director, spoke to WDAY Radio about about the Finance Office, getting public feedback, and additional goals within the department for the future.
The Finance Office
Fargo's Finance Office is largely tasked with the city's budgeting responsibilities. The list of those responsibilities can be found on the Finance Office website; and include budgeting, financial reporting, cash management, debt administration, accounting, special assessment administration, risk management, and pensions. The responsibilities also include managing and researching other revenue streams; which include items like taxes and other fees prescribed by the city.
The office also collects requests and budget estimates from all departments across the city; this could mean hiring additional staff, buying equipment, purchasing land, or any new projects that the department is considering. With those outlooks, they generate a master plan for the following year and compare it to revenues and expenditures. The finance office does not give the final approval for city plans, but does include the estimates in the final plan that are eventually seen by Fargo's City Commission. These conversations can become complicated when current spending is higher than projected revenue in times of economic hardship, if other sources of revenue are available on a one time basis, and if the discussion of saving money for future rainy days instead of being spent on current plans and expenditures.
"You come up with a conservative budget and if you come up with excess revenue or something like that, you set it aside and come up with a good plan on how you are going to utilize it, "said Gayhart.
Public Feedback and Transparency
One thing Gayhart focused on during the course of the interview was the need to gather and utilize public feedback in their discussions moving forward. Gayhart says this is a challenge in multiple different aspects, which she largely attributes to a lack of interest.
"I'm very disappointed that every year there is no one who comes to budget workshops, I've been at budget workshops where the public is invited. I've been to many public hearings and no one shows up, "said Gayhart, "I think they have to start caring and you have to have that communication. People have to use their mouth and talk to their government and make sure they are handling the things that are important to them."
Gayhart says there will be an effort moving forward to create an outreach program, and that the public "to get prepared" to give feedback to the department. She says they want to hear the feedback, especially if it is a criticism. Gayhart says this will also lead to more transparency between city residents and city employees, which she says will improve Fargo and make their decisions feel more complete.
Moving forward, Gayhart says there are things the department is doing to improve the capacity for critique and transparency. She says one of the key methods this will be accomplished is through simplifying and clarifying the current budget layouts and making it more understandable to a generic viewer. Another way this could be improved for city employees is through the purchasing of software that she claims will resolve several problems they are experiencing on the Finance Office side and make the office more efficient.
You can learn more about Fargo's Finance Office by clicking here.