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The current Environment Department can be traced back to 1838 when it was referred to as the local government ministry of America where a Poor Relief Act was created. This was the first agency of the government that had the responsibility of facilitating people’s lives. Initially, this act was poorly governed by the commissioners who were based in New York. In 1872, the New York based commission was changed to the board of American local government because of the huge responsibilities of the local government. This went on until 1920, when a new state was formed by the Sinn Fein successful candidate who had won the elections. As such, the new state assumed the central responsibilities, although the commission was still active as the formed part of the control of the affairs team. In 1922, the local government ministry that resulted from the new and Free State took over the central administration. Furthermore, this led to the formation of the Public Health and Local government department in 1924 (U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2011). The newly formed department took over the roles of supervising the systems of the local government. Between 1920 and 1930, the department’s main focus was to facilitate the reform on the local government operating system, housing program expansion, infrastructure development, town planning, and welfare and health services growth. In 1940, it turned out that the roles of the department were too much, hence the need for change had arisen. Therefore, from 1947-1997, there was Social Welfare and Health Department that was created or renamed from the local government department whose main focus was on the matters related with the local government and other related infrastructure matters.
As years progressed, the roles expanded. In the resent years, the main focus has been to enhance modernization of the systems of the local government. Between 2002 and 2007, roads and traffic related issues were moved to the Transport Department. The department also focused on the issues related with heritage, meteorological, and safety concerns. Therefore, in 2003, it was necessary to change the department’s name to give a reflection of the new role, which led to formation of the Heritage, Environment, and the Local Government Department. In this case, main focus will be on the department of Environment, Community, and Local Government in America. The Environment Department was founded in 2011 after the formation of the new government at that time, heritage functions were moved from the department of heritage, arts, and Gaeltacht as from May 1 2011 (National League of Cities, 2013). This paper aims to analyze the entire budgetary process of America’s Department of Heritage, Environment, and Local Government.
A budget refers to a plan of the expected incomes of a government as well as the expenditure planned to be incurred in the next financial year. The majority of the governments of the states use an annual budget, while others use a biannual budget, a budget that runs for two years. There are states where both, biannual and annual budgets are employed. A budget is an instrument that is used politically to weigh policies that are of priority as compared to the available resources, give a specification of public programs provision, determine program costs, and an explanation of evaluation plan of the program’s effectiveness and efficiency. A budget will also ensure that a state’s program is evaluated even once in a budget cycle, incomes are redistributed. It gives a limitation to spending by the government, facilitates transparency, and ensures accountability by the relevant authority and departments. A budget is made up of the operating budget, which has the current period expenditure, and a capital budget that has financial plans to facilitate capital improvement in the long run. To ensure a balanced budget, the capital and operating budget are combined to give a proper estimate of available revenue in the current period and expected expenditure. Despite the fact that budget details vary from state to state or city to city, there are four main stages involved for any public budget.
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In this case, the main focus is on the Department of Environment, Community, and Local Government (Savage, 2011). Some of the steps involved include preparation that involves coming up with estimates of expenditure for the America’s Department of Heritage, Environment, and Local Government subsections as compared with available resources. At this stage, the department will find expenditure estimates from it subsections, which will enable them to compare such expenses with the resources that have been allocated for their use (Savage, 2011). The second step is approval, at which the budget will be forwarded for review by the board. The board has the powers to modify the budget. It is then that a notification will be made to find the citizens’ view of the budget as well. Once all these are done, the budget is approved and finally adopted (Savage, 2011). The third stage is implementation, involving the implementation of the department’s sections or putting the budget into practice throughout the year (Savage, 2011). Finally, during the audit and evaluation stage, the subsections of the department are evaluated or measured throughout the year. This is done at the year-end to gather information for the next financial year (Savage, 2011).
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Operating and Capital Budgets
An operating budget refers to an annual budget that gives a representation of the current expenditure and, at times, it is referred to as revenue expenditure. Such a budget covers daily operations of the department that include things like pensions, salaries, maintenance of the house, and other related operational costs among others. Once a budget is drawn, it is subjected to the adaptation of an elect council in a budget meeting. According to the Department of Heritage, Environment, and Local Government Act of 2001 and the 2014 reform Act of Local Government, there is a provided basis for the budget process (National League of Cities, 2013). A budget is developed in a phased process that calls for input of the executive chief, municipal members, and a corporate policy group. In the budgeting process of an operating budget, it is important to identify the local needs and available resources. The elected members of the department have a direct role in the law for all the reserved roles, which includes facilitating the adaptation of the annual budget and ensuring the accountability of all the expenditure.
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On the other hand, capital budget involves the creation of assets to generate revenue and, at the same time, the expenses incurred on the asset go beyond a year. Some of the assets at the department include machinery, buildings, swimming pools, and so on. Most of the revenues in this budget are from the government or state grants, development levies, borrowing, and other internal resources such as sales of property. In some cases or projects, funding may be done by the local authority resources and at times borrowings. The chief executive of the local authority is responsible for preparation and submission of the report to elected members. In the report, it is vital to indicate the capital project that has been proposed and a plan of procedures for the next two years.
Operating and Capital Expenses
It is worth noting that an operating and capital expenditure varies. In other words, the operating expenses cater for day today expenses incurred at the department in question. On the other hand, capital expenditure caters for long term investments by the department. Some of the operating expenses include; purchase of beverages for staff use, payment of salaries, payment of pension, staff entertainment, and staff training among others. These are things happen on a daily basis; hence, there is a need for them to be estimated and included on operating or current expenditure section of a budget. On the other hand, capital expenditure involves expenditure on assets for the department. Some of the assets in the department include the purchase of computers, department vehicles, land, and so on. In this case, the acquisition of such assets will call for heavy financing, which at times may call for loans. Therefore, in a budget, it is essential to highlight clearly that the expenses incurred of planned for are long term in nature, so its evaluation takes more than a year (Government Finance Officers Association, 2010).
In every organization, it is always important to plan or make a budget based on the available sources of revenue. This is important as it is good to come up with an achievable plan. In this case, at the department in question, some of the revenue sources include taxes, intergovernmental transfers, service charge, and fees levies. It is worth noting that taxes collected by the national government benefits various departments. Some of the taxes include those paid by various organizations to acquire licenses for operations, payment for the effects that result from negative externalities, and fees to facilitate environmental cleanness of the surrounding community. In addition, some allocations are made to various state departments by the national government. Therefore, in a budget belonging to the Department of Environment, Community, and Local Government, the main sources of revenue will be taxes, levies, penalties, intergovernmental transfers, service charge, and maybe donor contributions, especially for long term or capital budget.
Shortcomings of the Budget Process
It is important to note that in any budget development, the entire process is not as simple as people may say. This statement is true because the process of budget preparation in the department under discussion takes a long time because of the various stages involved. Some of the stages in budget making process include preparation, approval, implementation, and evaluation (Coleman, 2005). All these stages involve different people at different times and of different levels in the government. Therefore, the amount of time spent in the various stages is different. For instance, in the development or preparation stage, it is necessary to collect data or information from the various section heads. This is a lengthy and tiresome process that requires for quite some time. During the approval stage, it is essential to have the board members sitting to review and make amendment to the budget. This does not happen over one or two days. On the contrary, it takes up to 3 months because when they make amendments, they have to return the report back to the person who prepared it to make corrections. This will also call for the consultation of the user sections to get their views. The evaluation stage also takes some good time as it is necessary to go through all the projects undertaken to come up with a conclusion and summary.
Finally, it is worth noting that the entire budget process is complex and time consuming. As such, it is necessary for the Department of Heritage, Environment, and Local Government to come up with less complex and time consuming procedures. In the budget development, the department should identify or select persons to participate in the development stage. These persons will be allocated the sections to collect data and assigned a period of one week for data collection. This will help reduce the length of time spent on data collection. The data will be compiled by one person within two days. Once compiling is done, the report will be forwarded for approval by the board members, this will take approximately a week to make reviews and amendments. During the approval stage, attempts will be made as much as possible to ensure that the current year’s budget goes slightly higher than the previous year’s budget. This will help minimize the number of amendments recommended by the board members. The evaluation stage might need to make sure that various sections correctly utilize their budget to reduce the number of issues subject to audit. In the long-run, this will reduce the amount of time spent on the entire process and, at the same time, reduce complexity (Coleman, 2005).
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