By Jennifer Hardister
Municipal fund balances targeted for Vinson Fellow’s spring research project
My research project through the Vinson Fellows program this semester is concerned with fund balances, or equity in government funds, in Georgia’s cities. Specifically, I studied the amount carried in these balances in reference to the cities’ written policies, an established benchmark, and other financial data collected over multiple fiscal years.
The primary sources for my research are city comprehensive annual financial reports. Conveniently, these are all available through the Institute of Government’s Tax and Expenditure Database (TED). The greatest challenge that I faced in my research is that several cities are not utilizing this database or even their own websites to publish their financial statements in a timely manner. This has interesting implications for government financial transparency in the state of Georgia, which I think would be an interesting line of further study.
From our initial analysis, the fund balance carried by these cities appears to be a function of total revenue and change in the fund balance in the previous year. Interestingly, the presence of a policy for target fund balance in city financial statements does not seem to affect the fund balance carried by these cities.
Serving as a Vinson Fellow with the Institute of Government has exceeded my expectations. I have learned a great deal about government accounting through the mentorship of faculty member Tracy Arner, who manages the Institute’s financial management training program. Faculty member Wes Clarke, who manages the TED program, has provided invaluable guidance in research methodology and data analysis. It was a pleasure working with them, and I am grateful for their assistance with my research.
I am looking forward to presenting the results of this investigation to Institute faculty and staff. After that, we plan to prepare a paper detailing our findings for possible publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
Jennifer is a junior from Dunwoody, majoring in accounting and international business with a certificate in personal and organizational leadership. At the University of Georgia, she is executive director of ServeUGA and junior coordinator of the Terry Women’s Initiative. This past summer she interned with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and she hopes to work in public service in the future.