Farmington Hills wins award for budget transparency

‘I get the sense that society’s just becoming more accustomed to a regular information flow’

By: Zachary Manning | Farmington Press | Published May 1, 2021

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FARMINGTON HILLS — For the 37th consecutive year, the city of Farmington Hills has been presented with the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.

The GFOA established the Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards program in 1984 to encourage and assist state and local governments to prepare high-quality budget documents that reflect the guidelines of the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting and the GFOA’s best practices on budgeting, according to its website.

Over 1,600 governments representing states, cities, counties, special districts, school districts, and more have been recognized for transparency in budgeting.

“I’m proud to be the city manager of an organization that’s had that type of longevity as it relates to the recognition from the GFOA,” City Manager Gary Mekjian said. “I think it shows that, historically, this town has had very good fiscal management, and certainly the way we present our budget, both to council and to our residents, is about as good as it can possibly be. It’s a pretty big honor.”

To receive the budget award, the city had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well a budget serves as:

• A policy document.

• A financial plan.

• An operations guide.

• A communications device.

Budget documents must be rated proficient in all four categories, and in the 14 mandatory criteria within those categories, in order to receive the award. When a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award is granted, a Certificate of Recognition for Budget Presentation is also presented to the individual or department designated as being primarily responsible for having achieved the award. The award was presented to the Farmington Hills Finance Department.

Farmington Hills Finance Director Thomas Skrobola noted that earning the award for 37 consecutive years shows the community how much budgeting and finances mean to the leaders of the city. While city officials have come and gone over the years, the effort placed on this has stayed the same.

“I think it shows that the city has been on the progressive edge of providing transparency and providing good information for decision-makers and the public to help bring them together,” Skrobola said. “I think it also means that we not only want to communicate what we’re doing and what our intentions are to the public in a more consistent and comprehensive way, but publicizing this award helps them to know that that’s our intention.”

The award comes in the midst of a pandemic, which made things all the more challenging for finance departments around the country. For Farmington Hills officials, being able to continue the streak of receiving the award despite the challenges of COVID-19 was all the more impressive.

With the help of grants from local, state and federal governments, Farmington Hills was able to ensure residents were taken care of while the budget didn’t suffer, officials said. As things begin to open back up more and more, the city will get a better gauge of how the budget for the upcoming year will shake out.

Going forward, the Finance Department will continue to work with city officials and residents on ways to be transparent and communicative of what is going on with the budget, officials said.

“I just get the sense that society, because of the more consistent flow of information, things being online, things being available, you can compare and contrast, I get the sense that society’s just becoming more accustomed to a regular information flow,” Skrobola said. “For me, that’s like a safety net. As a public official, when somebody calls me and says, ‘I want to know this, that and the other thing,’ I can say, ‘Hey, we got it right there on the website.’”

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