Category Archives: Accounting Basics

Time Saver Tip: BMS’s Budget Prep Software Helper

school budgetingGuest Blog By: Teresa, BMS Sales Manager and former Montana school clerk

In the life of many school accounting and municipal accounting professionals, there is a time of year far scarier than October 31: budget preparation season!

If you are a clerk who dreads starting next year’s budget process, due to worrying that you may put the wrong equation in your Excel spreadsheet or may forget to add a one-time expenditure, Black Mountain Software has a solution for you: our Budget Preparation module.

When it comes to preparing your school or municipal budget, there are so many little things to remember, check, and double-check. Read more >

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In terms of finance, what is a derivative?

Money

Derivative: It’s a confusing topic, which is why it was no surprise to see a flurry of activity on a city clerk listserv the other day when one of the clerks received a Notice of Municipal Derivatives Settlement. The answers she got were as foggy as the term.

So, what exactly is a derivative? We decided to simplify it for you using a mnemonic devise using the word “derivative.”

D – Derivative: A Derivative is a financial contract that derives its value based on the performance of another entity.

E – Entity: Entities determine the value of derivative, such as an asset, index, or interest rate. Read more >

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About…Municipal Bonds!

Time to bond with bonds.  But in order to have a relationship with them, first we’d better get to know them.  We’ve pulled together some very basic questions about municipal bonds, why they are used, and who uses them.

What is a municipal bond?

A municipal bond is a bond issued by a local government (the state, city, or county) or government agency (special district, public utility, airport, seaport, or school district) to pay for projects and/or improvements. These projects can range in scope, for example, improvements to government buildings and public places, a new fire station, or public utility improvements. Read more >

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10 Things Every City Clerk Should Know How to Do

Government Building

Did you know that only 8 percent of people follow through on their New Year’s Resolutions? Most have already faltered by today’s date.

We feel, however, that it’s never too late to start anew and make goals for the year. That’s why we decided to compile of list of useful advice for city clerks and utility billing clerks, inspired by conversations and comments made by the hardworking municipal clerks that we network with all year long. Check out the list below and decide where you are really making strides, and where you could do better. Start today and make your own resolution to be the best you can be in 2014! Read more >

Posted in Accounting Basics, Best Practices, City Clerk Cafe, Government Accounting Standards, Office Efficiency, Small Cities, Uncategorized, Utility Billing | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on 10 Things Every City Clerk Should Know How to Do

Tools To Simplify Budget Preparation

Some do it in September.  Some in May.  Some wait until the end of the year.  And some do it ALL YEAR LONG!  Budget Preparation.

If you are one of the many organizations that follow the US federal fiscal calendar, budget preparation is probably on the top of your mind right now. That’s because budget planning and preparation are at the heart of good expenditure management.

No matter how wonderful an organization’s budget execution is, if a poor or unrealistic budget was prepared, the organization will be faced with a myriad of problems. Additionally, budget preparation is not always as straightforward as it may seem because any variety of complicated and unforeseen expenditures can affect costs, such as:

  • Scarce revenues that leave programs competing for funding
  • Volatile expenditures such as the cost of fuel, health care, and payroll that are hard to predict for the future
  • Unforeseen events caused by severe weather such as water main breaks, floods, power outages, water contamination, and emergency response
  • Revenue and income calculations that are directly correlated to the pace of economic growth, development, and population
  • Evolving state, federal, and local laws and/or statues
  • Long term projects and other long term expenditures

Good budget preparation tools can be extremely helpful during the budgeting and expenditure planning process. Read more >

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In the Know: Tax Incremental Financing (TIF)

Finance

With the ebbs and flows of property values and tax revenues received by local governments, a hot topic of debate involves the use of TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) to fund local infrastructure and revitalization projects. Black Mountain Software offers TIF management software specifically designed to automatically calculate tax by property and easily track multiple TIFs, but nothing can completely eliminate the complexity that TIFs add to a clerk’s accounting tasks. It does help to have a clear understanding of TIF basics, however. Below is a breakdown of what TIF is, how it works, and the key controversies that surround this financing tool.

What is TIF?

TIF, or Tax Increment Financing, is a fiscal tool used by local governments to “self-finance” capital projects for economic development projects.  TIF allows communities to borrow money to pay for infrastructure improvements such as sewers, facilities, bridges, and roads.  TIF can fund an individual project, or can be a part of a larger overall finance package used to revitalize an area or attract/retain new businesses (aka, TIF districts). Read more >

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Five Questions About Govt Accounting You Need To Know, But May Not Ask

In August of 2007, the GFOAz gave a presentation called “Governmental Accounting: What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You.” We thought this was an interesting title. At the same time, we understand that when new clerks are approached with words like “FASAB”, “GAAP”, “Fund Accounting,” and “MFBA”, as important as these terms are to understand, it can be intimidating to ask.

Accounts

So we took five questions from this presentation and summarized them, hoping that for some of you it will help clarify the principles behind government accounting…from the privacy of your own computer.

1. How is Government Financials Different Than the Private Sector? Read more >

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Accounting Terms Defined (O – Z)

Accounting starts with A, B, C’s and 1, 2, 3’s.  We gave you the A, B, C’s–actually the A thru N’s–of government accounting terms last week, so this week we will finish off with O – Z’s.  So enjoy the quick brush-up on your accounting vocab, and as before, for a full list of accounting terms, don’t forget to check out the Accounting Glossary.

O -Operating Budget: A plan of current expenditures and the proposed means of financing them. The operating budget is the primary means to ensuring that the financing, acquisition, spending, and service delivery activities of the state are controlled. Read more >

Posted in Accounting Basics, Best Practices, BMS Products, Government Accounting Standards, School Software, Small Cities, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Accounting Terms Defined (A – N)

Verifying balance sheet

Like it or not, accounting is an integral, and necessary part of our jobs.  There is not a single business or agency today that does not have some element of accounting to attend to: tax reporting, billing, payables, receivables, payroll.  For such an important role it plays, it is not uncommon for the job to be handed over to someone with little, or no accounting experience.  And while these jobs may start with an accounting introduction that includes entering invoices, billing customers, or entering payroll, it is important to understand how inaccurate entries or account coding can affect the overall accounting picture. Read more >

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Lifelong Learning with BMS Training

Recently, in our post “Lifelong Learning: The benefits and the how-to“, we discussed the benefits of feeding your brain with new knowledge over the course of your career.  These benefits–better understanding, sharpness, adaptability, youth, credibility, and cohesiveness–all contribute to workplace happiness, relationships, and job security.

Well, at Black Mountain Software, we like to practice what we preach, so we are proud to announce our summer training schedule. Join us for one of our many mini-training opportunities and learn more about processes and features that will help you more adequately and efficiently use Black Mountain Software.

For more information or to register for these online classes, hosted by our friendly Support Specialists, go to the BMS website and login. Read more >

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