10 Ways to Improve the Budgeting Process for Your Special District

Special districts are tasked with some of the most essential and demanding needs of the communities they serve – often with limited funding and resources. The budgeting process can be one of the most difficult challenges for special districts.

Roadblocks can range from experiencing a lack of resources and team members, failing to consider long-term goals, and not engaging the public and other important stakeholders. 

Tips for Special District Leaders

We’ve assembled this list of ten ways to improve your budgeting processes, just for special districts. Through equity, sustainability, transparency, engagement, and impact, special districts can evaluate and refine their budget process to see improvement across their entire organization. 


When you know the who, how, what, and why behind how residents are using your services, it is easier to improve them and make a larger impact. Use a synergetic and representative process to collect this information from residents, such as an accessible online form. 

Prioritization is set by your elected officials’ goals around sustainability, cost, public benefit, environmental impact, and more. Additionally, prioritization should be defined based on clear standards such as emergency, severe problem, potential health/safety risk, long-term growth, etc.

Take the time to ensure all of your efforts are focused on the bigger picture.

Track fund spending from budget to completion. Better monitoring across funds helps avoid budget adjustments and makes departments and users more accountable for their spending, plus it shows which dollars are most effective. 

Performance Measurement 

Setting goals helps your organization inform management decisions and strengthen trust in the government’s actions.

Not only do clearly-outlined goals help guide the planning process, but evaluating performance continuously across the year also helps identify gaps quickly and keeps everyone focused. 

  1. Align to Your Policies

Special districts are created to serve the specific needs of their communities, and their policies serve as the basis of decision-making.

They serve as a form of accountability, so it is important to incorporate your special district’s policies and standards into your budgeting and planning process. 


  1. Work Cross-Functionally 

Communication is always key! Ensure teams across departments are working together to solve critical challenges and serve the strategic priorities of its community.

If your special district is only one or two members strong, work with related districts for ideation and best practices.

Reviewing multiple years of data in one snapshot can help save time when looking at data for financial comparison purposes.

It’s important for decision-makers to look at the trends over time to align on their long-term planning. 


Government purchasing has a fiduciary responsibility and plays directly into equity, helping cities put dollars behind their commitments to diversity and inclusion.

Whether the goal is sourcing more local, women-owned, or BIPOC businesses, supplier diversity initiatives help ensure that services and products are sourced in a way that helps the local business community thrive while protecting the public coffers.

Working in government can sometimes feel siloed when certain departments are singularly focused on the task at hand, even when cross-functional communication is necessary to accomplish broader goals.

It is important to take a step back and communicate across your organization to avoid tunnel vision and work towards your goals and strategic initiatives. 


Keep constituents and other stakeholders informed on strategic initiatives and performance metrics and compare them to the goals and benchmarks set in the planning stage of your budgeting process. 

The Challenges Special District Leaders Face

We understand the needs and challenges of special districts and assist with everything from specialized workflows to services and critical needs. The first step to moving in the right direction is finding the ways that you can improve.

Start upgrading your process and watch it transform into a more modern, strategic approach to budgeting and planning.

Don’t forget, you can use our eBook, The Strategic Planning Guide for Local Government: Aligned Projects from Concept to Results, for the steps to take now to change your strategy. 

From plan to procure, we break the biggest must-haves for strategic fund planning into five major elements, with best practices for each of them.

Last Updated on March 29, 2022 by Stephanie Beer

Category: Government Finance

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