Financial Sustainability Planning in Shoreline

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Like many other communities, the City of Shoreline, Washington, faced significant economic pressure as a result of the nation’s recent recession. Staffing levels and service delivery appeared to be unsustainable because of revenue fluctuations, and while the recession was not the only factor in the city’s financial challenges, it was a major one, and it also highlighted other systemic financial challenges As a result, Shoreline started working on a 10-year fiscal sustainability plan that would address the financial uncertainty the city faced while charting a clear path for the foreseeable future.

Six city employees, known as the 10 YFSP Team, worked with the city manager’s office, city council, and the entire city staff to develop a 10-year fiscal sustainability plan – a step that required approximately 1,800 hours of project time. The team started out by identifying more than 20 essential services provided by the Shoreline’s Administrative Services Department. This step was crucial because it allowed the city to think critically about past, current, and future service levels. Through this exercise, the city identified more than 20 economic development, revenue, and expenditure strategies it could be used to close existing budget gaps or those that were likely to occur within the next 10 years.

After determining the services Shoreline provided and prioritizing them, the city began to calculate the cost of each service over time and under various revenue scenarios using the Government Finance Research Group’s MuniCast Forecasting and Trend Analysis Model, which it purchased for a one-time investment of $3,000. The city uses this software, created to forecast budget gaps or periods in which expenditures exceeded available revenues and/or available fund balances, to evaluate financial information alongside historical financial data in governmental funds. After downloading the city’s data into the model, Shoreline was able to review financial scenarios that might occur in the coming years and determine where budgetary shortfalls were likely. After identifying these fiscal pressure points, the city was able to develop financial models that would address these challenges while also maintaining its desired levels of service delivery.    

For more information on the City for Shoreline Washington, click here.

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