The User's Perspective

July 2011

New Editions of the GASB’s User Guide Series Coming Soon

          The GASB’s user guide series, which introduces the financial reports of state and local governments to a broad, nonaccountant audience, is now being revised and updated for publication in 2011. The titles in the updated series will be:

•   What You Should Know about Your Local Government’s Finances

•   What You Should Know about Your School District’s Finances

•   What You Should Know about Your Government’s Business-Type Activities

•   An Analyst’s Guide to Government Financial Reports.

          The three What You Should Know guides, which were originally published about 10 years ago, offer users of governmental financial statements a comprehensive, easily digestible introduction to the annual reports of local governments, school districts, and, new for 2011, business-type activities such as public utilities, hospitals, and colleges. The new editions of these guides will cover more note disclosures and supporting information and include the major new pronouncements issued since the publication of the original guides, such as those addressing other postemployment benefits, derivative instruments, and fund balance.

          The 2011 editions of the guides also will include a number of features designed to be useful to readers at all levels—from those who are new to governmental financial statements to the sophisticated, seasoned user. These features include:

  • Dozens of annotated illustrative financial statements, notes, and schedules
  • A running story designed to help the reader understand the concepts
  • An introduction to basic financial ratios that may be used to analyze financial statements
  • Boxes and sidebars that further explore issues raised in the text
  • An exhaustive glossary of key terms
  • An overview of the basics of public-sector accounting and financial reporting

          Differing in focus from the What You Should Know guides, An Analyst’s Guide to Government Financial Reports is geared toward more experienced and frequent users of governmental financial statements. In addition to introducing and describing the information that can be found in a state or local governmental report, the newly expanded 2011 edition of this guide explores how basic analytical techniques may be applied to this information to assess such issues as economic condition, financial position, liquidity, solvency, fiscal capacity, and risk exposure.

          An Analyst’s Guide will update and combine the current guide with What Else You Should Know about a Government’s Finances, the GASB’s guide to notes and supporting information, to create a comprehensive updated guide to the full financial report. From the transmittal letter to the statistical section and everything in between, An Analyst’s Guide will describe the content and purpose of the disclosures and presentations, and explain how the information can be used to understand and assess the financial health of a government or governmental entity.

          The new editions of the guides are scheduled for publication during the summer and fall of 2011 and will be available in the store section of the GASB website,, by clicking on the User Guides item in the menu on the left-hand side of the screen.