NEWS RELEASE 02/15/12

GASB Issues Newly Expanded, Revised User Guide on Local Government Finances

Norwalk, CT, February 15, 2012—How does your state or local government pay for the services it provides? What is the cost to taxpayers to provide those services? How much does your government owe, and to whom? Does your government have enough money to meet its long-term obligations to bondholders and retired public employees? Is your government’s fiscal health improving or declining?

A new, easy-to-understand guide to government financial statements can help answer those questions—and many others. What You Should Know about Your Local Government’s Finances: A Guide to Financial Statements, 2nd edition, is a comprehensive primer on local government annual reports for taxpayers, elected representatives, and other people who need information about cities, counties, towns, and villages.

The guide is the first in an expanded, fully revised and updated series to be published this year by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the independent, not-for-profit organization that sets accounting standards for local and state governments. The guide includes major new reporting requirements issued since the publication of the original guide in 2000, in areas that include retiree health insurance and fund balance. The guide includes:

  • Annotated examples of more than 50 government financial statements, notes, and schedules
     
  • A storyline designed to help the reader understand the concepts
     
  • An introduction to basic financial ratios used to analyze government finances
     
  • Helpful boxes and sidebars further exploring issues raised in the text
     
  • An overview of governmental accounting and financial reporting
     
  • An exhaustive glossary of terms. 
“Meeting the needs of taxpayers and other financial statement users is a primary objective of the GASB,” said GASB Chairman Robert H. Attmore. “However, when users have difficulty understanding the financial statements issued by local governments, the value of that information is diminished. For that reason, the guide is written from the layperson’s perspective, without excessive accounting jargon, but with plenty of examples of how to use the information in local government financial reports.”

What You Should Know about Your Local Government’s Finances, 2nd edition, can be ordered for $14.95 plus shipping by visiting www.gasb.org/store, or by calling the GASB Order Department at (800) 748-0659.

Additional guides will be available in the coming months, including:

  • What You Should Know about Your School District’s Finances, 2nd edition, assists taxpayers, parents, teachers, and educational advocacy groups in deciphering financial statements of independent school districts.
     
  • What You Should Know about the Finances of Your Business-Type Activities is a new guide devoted to the unique features of financial reporting by the activities that governments operate similar to businesses by charging fees in return for service, such as public utilities, airports, public hospitals, and public colleges and universities.
     
  • An Analysts’ Guide to Government Financial Statements, 2nd edition, is written for experienced and frequent users of governmental financial statements and explores basic analytical techniques to assess economic condition, financial position, liquidity, solvency, fiscal capacity, and risk exposure in a state or local government report.
Soon-to-be-published guides may be ordered when they become available during the first half of 2012.


About the Governmental Accounting Standards Board

The GASB is the independent, not-for-profit organization formed in 1984 that establishes and improves financial accounting and reporting standards for state and local governments. Its seven members are drawn from the Board’s diverse constituency, including preparers and auditors of government financial statements, users of those statements, and members of the academic community. More information about the GASB can be found at its website, www.gasb.org.