Financial Planning is all about vision. Municipalities know they must always consider future needs, as well as meet immediate concerns, when evaluating and prioritizing needs for their communities and budgeting for these decisions.
Ehlers assists clients in strategically planning projects and balancing fiscal implications for the short- and long-term.
Ehlers services include:
Strategic Planning and Goal-Setting
Strategic Planning, Policy & Goal Setting
Communities are concerned with the long-term financial implications of their decisions. How has growth or the lack thereof influenced the funding of facilities and public services? What do we want our city or county or school district to be in the future? What are the financial implications of this vision?
Setting goals for a local government and establishing the means to achieve those goals requires experience with group facilitation and a strong background in local government. Ehlers’ staff has comprehensive experience in focusing elected officials set a realistic and achievable strategic roadmap for their future.
Financial Management, Capital Improvement, and Capital Funding Plans
Budgeting should not be “paycheck to paycheck.” The best communities and school districts set a strategic financial roadmap to meet. They also establish the financial foundation and policies needed for their long-term success, not simply to meet today’s needs. A long-range financial plan that coordinates resources and sets clear priorities makes the annual budgeting process less painful and enables policy makers to focus on bigger picture questions related to tax rates, utility rates, user fees, property or sales taxes, debt levies, and debt-to-cash ratios.
The process should establish long-term financial policy goals develop an inventory of capital needs and program requests; prepare an inventory of alternative financial resources; presenting funding options; analyze the financial impact of options; prepare an affordable, comprehensive financial plan; and develop a framework to review future capital projects. We see ourselves as team members with engineering, finance and other staff to address options and produce solutions. We can help to explain the program, set goals for the process, and establish a timeline for completion.
Capital and Operating Levy Impact Analysis
Evaluating and balancing the needs of your school district, city or town in the face of today’s decreasing property values, state aid, and levy limits can seem overwhelming. Staff members are often expected to not only know the needs of their citizens or students, but also understand their levy or referendum authority and complex formulas estimating tax impact against projections of varying types of property values and tax rates. Ehlers Financial Advisors can help in all these areas and are experts at explaining the projections and analysis to the governing body and the public.
For information on services related to Minnesota school district operating referendums click here.
Cash Management Planning and Investment Strategies
Services and technology provided by banks are constantly changing. Bank products used today could be obsolete tomorrow. These changes affect the way communities collect and disburse cash. Our affiliate, Ehlers Investment Partners, LLC, offers regular reviews with clients to help ensure their bank products are current and the cash management processes they employ are relevant, efficient, and cost effective.
Research and Analysis
Utility Rate Studies
Ehlers has been a leader in conducting utility rate studies for water, storm water, and sanitary sewer utilities that help a governing body ensure the rate structures are sufficient for their utility needs. Ehlers evaluates the projected financial health of a utility year-by year, allowing a community to limit its financial risk and expand and improve its systems as it can afford to do so.
Impact Fee Study and Analysis
Not all development will produce more revenues than expenses. Ehlers assists cities, villages and school districts with fiscal impact analyses of new development estimated changes in population.
Having data in a relevant, organized, and understandable format is an essential starting point to making good decisions. Ehlers provides a “benchmarking service” to help cities, counties, and school districts compare themselves to a peer group or state averages on an array of ratios so they can make better data driven decisions. We gather, analyze, organize, and present comparisons of relevant data in a meaningful, simple, and understandable format.
These comparisons can be particularly valuable when communicating the need for voter support for an upcoming referendum, in preparing for long-term strategic planning sessions, or prior to making annual or major budget decisions.
Merger/Consolidation/ Annexation Study and Analysis
Studies to measure the impact upon tax rates, capital expenditures, and operating costs are a pre-requisite for consolidations of many types. Ehlers conducts the research and presents findings on the advantages and potential risks associated with combining with another jurisdiction.
Development of Policies and Procedures
Financial Policy Development
Our Financial Advisors can help draft and set policy to guide financial operations for both the short-term and the long-term. This process is an interactive one involving both the staff and elected officials agreeing on long-range targets.
Investment Policy Development
An investment policy defines a community’s investment management structure and process and the individuals who have the authority, responsibility and control over its implementation.
An investment strategy defines and creates a plan to achieve investment goals, and is reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it continues to meet the defined objectives and taking into account the current economic environment.
Ehlers Financial Advisors and our affiliate, Ehlers Investment Partners, LLC, will assist in the formation of an investment policy and strategy that is specific to your community’s needs and in compliance with state statutes.
School District Services
Benchmarking and Best Practices
We live in an age of unlimited information. Save yourself countless hours of research, evaluating, assembling and building charts and graphs in an effort to analyze and explain your district’s operations.
With the Ehlers Benchmarking and Best Practices (BBP) Model, critical information on all Minnesota school districts is organized on your desktop enabling you to benchmark your district’s operations against that of any district in the state simply by entering the benchmark district numbers. We have gathered and organized a plethora of data on topics including:
- property taxes, tax base, revenue, expenditures, operating referendum and capital projects levy
- special education,
- debt structure, building utilization, building age, and operation and maintenance expenses
- student ACT and GRAD test scores, student demographics,
- licensed staffing ratios, average teacher salaries and training
Experience the satisfaction of being able to access that information and to explain it and to be understood. With a few key strokes you will be able to generate graphs and charts that will help you explain the operation of your district to your school board, to your staff, and to your public.
The charts and graphs may easily be converted to PDF format or copied to a PowerPoint presentation. Included in each graph is data for your district and eight districts you select, the average for the selected group of districts including your district, and the state average. Each topic has multiple charts and/or graphs. You are able to sort the results.
Budget Projection Model
Ehlers offers a Budget Projection Model for Minnesota school districts.
One of the key elements of effective financial planning and management is the ability to estimate the impact of financial decisions on the district’s operating budget for multiple years. Our clients have often expressed frustration with the difficulty of doing accurate budget projections, and have asked for our assistance. In response, we invested significant resources developing a new Model that we believe will meet our clients’ needs. Our goal was to develop a Model that is both comprehensive and easy to use. It is intended to be a management tool enhancing the decision making of the administration and school board.
The Model was developed by four Ehlers municipal advisors with a combined total experience of more than 80 years as school business officials.
The model creates a picture of a district’s financial condition, allowing you to measure the impact on your budget of major decisions including:
- Cost containment adjustments (budget cuts)
- Program addition/expansion
- Construction of new schools additions
- Closing of schools
- Operating referendum or capital projects referendum
- Adjustments to local revenues such as student fees
Users are able to project the impact of each option or combination of options. For example, ways to interact with the model include:
- Setting the student/staff ratio or entering the number of licensed teaching staff to project expenditures for classroom teachers
- Setting inflationary assumptions to project expenditures
- Entering budget changes – additions or cuts – to project impact on future budgets
- Setting assumptions used for basic state aid, referendum revenue, and enrollment
Any change in projected enrollment will automatically affect both revenues and expenditures.
Enrollment Projection Model Included
An enrollment projection spreadsheet is included in the model, permitting the user to select from multiple options. MDE enrollment data is pre-loaded in the Model. If your district already has an enrollment projection model, you also have the option to use your own projections.
The UFARS chart of accounts has slight variations from district to district. Some consolidate object codes. Other districts may still account for transportation costs using Fund 03 and crosswalk the results to Fund 01. For this reason, the model includes an optional worksheet for Transportation. The model tracks reserved capital revenue including assigned fund balances, incorporating user-defined fields for revenues and expenditures. Because each district is unique, the model enables the user to modify line items, add line items, or modify formulas to fit individual needs.
The model can identify assigned fund balances, project future unassigned fund balances, and compare projected unassigned fund balances to a district-defined target fund balance. A graph depicts the five-year trend for this important information.
An executive summary is generated that includes multiple graphs, as well as a budget report by major source and object, detailed revenue and expenditure reports, and an analysis showing annual changes by major revenue and expenditure category. This is an excellent tool to quickly evaluate the reasonableness of a budget projection.
Each year, Ehlers will update the model to include any changes necessitated by Minnesota state regulations, formula changes, or new legislation and will provide all updated and enhanced versions at no additional charge. A group training session is included, along with unlimited telephone support to answer questions on operating the model.
Click here to view a sample of Ehlers’ Budget Projection Model.
2018 Truth in Taxation
Minnesota school districts are required to hold Truth in Taxation Hearings again this year, and are required to discuss the current year budget and the proposed levy.
Ehlers can help you meet this requirement by preparing tax and budget presentation for your hearing. In addition, we will also provide a Pay 2018 tax calculator, which will allow you to test the tax impact of your district’s proposed levy on any home value, and test the impact of possible changes in the proposed levy.
Our presentation meets all the requirements of Minnesota State law, and includes basic information about the state’s school finance and property tax systems, the school district budget, and the district’s proposed tax levy. It also includes tables and graphs showing the estimated 2018 school tax levy for sample types and values of properties, compared with the previous three years. Delivering the presentation as is will take 15 to 20 minutes.
Click here to view a sample presentation.