Georgia Law on Local Government Budgets
As used in this article, the term:
(1) "Budget" means a plan of financial operation embodying an estimate of proposed expenditures during a budget period and the proposed means of financing them.
(2) "Budget officer" means that local government official charged with budget preparation and administration for the local government. The official title of the local government budget officer shall be as provided by local law, charter, ordinance, or appropriate resolution of the governing authority.
(3) "Budget ordinance," "ordinance," or "resolution" means that governmental action which appropriates revenues and fund balances for specified purposes, functions, or activities for a budget period.
(4) "Budget period" means the period for which a budget is proposed or a budget ordinance or resolution is adopted.
(5) "Capital projects fund" means a fund used to account for financial resources to be used for the acquisition or construction of major capital facilities other than those financed by resources from proprietary type activities which are accounted for in enterprise funds or those financed with funds held by the local government in a trustee capacity.
(6) "Debt service fund" means a fund used to account for the accumulation of resources for and the payment of general long-term debt principal and interest.
(7) "Enterprise fund" means a fund used to account for operations that are financed and operated in a manner similar to private business enterprises where the intent of the governing authority is that the costs of providing goods and services to the general public on a continuing basis be financed or recovered primarily through user charges or where the governing authority has decided that periodic determination of revenues earned, expenses incurred, or net income is appropriate for capital maintenance, public policy, management control, accountability, or other purposes. For purposes of this paragraph, the term "costs" means expenses, including depreciation.
(8) "Fiduciary fund" means those trust and agency funds used to account for assets held by a local government in a trustee capacity or as an agent for individuals, private organizations, other governmental units, or other funds.
(9) "Fiscal year" means the period for which a budget is proposed or a budget ordinance or resolution is adopted for the local government's general fund, each special revenue fund, if any, and each debt service fund, if any.
(10) "Fund" means a fiscal and accounting entity with a self-balancing set of accounts recording cash and other financial resources, together with all related liabilities and residual equities or balances, and changes therein, which is segregated for the purpose of carrying on specific activities or attaining certain objectives in accordance with special regulations, restrictions, or limitations.
(11) "General fund" means the fund used to account for all financial resources except those required to be accounted for in another fund.
(12) "Governing authority" means that official or group of officials responsible for governance of the unit of local government.
(13) "Internal service fund" means a fund used to account for the financing of goods or services provided by one department or agency to other departments or agencies of the governmental unit or to other governmental units on a cost-reimbursement basis.
(14) "Legal level of control" means the lowest level of budgetary detail at which a local government's management or budget officer may not reassign resources without approval of the governing authority. The legal level of control shall be, at a minimum, expenditures for each department for each fund for which a budget is required. This does not preclude the governing authority of a local government from establishing a legal level of control at a more detailed level of budgetary control than the minimum required legal level of control.
(15) "Special revenue fund" means a fund used to account for the proceeds of specific revenue sources, other than those for major capital projects or those held by the government in a trustee capacity, that are legally restricted to expenditure for specified purposes.
(16) "Unit of local government," "unit," or "local government" means a municipality, county, consolidated city-county government, or other political subdivision of the state. Such terms do not include any local school district or board of education. For purposes of this paragraph, "county" includes any county officer who is paid in whole or in part on a salary basis and over whom the county governing authority exercises budgetary authority.
36-81-3. Establishment of fiscal year; requirement of annual balanced budget; adoption of budget ordinances or resolutions generally; budget amendments; uniform chart of accounts.
(a) The governing authority shall establish by ordinance, local law, or appropriate resolution a fiscal year for the operations of the local government.
(b) (1) Each unit of local government shall adopt and operate under an annual balanced budget for the general fund, each special revenue fund, and each debt service fund in use by the local government. The annual balanced budget shall be adopted by ordinance or resolution and administered in accordance with this article.
(2) Each unit of local government shall adopt and operate under a project-length balanced budget for each capital projects fund in use by the government. The project-length balanced budget shall be adopted by ordinance or resolution in the year that the project initially begins and shall be administered in accordance with this article. The project-length balanced budget shall appropriate total expenditures for the duration of the capital project.
(3) A budget ordinance or resolution is balanced when the sum of estimated revenues and appropriated fund balances is equal to appropriations.
(4) Nothing contained in this Code section shall preclude a local government from adopting a budget for any funds used by the local government other than those specifically identified in paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection, including enterprise funds, internal service funds, and fiduciary funds.
(c) For each fiscal year beginning on or after January 1, 1982, each unit of local government shall adopt and utilize a budget ordinance or resolution as provided in this article.
(d) Nothing contained in this Code section shall preclude a local government from amending its budget so as to adapt to changing governmental needs during the budget period. Amendments shall be made as follows, unless otherwise provided by charter or local law:
(1) Any increase in appropriation at the legal level of control of the local government, whether accomplished through a change in anticipated revenues in any fund or through a transfer of appropriations among departments, shall require the approval of the governing authority. Such amendment shall be adopted by ordinance or resolution;
(2) Transfers of appropriations within any fund below the local government's legal level of control shall require only the approval of the budget officer; and
(3) The governing authority of a local government may amend the legal level of control to establish a more detailed level of budgetary control at any time during the budget period. Said amendment shall be adopted by ordinance or resolution.
(e) The Department of Community Affairs, in cooperation with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association, shall develop local government uniform charts of accounts. The uniform charts of accounts, including any subsequent revisions thereto, shall require approval of the state auditor prior to final adoption by the Department of Community Affairs. All units of local government shall adopt and use such initial uniform charts of accounts within 18 months following adoption of the uniform charts of accounts by the Department of Community Affairs. The department shall adopt the initial local government uniform charts of accounts no later than December 31, 1998. The department shall be authorized to grant a waiver delaying adoption of the initial uniform charts of accounts for a period of time not to exceed one year upon a clear demonstration that conversion of the accounting system of the requesting local government, within the time period specified in this subsection, would be unduly burdensome.
(f) The department's implementation of subsection (e) of this Code section shall be subject to Chapter 13 of Title 50, the "Georgia Administrative Procedure Act."
36-81-4. Appointment of budget officer; performance of duties by governing authority in absence of appointment; utilization of executive budget.
(a) Unless provided to the contrary by local charter or local Act, each local government may appoint a budget officer to serve at the will of the governing authority.
(b) In those units of local government in which there is no budget officer, the governing authority shall perform all duties of the budget officer as set forth in Code Section 36-81-5.
(c) Nothing in this Code section shall preclude the utilization of an executive budget, under which an elected or appointed official, authorized by charter or local law and acting as the chief executive of the governmental unit, exercises the initial budgetary policy-making function, while another individual, designated as provided in this Code section as budget officer, exercises the administrative functions of budgetary preparation and control.
36-81-5. Preparation of proposed budget; submission to governing authority; public review of proposed budget; notice and conduct of budget hearing.
(a) By the date established by each governing authority, in such manner and form as may be necessary to effect this article, and consistent with the local government's accounting system, the budget officer shall prepare a proposed budget for the local government for the ensuing budget period.
(b) The proposed budget shall, at a minimum, be an estimate of the financial requirements at the legal level of control for each fund requiring a budget for the appropriate budget period and shall be in such form and detail, with such supporting information and justifications, as may be prescribed by the budget officer or the governing authority. The budget document, at a minimum, shall provide, for the appropriate budget period, a statement of the amount budgeted for anticipated revenues by source and the amount budgeted for expenditures at the legal level of control. In accordance with the minimum required legal level of control, the budget document shall, at a minimum, provide a statement of the amount budgeted for expenditures by department for each fund for which a budget is required. This does not preclude the governing authority of a local government from preparing a budget document or establishing a legal level of control at a more detailed level of budgetary control than the minimum required legal level of control.
(c) On the date established by each governing authority, the proposed budget shall be submitted to the governing authority for that body's review prior to enactment of the budget ordinance or resolution.
(d) On the day that the proposed budget is submitted to the governing authority for consideration, a copy of the budget shall be placed in a public location which is convenient to the residents of the unit of local government. The governing authority shall make every effort to provide convenient access to the residents during reasonable business hours so as to accord every opportunity to the public to review the budget prior to adoption by the governing authority. A copy of the budget shall also be made available, upon request, to the news media.
(e) A statement advising the residents of the local unit of government of the availability of the proposed budget shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the jurisdiction of the governing authority. The notice shall be published during the week in which the proposed budget is submitted to the governing authority. In addition, the statement shall also advise the residents that a public hearing will be held at which time any persons wishing to be heard on the budget may appear. The statement shall be a prominently displayed advertisement or news article and shall not be placed in that section of the newspaper where legal notices appear.
(f) At least one week prior to the meeting of the governing authority at which adoption of the budget ordinance or resolution will be considered, the governing authority shall conduct a public hearing, at which time any persons wishing to be heard on the budget may appear.
(g) (1) The governing authority shall give notice of the time and place of the budget hearing required by subsection (f) of this Code section at least one week before the budget hearing is held. The notice shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the jurisdiction of the governing authority. The statement shall be a prominently displayed advertisement or news article and shall not be placed in that section of the newspaper where legal notices appear.
(2) The notice required by paragraph (1) of this subsection may be included in the statement published pursuant to subsection (e) of this Code section in lieu of separate publication of the notice.
(h) Nothing in this Code section shall be deemed to preclude the conduct of further budget hearings if the governing body deems such hearings necessary and complies with the requirements of subsection (e) of this Code section.
36-81-6. Adoption of budget ordinance or resolution; form of budget.
(a) On a date after the conclusion of the hearing required in subsection (f) of Code Section 36-81-5, the governing authority shall adopt a budget ordinance or resolution making appropriations in such sums as the governing authority may deem sufficient, whether greater or less than the sums presented in the proposed budget. The budget ordinance or resolution shall be adopted at a public meeting which shall be advertised in accordance with the procedures set forth in subsection (e) of Code Section 36-81-5 at least one week prior to the meeting.
(b) The budget may be prepared in any form that the governing authority deems most efficient in enabling it to make the fiscal policy decisions embodied in the budget, but such budget shall be subject to the provisions of this article.