Understanding a government’s financial health can be complex. A variety of financial ratios and indicators can help officials monitor their government’s financial status, but no single indicator, grade or score gives a complete representation of the government’s situation. That is why the Local Government Performance Center at the Washington State Auditor’s Office has developed a Financial Intelligence Tool (FIT) to help officials regularly assess and monitor their government’s financial health.
More than 400 local government users from across Washington have accessed FIT since the first version was released in February, 2015 to governments that report financial information using the BARS cash basis of accounting.
Most users of FIT are from smaller governments with fewer resources. Nearly half of the governments who have used FIT had less than one million dollars in 2014 operating revenue and more than 80% of governments had less than ten million dollars in in 2014 operating revenue. These government users come from every county in the state and represent 22 different types of governments, from counties and cities to conservation and air pollution districts.
FIT is an online, interactive program that displays historical financial information in a trend format, with graphs and charts that allow for easy analysis. It is designed to help local government officials who need a sound understanding of their organization’s finances, but who may not have the experience or confidence to analyze complex financial statements themselves.
A recent survey of FIT users showed that most are convinced of its potential as a tool for local governments but still see room to improve it. More than two thirds of survey respondents said that FIT is “definitely useful”. Local governments are already using FIT to:
- Conduct internal financial analysis
- Communicate financial information to elected officials
- Train new elected officials
- Communicate financial information to citizens
“We are now using it to set financial goals”
“Great tool. I am a Councilmember. I ran comparatives to evaluate our city solvency ratios and compare our liquidity to other cities to consider our financial health and trends. Very powerful. I love the information.”
“I hope to use it in budgeting later this year. So far we used it to show council and audience the improvement in position over 5 years of the former mayor’s oversight.”
“I am not a finance director or other city professional, just a small city elected, but I love it. Spread the word and get more people to try it and use it.”