CPFO - Planning and Budgeting Outline

The Planning and Budgeting exam for the CPFO program covers fundamental aspects of planning, budgeting, and monitoring and includes policies and processes recommended for local governments. The exam will cover best practices in defining priorities, developing goals, engaging stakeholders, forecasting costs and revenues, allocating resources for operating and capital, communicating budget decisions, and monitoring both performance and financial outcomes. Specific topics will emphasize long-term planning, financial sustainability, and transparency.

Planning and Budgeting Outline



Percentage Weighting

Overall Governance

  • What is a budget?
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Legal Requirements



  • Overall Budget Policies
  • Strategic Planning
  • CIP
  • Long-Term Planning / Forecasting (Long-Term)



  • Revenue Diversification
  • Taxes / Fees
  • Grants


Budget Process

  • Approaches to Budget Process
  • Public Engagement
  • Priority Setting / Goal Definition
  • Budget Calendar / Structure
  • How to Cut the Budget?


Budget Analysis

  • Forecasting (Annual Projections)
  • Fiscal Impact Analysis / Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Policy Analysis / Economic Analysis


Budget Techniques

  • Basis of Budgeting (GAAP Accounting vs. Non-GAAP Budget)
  • Funds (Transfers / Allocations)
  • Cut-Back Budgeting / Budget Reductions
  • General Fund vs. Enterprise Fund
  • Capital Budget / Project Budget
  • Personnel/Salary Budget


Budget Monitoring

  • Variance Analysis
  • Budget Projections and Analysis
  • Performance Management



  • Budget Document
  • Internal Communications
  • Understanding of Financial Statements and Accounting
  • Elected Official / Public Communications and Reporting


Budget Outcomes

  • Measuring Outcomes / Accountability
  • Equity
  • Transparency


Exam Preparation

Candidates taking the planning and budgeting exam should have an understanding of the processes used by local governments to prepare the budget including strategies for long-term planning, public engagement, and policy analysis. In addition, knowledge of post-budget adoption functions including communications, budget monitoring and performance management will be included.

Emphasis will be on best practices in budgeting and how organizations can better utilize the budget process as a plan for allocating resources to align with priorities and needs and how the budget process can be used to promote overall engagement, transparency, and accountability. GFOA has numerous best practice statements, publications, research reports and articles on how to improve the budget process.

Resource Recommendations

GFOA recommends that CPFO candidate review the following materials to prepare for the exam.

GFOA Best Practices

Best Practices

GFOA best practices are developed by GFOA's committee on budgeting and represent the organization's recommended practices in common areas related to budgeting.


Publications available for purchase from GFOA to help prepare for the planning and budgeting exam include:

Research Reports / Free Publications

Available Training

GFOA offers the following training seminars that will help prepare for the planning and budget exam:

  • Fundamentals of a Local Government Budget
  • Budgeting Best Practices: Communicating the Budget
  • Budgeting Best Practices: Personnel Budgeting
  • Budgeting Best Practices: Budget Monitoring and Performance Measures
  • Budget Process 101 (Previously titled "Managing the Budget Process")
  • Preparing and Implementing a Capital Improvement Plan

View GFOA's Events Calendar

Additional Web Resources

Last updated January 18, 2022