Budgeting and Forecasting

Program Budgeting

Course Overview


Program Budgeting




Fundamentals of Local Government Budgeting, Budget Analyst Training Academy, or experience developing a local government budget.

Field of Study



Budgeting and Planning


Group-Live Class



Local governments have developed their budgets in essentially the same way for decades, and people have criticized the traditional budgeting approach for almost as long as it has been in use with local governments. A key criticism of the traditional approach is that it is not strategic. Spending is allocated to line items that concern the day-to-day operations of government. Line items like “travel,” “supplies” or “miscellaneous” don’t speak to how spending impacts big-picture results like public safety, mobility, health, etc. GFOA believes that program budgeting—developing and organizing the budget around programs, rather than mundane line items—is one way local governments can begin to move away from traditional line-item budgeting and develop budgets that better reflect the organization’s strategic priorities.

This workshop-style, discussion-based course will incorporate findings from GFOA’s Rethinking Budgeting research initiative and is designed for budget managers, budget analysts, and others looking to implement a program budget or enhance existing program budgeting initiatives within their local government. Participants should come ready to discuss their existing budget policies and practices in order to begin developing their own action plan for implementing program budgeting.

Learning Objectives

Those who successfully complete this seminar should be able to:

  • Identify the shortcomings of traditional line-item budgeting
  • Discuss alternatives to traditional line-item budgeting
  • Define what a program is for the purpose of budgeting
  • Understand the relationship between programs, strategic priorities, and outcomes
  • Develop strategies to collaborate to develop a program inventory
  • Evaluate budget policies, practices, and documents to determine how well they reflect your organization’s strategic priorities
  • Discuss methods for tracking programs in the chart of accounts and for allocating costs across programs

Who Will Benefit

CFO/Finance Director

Budget Manager

Budget Analyst

Department Director

Course Instructors

This course is taught by experienced budgeting practitioners and GFOA staff. Instructors will be familiar with GFOA best practices and have experience as finance director, budget director, or CEO of various size local governments.