Item in a Municipal or County Budget

A municipal (town, village or city) or county budget allocates funds to departments or functions. For example, the budget will provide a specific amount to the County Department of Social Services. Local governments cannot make binding commitments at the line-item level, meaning they cannot specify funds to be used for a specific purpose (e.g., planting trees). Instead, they can state a commitment to fund a specific government activity or program and allocate funds to a department to implement that funding through a resolution.

For example, in 2015 Wake County Commissioners pledged for the first time an investment that will provide high quality pre-kindergarten for more four-year- olds. The School District has agreed to allocate the funds.

How Does it Work?

When making its budget request, a department or function—such as the public schools—in a municipality or county identifies the full scope of funding needed. County, municipal managers and local elected officials can outline the financial resources needed to provide identified services or programming; however, they cannot make commitments at the level of specific activities or programs. Such commitments are made by department heads or with guidance from elected officials. Once passed by the city council or county commissioners, local budgets are available on county or municipal websites and provide summary level detail of appropriations.

What is it Used for Now?

Municipal and county budgets are used to provide a variety of services from emergency management, planning, water and sewer to police, social services, public health and recreation. Each municipality and county determines what services are provided as only some are mandated by federal or state law.