October 20, 2023 at 12:27pm
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Article by Elena Ferrarin
Northbrook Park District
The award goes to state and local governments that adhere to the highest principles of governmental budgeting. The selection process examines how well budgets serve as policy documents, financial plans, operations guides and communications devices.
Receiving the award annually since 2000 is a testament to the park district’s finance department’s unwavering commitment to transparency, excellence and fiscal responsibility, Park District Executive Director Chris Leiner said.
“This recognition underscores our dedication to providing our stakeholders with budgets that not only meet high standards, but also reflect our organization’s commitment to sound financial management,” Leiner said. “It’s a symbol of our ongoing dedication to serving our community with financial integrity and accountability.”
The budget was led by Director of Finance and Technology Mike Tokar and Business Manager Ellen Drahos.
“The budget as a whole is a district exercise,” Tokar said. “All departments participate in leading a successful budget, and every leader in every division has a key role. We build a successful budget as a team, collectively, even though the finance department oversees it. It takes teamwork, collaboration, analysis, and a detailed review of historical trends and future projections.”
The park district’s budget begins January 1 and ends December 31. The budget process kicks off in September with fine-tuning in October and November. The final budget document is publicly presented in December for approval from the Northbrook Park District board of commissioners. The latest GFOA award recognized the district’s 2023 budget.
“Our guiding principle is thinking strategically about how we want to move forward as a district and best serve the community, while always holding fast to our mission of being financial stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Tokar added.
The 2023 budget was the first one produced under Tokar, who joined the district in June 2022 with several years of corporate budgeting experience.
Tokar also has introduced quarterly public updates that give a real-time overview of how the district is doing financially compared to budget projections. As of the last public update in June, the district had a favorable projection with revenues above budget and expenses below budget.
“We will continue to strive to carry on the park district’s record of high-caliber budgeting as we continue to incorporate GFOA best practices in the process,” Tokar said.