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Financial Office in Fargo



Fargo, North Dakota – Terri Gayhart, Fargo’s Finance Director, spoke about the Finance Office, collecting public feedback, and other goals within the department for the future.

Mostly responsible for the city’s budgeting is Fargo’s Finance Office. Budgeting, financial reporting, cash management, debt administration, accounting, special assessment administration, risk management, and pensions are among the duties listed on the website of the Finance Office. The duties also include overseeing and conducting research into other sources of income, such as taxes and other levies set by the city.

The office also gathers requests and budget estimates from all city departments; these requests could be for the agency to hire more employees, purchase equipment, buy land, or undertake any new initiatives. They create a master plan for the following year using those outlooks and compare it to revenues and expenses. Although the projections are part of the final plan that is presented to Fargo’s City Commission, the finance office does not offer final approval for city plans. When current spending exceeds planned revenue during hard times when additional sources of income are only accessible sometimes, and when the topic of setting aside money for future needs rather than spending it on present goals and expenses, these discussions can get problematic.

“You come up with a conservative budget and if you come up with excess revenue or something like that, you set it aside and come up with a good plan on how you are going to utilize it, “said Gayhart.

Gayhart focused on the necessity to acquire and incorporate public comments in their conversations going ahead during the interview, among other things. Gayhart claims that this is difficult in a variety of ways, which she mostly attributes to a lack of curiosity.

“I’m very disappointed that every year there is no one who comes to budget workshops, I’ve been at budget workshops where the public is invited. I’ve been to many public hearings and no one shows up, “said Gayhart, “I think they have to start caring and you have to have that communication. People have to use their mouth and talk to their government and make sure they are handling the things that are important to them.”

The development of an outreach program will be pursued, according to Gayhart, who also advises the public to “be ready” to provide input to the department. She claims that they are interested in hearing any input, particularly any criticism. Gayhart claims that this will also increase openness between municipal employees and residents, which she claims will enhance Fargo and provide those making choices with a sense of closure.

In the future, Gayhart claims that the department is taking steps to increase its capacity for criticism and transparency. She claims that one of the main ways this will be achieved is by making the current budget layouts simpler, clearer, and easier to understand for a general observer. Another approach to make this better for municipal workers is to buy the software she says will eliminate many of the issues the Finance Office is having and help the office run more smoothly.