PAUS 8161
Professor Gregory Streib
GCB 327, Monday, 4:30-7:00pm
Course Number  81791


If you pay taxes to the federal government, you help pay the interest on trillions of dollars in U.S. debt. Find out why we pay the taxes we do, how this money is spent, who is slicing the national budget pie and why some slices are bigger than others. In this course, students will learn about the technical and political nature of public budgeting. In addition, students will complete exercises of both a theoretical and applied nature. These include examination of current budget issues, assessment of recent academic research in the field of public budgeting and finance, and analysis of budgeting trends in a governmental or non-profit agency or program of the student's choice. This work requires student exposure to word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software. The primary focus of the course is on state and local government finance, the federal government also receives a substantial attention. 



Required Textbooks:

Robert D. Lee, Ronald W. Johnson, and Philip G. Joyce (2007). Public Budgeting Systems, 8th edition. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, Massachusetts. ISBN: 0-7637-3129-3.

This book should be available in the university bookstore.  I also recommend shopping on the Web to find the best prices.  This Web site might prove helpful.  Please notify the instructor immediately, if you have problems getting this book.  Additional readings are available on the Vista course home page.

Learning Objectives:

Students should be able to describe and explain the theoretical foundations of public budgeting in the United States.

Students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the political, legal, economic, social and cultural factors influencing budgets and budget making in America.  

Students should be able to describe and explain the technical nature of public budgeting in the United States, including the timetables and rules typically used at the three levels of government.

Students should be able to explain and compare the political aspects of budgeting with rational methods of resource allocation in the United States.

Students should be able to assess the financial status of public organizations.

Students should be able to effectively use Microsoft Excel to develop complex spreadsheets, meaningful analyses, and sophisticated graphics.

This class serves a specific and vital function in the MPA curriculum, and the content is set in a general way by the department faculty.  Minimal overlap is expected with PAUS 8141, which is a required class for all MPA students and the PAUS 8501 class that is required for the management and finance concentration.  The relationship between these different courses does need occasional monitoring, so please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about the content covered in this set of courses.

Office Hours:

I will hold formal office hours from 2pm-4pm on Monday in room 334 of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.  Meetings can also be scheduled at a mutually convenient time.  I will also be answering questions via telephone during office hours.  You can reach your instructor by telephone at 404-413-0116.  Stay on the line, if I am away, and you will get my voice mail.  Electronic mail can be sent via the Internet to  You can also Email me from our WebCT Vista home page.  Fax messages can be sent to 404-413-0104Online office hours are available on request for students with access to a computer and a headset microphone.  Learn more about your instructor here.

8161 On the Web:

The course home page can be found at this location.  You will have problems using Vista if you do not do a browser tune-up.  This is something that students are expected to do.  Any other problems can be addressed by contacting technical support.  Contact your instructor immediately if these resources are inadequate in any way.

Spreadsheet Skills:

Students who are not familiar with spreadsheets are strongly encouraged to complete at least the Level One Excel training offered by Element K (  Element K access is free to GSU students, and it is excellent.  You receive a certificate for each level of training that you complete.  There are also a number of specialized modules for more advanced users.  If using spreadsheets is new to you, then get started on this training during the first week of this course.  We will be getting right to work on practical spreadsheet applications.

As an incentive, your instructor will provide 10 bonus points to any student who submits a certificate of completion for Level 1, 2, or 3 Excel training prior to the third class.  The offer is for 10 points out of the 1000 points available in this course.  This is 1 percent of your final grade.

Midterm and the Final Exam:

There will be a midterm and a final exam in this class.  Both exams are take-homes, but they are structured differently.  The midterm is a traditional essay exam with three questions that students will have roughly three full days to complete.  Completed midterm exams should be in the range of 10-12 double-spaced pages.  The final is more along the lines of a project assignment.  The final requires students to develop a recommendation on an issue that relates directly to the material covered in the second half of the course.

Answers to questions that do a good job of conveying the material covered in class will receive grades in the B range.  The A answers will need to show more depth, which can come from either a careful reading of the class text or from other sources.  You will have a good idea of what will be asked on both exams before you see them, and thoughtful answers are expected.  We will talk more about how to write a good exam in class.

Homework Assignments:

There are a number of homework assignments in this class, and they must be submitted on the uLearn class home page.  The assignments are shown below:

Creating a Budget Request Exercise (30 Points): Develop a budget request for a local government development department.  Submit this on uLearn.

GFOA Best Practices Exercise (20 Points): Learn about the best practices identified by the Government Finance Officers Association.  Bring this to class.

Budgeting for a Job Training Program Exercise (40 Points): Develop a spreadsheet to analyze the funding challenges facing a job training program.  Submit this on uLearn.

The State of Grace Exercise (20 Points): Study the budgetary trends in the State of Grace, using deflators and accounting for inflation.  Submit this on uLearn. 

Least Squares Trend Line Exercise (20 Points): Develop a least squares trend analysis to estimate future energy consumption trends.  Submit this on uLearn.

Capital Budgeting Exercise (20 Points): Recommend capital budgeting priorities for a municipality.  Bring this to class.

Keep in mind that the homework exercises in this class are intended to be challenging.  Some do have specific correct answers, but this is not always the case.  Full credit is given for answers that are careful and thoughtful--well reasoned out.  Do not get anxious if you do not see a clear answer.  Nor should you worry if someone else tells you that they did something different.  Work each exercise out on your own and lay out your thoughts and/or analysis in an organized way.

The GFOA and capital budgeting exercises (second and last in the list) are sheets that need to be filled out, and you will be able to download an electronic copy of the pages from uLearn.  The completed assignment should be brought to class, given that your work will also be part of our class discussion.  If you forget to bring your exercise to class, I will also accept them via email until 11pm on the day of class.  This means you would have to scan your sheets and email an electronic document.  You may also fax your work to: 1-206-203-2056.  This is a toll call.




Class participation counts for 15 percent of your final grade.  Good attendance and keeping to yourself will get you a grade of 80 for participation.  Being actively engaged in class will get you a grade of 100.  Actively engaged students have new ideas to contribute to the class--they share a personal experience that relates to the class material or a related news story.  They are the ones eager to present the conclusions from a group discussion, they ask questions when other students are presenting, and they arrive at class with questions prepared when there are guest speakers in class.  Budgeting and finance is not a back room activity; it is about being actively involved in major events and important decisions, and this ought to be reflected in our class.  I will be looking for clear evidence of engagement. 


On-Line Class Options:


Gas prices getting you down?  We do have access to excellent online class tools.  I am open to holding classes online, if everyone agrees to attend with a microphone (and these can be purchased for $10.00, if needed).  Gas prices a quite unpredictable as I right this.  I certainly do not want students choosing between their education and their gas tank.  Likewise, I can hold online office hours.  The online class technology works far better than you might realize.  I do not drive to GSU, so this does not matter to me either way, but this might be something I can do that really makes this class work better for students.


Class Paper:



Trend Analysis Report

It is often necessary to assess the financial condition of an organization, both at the present time and for the foreseeable future.  For this assignment, you must choose a government, single agency or nonprofit organization and conduct an in-depth analysis of revenues and expenditures for the past six years. You are responsible for doing whatever research is needed to completely address all the required components of your report.  It is likely that you can get the appropriate legislation, fiscal data, and budget documents off the Web, but personal interviews might also be useful.  The approach you use is up to you.

Consider this to be a consulting report for a firm that has been asked to develop this analysis for a potential investor (as in the case of an economic development project) or a contributor.  If you are looking at a single agency, you may want to think of this project as as a component of a financial audit being conducted by GAO or a similar oversight agency.  Focus your work on providing the information that your client needs to make appropriate management decisions.  Tailoring your work for a specific audience will help you to develop a far more powerful analysis (and get a better grade).

Your final product should be no longer than 14 typed pages, double-spaced, not including title page, tables, footnotes, references, appendices, etc.  Cite the source clearly for any tables or figures that you do not complete yourself.  Please use standard margins and a standard font size.  You may complete this project with a partner, but this is something that you will need to arrange.  More information about this assignment will be provided on the class home page at an appropriate time.

Each trend analysis should contain the following components:

  1. Identify and describe the organization mission, goals, and objectives;

  2. Describe tax and non-tax revenue sources;

  3. Describe expenditure categories and trends (using appropriate tables and graphics;

  4. Analyze the budgetary process--political, incremental, crisis oriented, results oriented, or a hybrid;

  5. Assess future prospects and challenges--regarding revenues, expenditures, budget process, or other aspects;

  6. Evaluate the fiscal capacity and stability of the organization you studied.  This is an analysis, and you examined a financial system.  What did you learn about how well your organization functions?  Can your organization complete its mission and attain goals and objectives?

Apart from the specific instructions given here, the reports will be graded on how well they conform to the writing tips for 8161.  Think of the tips more as requirements than suggestions.

A 10 minute oral presentation is also required.  Each presentation should effectively summarize the highlights of a trend analysis, and this will account for 15 points.  An additional 5 points will be based on how well the presentation conforms to the 10 minute time limit.  The final 5 points will be based on the utility of your analysis for decision makers.  (This is much easier if you have defined an audience.)  You need to focus on the most important information to get a top grade.

Your final paper must be submitted as an assignment on uLearn.  Everyone must submit a paper, even if the paper was completed with a partner.


Plagiarism or Cheating:

Students need to do their own work in this class.  This is essential to mastering the knowledge and skills that we cover.  Students plagiarizing or cheating in any form will face disciplinary action that could result in receiving an ďFĒ in this course, or suspension or expulsion from the University.  If a student is ever unclear as to what constitutes plagiarism or cheating regarding work on written or oral presentations, please consult the student handbook and/or consult your instructor.  It is the studentís responsibility to know the meaning of plagiarism and when it occurs.  The following is reprinted from the GSU Student Handbook: 

Plagiarism is presenting another personís work as oneís own.  Plagiarism includes any paraphrasing or summarizing of the works of another person without acknowledgement, including the summarizing of another studentís work as oneís own.  Plagiarism frequently involves a failure to acknowledge in the text, notes, or footnotes the quotation of the paragraphs, sentences, or even a few phrases written or spoken by someone else.  The submission of research or completed papers or projects by someone else is plagiarism, as is the unacknowledged use of research sources gathered by someone else when that use is specifically forbidden by the faculty member.  Failure to indicate the extent and nature of oneís reliance on other sources is also a form of plagiarism.  It is also plagiarism to reuse material you prepared for different courses in the same program.  The student is responsible for understanding the legitimate use of sources, the appropriate ways of acknowledging academic, scholarly or creative indebtedness, and the consequences of violating this responsibility.

In this class, all work is expected to be completed individually except the Trend Analysis Report, which may be completed by a student and their partner.  Simple questions on the homework assignments are OK, but any assistance that might raise questions about authorship is totally unacceptable.


Final course grades will be determined as follows:

Course Component

Available Points

Participation 150

Homework Assignments



Mid-Term Exam



Trend Analysis (including a presentation score of 25 points)



Final Exam



Students must earn 900+ points to receive a grade of "A," 800+ points to earn a "B," and 700+ points to earn a grade of "C."  Incomplete grades will only be given for nonacademic reasons when advance arrangements have been made.  In this class, a B is the expected grade for good, competent work.  Grades in the A range are reserved for excellent work.  Excellent work goes beyond the minimum in some important way.  Plus and minus grades will be used in this class for final course grades when a grade is within 15 percent of a lower or higher grade.  For example, a final point total of 815 or less is a B-.  Likewise, a score of 885 or above is B+.  Note that there is no A+.

You will be able to check your scores on the class home page.  Grades on the exams and the written assignments will be presented on a 100 point scale, so that you can better evaluate your performance.  A weighted point total will be provided around the middle of the course, which will allow you to see how well you are doing.

Policy on Late Assignments:

Achieving our class goals requires steady progress, and penalties for late work help to keep everyone current.  The grade on any assignment turned in more than 10 minutes after the deadline (by my time) will be reduced one half of a letter grade (5 percent).  There will be another half letter grade reduction for each additional 6 hour period.  Assignments will not be accepted when they are more than two days late.




Class One, August 18

Introduction to the Course

Goals: Get introduced to budgeting in the public sector.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), chapters 1-2.

Note: Please complete the Budgeting Student Data Sheet, if you have not done this already.  You will find it on the uLearn page.  Click to download the Word form, fill it out, and email it back to me.  (This should be completed in Word for best results.)  Print the form and fill it out the old fashioned way, if needed.  You can scan it and email it, bring it to me, or fax it to 1-206-203-2056  This is a toll call.

Also, you may practice submitting an assignment in uLearn after class tonight.  It is a good idea to practice before you need to submit an assignment in this way. 


Class Two, August 25

Budget Cycles

Goals: Learn about budget processes for different levels of government.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 3; Writing Tips for 8161.

Case Assignment: Harvard Kennedy School Case 1344 ( 

Note: We will discuss how to produce written work for 8161.  Also, note that we are off next week for the Labor Day Holiday.


Class Three, September 8

Creating a Budget

We will complete the Creating a Budget Request homework exercise in class and also talk about the upcoming Budgeting for a Job Training Program exercise that is due on September 25th.  I recommend that you experiment with the budget request spreadsheet before class.  The instructions are great.

Note: We will meet in room 720 of the AYSPS building. 

Deadline, September 11 at 11pm:  You must submit your answer for the Creating a Budget Exercise. 


Class Four, September 15

Budgeting for Revenues

Goals: Learn about the different types of revenues that are used to fund governments.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapters 4.

Homework: Bring a completed GFOA Best Practices Assignment to class.


Class Five, September 22

Budget Preparation

Goals: Learn about the different analytical tools that can be used to help focus budgets on policy goals.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 6.

Case Assignment: Defining Equity (see uLearn). 

Deadline, September 25 at 11pm:  You must submit your answer for the Budgeting for a Job Training Program homework assignment. 


Class Six, September 29

Spreadsheets and Trend Analysis

Goals: Learn to conduct a basic trend analysis.

Readings: State of Grace Exercise; Johnson and Welch, Graphical Presentations (see uLearn).

Note: We will meet in room 720 of the AYSPS building.

Deadline, October 2 at 11pm:  You must submit your answer for the State of Grace homework assignment. 


Class Seven, October 6

Budget Approval and Execution

Goals: Learn how budget plans are finalized and implemented.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 10.

Case Assignment: Preparing a Budget (see uLearn). 


Class Eight, October 13

Mid-term Exam

We will not meet in our classroom.  You may take the exam at the location of your choice. 

Note: You will be able to access the exam on the uLearn home page at 5pm, and this is also where the exam will be submitted.

Deadline, October 16 at 11pm: You must submit your midterm exam prior to the deadline.


Class Nine, October 20

Advanced Budget Analysis (Trend Analysis with Regression)

Goals: Learn how to analyze the budget and spending patterns of a government or nonprofit agency.

Readings: Liner, "Projecting Local Government Revenue" (See uLearn).

Note: We will meet in room 720 of the AYSPS building.

Deadline, October 23 at 11pm: You must post your answer for the least squares homework assignment prior to the deadline.  There will be a special bulletin board for this purpose.


Class Ten, October 27 

Financial Management: Accounting, Auditing, and Information Systems

Goals: Learn how budgets are implemented and get introduced to techniques for interpreting government financial statements.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 11; Case Assignment: Harvard Kennedy School Case 949

(  There is also a very informative supplement for this case:



Class Eleven, November 3

Capital Assets: Planning and Budgeting, Analysis, and Management

Goals: Learn about how to make good decisions about capital investments.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 12.

Homework: Bring a completed Capital Budgeting assignment to class.


Class Twelve, November 10    

Capital Finance and Debt Management

Goals: Learn about the means for financing capital projects.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 13; Smith, "Position Paper: Know the Arguments" (see uLearn).

Case Assignment: Harvard Kennedy School Case 1730 ( 


Class Thirteen, November 17  

Trend Analysis Presentations

Goals: Learn more about trend analysis from seeing how others addressed this assignment.

Note: Missing class or leaving early gets you a presentation score of zero. 


Class Fourteen, November 24   

Work on your class tonight.

Your instructor will be available in 316 AYSPS to address any questions you may have.


Class Fifteen, December 1  

Theories of Budgeting

Goals: Develop a more refined perspective on the factors that drive the budgeting process.  You will also learn more about why reform efforts are difficult.

Readings: Rubin, "Budgeting: Theory, Concepts, Methods, and Issues" (see uLearn).

Note: There will be guest speakers in class tonight.  Also, the final will be distributed in class, and it will be discussed.


Final Exam, Due on Monday, December 8 at 11pm 

Note: You must submit your exam on the Vista home page. 

You must also submit your trend analysis report on the Vista homepage.  Everyone must submit a report, even if they were part of a two-person team.



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