PAUS/PMAP 8161, Professor Gregory Streib
Classroom South 507, Monday, 4:30-7:00pm
Course Number 81544


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 specific governmental or non-profit agency or program. Students will build their skills in analytical writing, Excel, financial analysis, and presenting. The primary focus of the course is on state and local government finance, though the federal government also receives 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 books 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. 

There are additional readings available on the Vista course home page, and there are several Kennedy School cases that students need to purchase.

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 effectively use Microsoft Excel to develop complex spreadsheets, meaningful analyses, and sophisticated graphics.

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

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.

I will hold formal office hours from 2pm-4pm on Monday in room 316 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) 939-1235.  Stay on the line, if I am away, and you will get my voice mail. This is a Google Voice number, and it rings multiple phones, emails me messages, et cetera. There is no need to call multiple numbers to reach me. Electronic mail can be sent via the Internet to Online office hours are available on request for students with access to a computer and a headset microphone.

Effective Email Communication:

Email has become our primary mode of communication, and needs to be done well. Consider these basic requirements as essential when communicating with your instructor.

  • Many issues play out over a span of time, and they should be confined to a single email thread. That is, always respond to the previous email, and always make sure that the previous emails remain intact.
  • Pick one email address at the start of class for me and for yourself and stick with it. I can find your emails easier if they all come from the same place, Likewise, spreading your correspondence with me across several email accounts does not help me to understand you better.
  • Do not send the same email and/or attachments to me multiple times. I make it my job to keep track of your correspondence. Multiple mailings are not necessary. Reminders when you do not hear from me are welcome.
  • I certainly prefer that you use an email address with some portion of your name in it. GSU gives you such an ID, for example.
  • You should always use a signature that gives your contact information, should I need additional information. Your signature should list other email addresses, if you are sending emails to me from multiple accounts.
  • You need to use subject lines that say something meaningful. Imagine someone revisiting this topic a month later. Will the subject line help me to find this email at a later point in time? Remember that class issues often span 3-4 months.

  8161 on the Web:

The course home page can be on uLearn You will have problems using uLearn if you do not do observe the browser recommendations. This is something that students are expected to do.  Submitting files on Learn is required, and sending work via email is not acceptable. The only time work will be accepted outside uLearn is when it is accompanied by a evidence that you first tried to work with technical support. Make it your responsibility to make sure that you can use uLearn successfully.

Students occasionally send me back up copies for their uLearn work by email, and this not necessary or desirable. uLearn shows your submitted files, and you can even view them. This is all the proof you need of a successful file submission. Learn the features of the assignment drop box.

Midterm and the Final Exam:

There will be a midterm and a final exam in this class.  The midterm can be completed at any location, but you will have a limited amount of time to complete your work.  You will access the exam online and submit it online by the required deadline.  The final will be available for several days, and it will also be accessed and submitted online.  The midterm is a standard essay format, but the final must be in the form of a position paper.  A thorough knowledge of the class text book will be needed to do well on both exams.  You will be able to practice submitting assignments online before anything is due.

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 (20 Points): Develop a budget request for a local government development department.  Submit this on uLearn.

Budgeting for a Job Training Program Exercise (50 Points): Develop a spreadsheet to analyze the funding challenges facing a job training program. 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.

The State of Grace Exercise (20 Points): Study the budgetary tr.ends 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.

Water Authority Financial Analysis (50 Points): Carefully review both cases before class and work on the budget template that will be provided.  Submit this on uLearn.

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

Class Attendance:

Class Attendance counts for 50 points (5 percent of your final grade).  Each class missed lowers your point total by 5 points. There is some allowance for arriving late and early departures, but it is my discretion as to whether these events count as a point deduction. The penalty will be waived for extraordinary events. Please remind me to take attendance for each class!

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 15 bonus points to any student who submits a certificate of completion for Level 1, 2, or 3 Excel training prior to the fourth class.  The offer is for a maximum of 15 points out of the 1000 points available in this course, regardless of the number of Excel levels you achieve.  This is 1.5 percent of your final grade.

Class Project:

There is one major writting assignment in this class. :


Trend Analysis Paper

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 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 stay within the specified time limit, which may vary from class-to-class. Consider your audience to be important decision-makers and try to provide information that will be very useful for them. Focus on your analysis and recommendations and not on describing your organization.

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 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.

The Trend Analysis may be completed by a student and their partner.  Other required assignments and exams should be the sole products of the individual(s) whose name is on them.

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, up to a 50% reduction. I will accept late work at any point in the class with a 50% penalty. You are always better off completing assignments, no matter how late they are.


Final course grades will be determined as follows:

Course Component

Available Points

Attendance 50

Homework Assignments



Mid-Term Exam



Final Exam


Trend Analysis 250

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.

PMAP Career Services Office:

The Department of Public Management and Policy (PMAP) provides career support services to all current PMAP students and alumni.  Students are invited to meet with Dr. Maggie Tolan, the Director of Academic Programs and Alumni Affairs, to discuss resume writing, interviewing, job searching, internship development, and networking.  To see what career panels, career fairs, and events are available this semester, please visit:   Make the most of your education by utilizing these great resources.  Students are encouraged to arrange an individualized appointment with Dr. Tolan by emailing:  Her office is located in room 328 in the PMAP Department.


Class One, August 17

Introduction to the Course

Goals: Get introduced to budgeting in the public sector.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS): Readings on and two will be reviewed in class, but they will not be formally assigned.

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. You can also print the form and fill it out the old fashioned way, if needed.  You can scan the printed form, 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.  This is one way to make sure that you have avoided any browser problems. It is possible that you could view the page just fine and then find yourself unable to complete a specific task, like submitting your work for a grade.


Class Two, August 24

Guest Speakers from the Georgia Office of Planning and Budget

Goals: Learn about career options, cutting edge budget developments, and budget processes for different levels of government. Come prepared to ask questions.


Class Three, August 31

Budget Cycles

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

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 3. Your instructor will provide a set of "questions for the day" that will guide the class discussion, and this will be the pattern for all book-related lectures.


Class Four, September 14

Creating a Budget/Budgeting for a Job Training Program

We will start off class by creating a budget request in Excel and then students will meet in groups to review the Job Training Program spreadsheet assignment. It will help if you download the online materials from uLearn that your instructor will provide and bring them to class on a USB drive. Also, keep in mind that the latest version of Excel is used in the AYSPS Lab. (Do not go home with a file that you cannot open.)

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

You must submit the Creating a Budget Request Exercise Assignment on the Vista homepage by 11:30pm on September 19.


Class Five, September 21

Canceled Due to Weather


Class Six, September 28

Budgeting for Revenues

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

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapters 4; bring an article on a public revenue issue that interests you; you may be asked to share it with the class.

You must submit the Job Training Program Spreadsheet Assignment on the Vista homepage by 11:30pm on October 3.


Class Seven, October 5

Budget Expenditures

Goals: Learn about the different analytical tools and management processes that can be used to help focus budgets on policy outcomes.

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

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


Class Eight, October 12

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.

You must also submit your Midterm Exam on the Vista homepage by 11:30pm on October 16.


Class Nine, October 19

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.

You must submit your State of Grace Trend Analysis Assignment on the Vista homepage by 11:30pm on October 24.


Class Ten, October 26 

Balancing the Budget

Goals: We will learn more about the looming federal budget deficit and explore possible solutions.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 9. Bring an article related to the federal budget deficit that interests you. You will be asked to share their article with the class (tell us a bit about it).


Class Eleven, November 2

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.

You must submit your Least Squares Trend Analysis on the Vista homepage by 11:30pm on November 7


Class Twelve, November 9  

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:


You must also submit your Water Authority Financial Analysis on the Vista homepage by 11:30pm on November 18


Class Thirteen, November 16  

Capital Assets: Planning and Budgeting, Analysis, and Management

Goals: Learn about the means for financing capital projects.

Readings: Public Budgeting Systems (PBS), Chapter 13.


Class Fourteen, November 23   

Trend Analysis Presentations

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

You must also submit your trend analysis report on the Vista homepage by 11:30pm on December 2.  Everyone must submit a report, even if they were part of a two-person team.


Class Fifteen, November 30  

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) and Chapter 13; Smith, "Position Paper: Know the Arguments" (see uLearn)..


Final Exam, Available December 1/Due on Thursday, December 10 at 11pm 

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



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