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Office of the State Comptroller - Local Government & School Accountability

Publications: Accounting and Financial Information

Accounting and Reporting Manual for Counties, Cities, Towns and Villages:

The Accounting and Reporting Manual (ARM) has recently been updated to reflect recent accounting releases and account code additions, changes in legislation relating to the financial reporting requirement dates for submitting Annual Reports to OSC, reformatted easy to read journal entries, and the addition of chapters relating to accounting and reporting requirements for Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Municipal Libraries. (2011 Issue: Updated Codes for Water and Soil Conservation Districts). Complete Accounting and Reporting Manual for Counties, Cities, Towns and Villages [pdf - 2011]

For most recent Chart of Accounts see Chart of Accounts Query

Accounting and Reporting Manual for Fire Districts:

The Accounting and Reporting Manual for Fire Districts is a comprehensive guide for fire districts and others interested in accounting and financial reporting by fire districts in New York State. The manual provides an overview of accounting and financial reporting principles to be used by fire districts to account and report their financial activities. Complete Accounting and Reporting Manual for Fire Districts [pdf - 2014]

Accounting and Reporting Manual for Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs):

The Accounting and Reporting Manual (Manual) for IDAs is prescribed by the New York State Comptroller in accordance with the provision of General Municipal Law §36 and §859. The Manual has been designed to not only meet these statutory requirements, but also to assist the IDA in establishing and maintaining sound financial management systems. Accordingly, the accounting and reporting structures reflect the unique responsibilities and requirements contained in the enabling statutes. Complete Accounting and Reporting Manual for Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) [pdf - 2005]

Accounting and Reporting Manual for School Districts:

The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) has compiled the manual as a comprehensive accounting/reporting guide for school district officials and others interested in accounting and financial reporting by school districts in New York State. It provides an overview of generally accepted governmental accounting and financial reporting principles, and OSC’s interpretations of such principles, where pronouncements are silent or do not address problems common among school districts within New York State. Complete Accounting and Reporting Manual for School Districts [pdf - 2012]

Citizens’ Guide to Local Budgets:

With the resources in the guide, interested citizens should be able to understand what is contained in their local government’s budget. This in turn will allow citizens to understand the challenges facing their local government, what it is doing to manage them, and – perhaps most importantly – what it is doing with their tax dollars. The guide is intended to enable concerned citizens to evaluate how well the budget has been formulated. Complete Citizens’ Guide to Local Budgets [pdf - 2010]

Getting the Most Out of Your Internal Audit Function:

The brochure outlines additional opportunities, for Schools and BOCES, beyond the traditional financial transaction cycles (and requirements of the Five Point Plan) that could be gained from utilizing the internal audit function to its fullest extent. Getting the Most Out of Your Internal Audit Function Brochure [pdf - 2009]

Handbook for Town and Village Justices and Court Clerks:

The handbook for Town and Village Justices and Court Clerks is to assist in fulfilling the financial reporting requirements of the Town and Village courts. This publication may be requested in hardcopy from the Justice Court Fund by calling 518-473-6438 or 518-473-6830 or downloading the complete handbook for Town and Village Justices and Court Clerks [pdf - 2010].

Information for Town Officials:

A review of the basic duties of a town supervisor with statutory references designed to assist the newly elected supervisor in becoming familiar with the structure of town government and the supervisor's role in it. This is also a publication useful to town board members and other town officials. Complete Information for Town Officials Manual [pdf - Reissued 2013]

Local Government Management Guide (LGMG):

This publication is a series of modules that include technical information as well as suggested practices for local government management. The following modules are currently available on-line:

Capital Assets [pdf - 2008] - are defined as tangible or intangible assets that are used in operations and that have useful lives of more than one year, such as land and improvements to land, buildings and building improvements, vehicles, machinery, equipment, sewer, water and highway infrastructure. This module is designed to help local managers maximize the value received from their government's investment in capital assets such as: risk assessment; asset protection; asset maintenance; and asset performance.

Cash Management Technology [pdf - 2010] - The guide is designed to give the reader an overview of electronic cash management technologies, as well as the internal controls needed to help detect fraud and ensure that all transactions are captured. Areas of discussion will include the use of online banking, electronic transfers of funds, accepting credit/debit cards, remote deposit capture, lockboxes, as well as common protection practices to safeguard your cash. A key concept is that classic internal controls, if well designed, all work well with the new cash technologies.

Financial Condition Analysis [pdf - 2008] - The guide is designed to help you analyze the financial condition of your local government or school district. It includes sections on Defining Financial Condition, Assessing Financial Condition, Using Analytical Tools to Evaluate Financial Condition, and Improving Financial Condition Through Corrective Action. Appendixes help highlight issues and trends in your government's operations and include a glossary of frequently used financial terms and a listing of data resources that may be helpful in conducting financial condition analysis.

Fiscal Oversight Responsibilities of the Governing Board [pdf - 2014] - The module, Fiscal Oversight Responsibilities, was developed to help board members and other managers understand and administer key fiscal oversight responsibilities. This module covers the following: reviewing fiscal objectives and associated risks that should encompass all operational areas; establishing policies to help achieve fiscal objectives and address significant risks; and monitoring adherence to established policies to ensure that all objectives are being met and that all identified risks are routinely controlled.

Improving the Effectiveness of Your Claims Auditing Process [pdf - 2013] - The guide was written as a resource for those governing bodies and officials who are responsible for the audit of claims. Hopefully the information contained in this guide will be valuable for new board members and inexperienced claims auditors and a useful refresher for these who have been previously involved with claims auditing.

Information Technology Governance [pdf - 2012] - The purpose of this management guide is intended to make the oversight of information technology less daunting by providing a template for understanding and strengthening controls over IT.

Internal Controls:

The Practice of Internal Controls [pdf - 2010] - The purpose of this management guide is to provide practical information about internal controls for local government financial operations.

Management's Responsibility for Internal Controls [pdf - 2010] - This guide is designed to introduce local government and school managers and officials to the components of an integrated internal control framework.

Investing and Protecting Public Funds [pdf - 2011] - The guide includes the following sections about the fundamentals of investing and protecting local government funds in New York State:

  • Prudence in Investments
  • Actively Monitor Cash Flow
  • Investment of Public Funds
  • Protection of Deposits and Investments
  • Investment Policy
  • Other Topics

Multiyear Capital Planning [pdf - 2009] - This guide will address the process for developing an effective capital plan. It will discuss:

  • Developing a capital planning process
  • Creating an asset inventory
  • Prioritizing capital projects
  • Assessing budgetary impacts
  • Financing capital acquisitions
  • Adopting a capital plan and budget
  • Monitoring plan results.

Additional information on capital planning can be obtained in the following Local Government Management Guides: "Financial Condition Analysis [pdf]," "Understanding the Budget Process [pdf]," "Capital Assets [pdf]," "Reserves [pdf]," and "Strategic Planning [pdf]."

Multiyear Financial Planning: With New Fiscal Performance Plan Requirements [pdf - 2007]. Although multiyear financial planning is a requirement for all cities and three villages in New York State, it can be a useful tool for any local government. This guide is intended to walk readers through the essentials of financial planning, including how to:

  • Develop good long-term revenue and expenditure projections;
  • Create practical goals, local actions and performance measures for fiscal change;
  • Assess prior years’ performance; and
  • Draw those projections together in a useful document for decision-maker.

In order to help local officials get started, the Comptroller's Office has developed multiyear finanical planning resources including an on-line tutorial which updates the Multiyear Financial Planning Guide, a self-assessment quiz, and spreasheet based planning templates for municipalites and schools.

New for all cities and villages that are required to complete plans for the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities Program: Due to a lack of funding increases in fiscal year 2010 and subsequent years, cities are not required to submit full fiscal performance plans, but still must complete and certify multiyear financial plans. The basic template is sufficient for this purpose, although municipalities wishing to use the more comprehensive template - which is an update of the template most cities used in FY 2008 and 2009 - may do so. All fiscal year 2011 plans must be certified to the Division of Budget by March 31, 2012, and copies may be sent to the Office of the State Comptroller and Division of the Budget at that time as well. For the latest information see Aid and Incentive to Municipalities.

Personal Service Cost Containment [pdf - 2008] - The guide is designed to assist local governments and school districts contain certain personal service costs. It is broken down into the following sections:

  • Containing Health Insurance Costs
  • Minimizing Unemployment Insurance Costs
  • Managing Workers’ Compensation Costs
  • Overtime Planning and Management

The suggestions in this guide are ideas for you to consider and possibly utilize in the management of your operations and in the development of your annual budget. You will need to tailor these cost savings opportunities to fit the requirements and needs of your local government or school district.

Reserve Funds [pdf - 2010] - This guide describes the types of reserve funds that local governments and school districts can establish and maintain. In general, reserve funds have specific intended purposes and requirements as set forth in law. This guide contains a summary of the many different types of reserve funds authorized by New York State statutes. The descriptions included in this guide provide information on:

  • General provisions for each type of reserve fund
  • Purposes for which each reserve fund may be used
  • Special provisions, if applicable, that pertain to certain reserve funds, such as:
    • Maximum total reserve balance permitted
    • Maximum annual contribution in any fiscal year
    • Referendum requirements for establishing or expending from reserve funds
    • Permitted uses of any unobligated or excess reserve funds.

Because of the complexity of some of the legal requirements relating to the establishment, funding, expenditure, and dissolution of reserve funds, we encourage local officials to consult with their municipal attorney and to exercise professional judgment in determining how best to include reserve funds in the overall financial management policies of their government or school district.

Seeking Competition in Procurement [pdf - 2013] This guide is designed as a layperson's guide to relevant information. When necessary, we encourage you to seek the advice of your attorney on legal issues pertaining to bidding and other contractual arrangements for the acquisition of goods and services. This guide provides an overview of the following procurement topics: Who is Responsible?; Planning and Promotion; Competitive Bidding; E-Bids; Cooperative Purchasing; State and County Contracts; Procurement Policy and Procedures; Professional Services and Insurance; Preferred Sources; Environmentally Responsible Purchasing; and Ethics and Conflicts of Interest.

In addition to these topics, Appendix A defines the types and dollar thresholds of purchases and public works subject to competitive bidding or to local policy and procedures.

Appendix B will assist you in updating or creating your own procurement policy and procedures. Seeking competition in public procurements is a complex topic and the information contained in this guide is not a substitute for the services of your locality's attorney.

Shared Services in Local Governments [pdf - 2009] - Shared services can help municipalities increase effectiveness and efficiency in their operation. As municipal responsibilities become increasingly complex and demanding, municipalities should explore shared services and other cooperative opportunities as a way to reduce or avoid costs, improve service delivery, or maintain services.

The module is intended to provide information on the following:

  • A brief overview of the legal authority for cooperative ventures
  • How to get started on the "right foot"
  • How to conduct a cooperative study
  • How to develop a mission statement
  • How to keep the momentum going
  • How to identify the stakeholders
  • How to effectively communicate with the participants
  • What to include in project reports
  • How our Office can help
  • Website references
  • Agencies that can provide assistance

Strategic Planning [pdf - 2009] - This module is designed for both elected and appointed local officials who are interested in strategic planning. This guide assumes no prior knowledge of strategic planning and takes a very basic approach to the rudiments involved in creating and implementing such a strategic plan. The module aims to convey the following: description of strategic planning: What it is, key terms and concepts; why strategic planning is beneficial; how to apply this technique; who should be involved, and at which stages; and offers a "how-to" guide that takes you from inception to implementation.

Travel and Conference Expense Management [pdf - 2012] - One of the purposes of the guide is to provide you with an overview of key elements that you should consider when developing or updating your travel and conference policy. The guide also includes practical discussions on establishing lodging, meal, and mileage rates; standardized travel forms; using credit cards and cash advances to pay for travel; extension of travel for personal reasons; travel expenses of spouses and other non-employees; and other topics associated with the management of travel and conference expenses. We have also included information pertinent to volunteer firefighters and online training.

Understanding the Budget Process [pdf - 2008] - The guide is a resource for those governing bodies and officials who are responsible for preparing, developing, and monitoring the annual budget. The information contained in the guide will be helpful to chief executive officers, budget officers, business officials, finance officers, department heads, board members, and the public. The guide provides the groundwork for the development, preparation, and monitoring of the annual budget.

Technical Assistance Bulletins:

The Division is issuing bulletins designed to provide guidance related to recurring issues found in our audits of local governments. Technical Assistance Bulletins include recommendations for improving local government operations and preventing the operational and internal control problems identified in our audits.