The Governmental Accounting Standards Board has expanded and updated its guide to understanding local government financial statements, and plans to publish more taxpayer-oriented guides later this year.

The first guide in the series provides a primer on local government annual reports and is written for taxpayers, elected representatives, and other people who need information about cities, counties, towns and villages.

The publication, “What You Should Know about Your Local Government’s Finances: A Guide to Financial Statements, 2nd edition,” is the first in an expanded, revised and updated series to be published this year by GASB, the not-for-profit organization that sets accounting standards for local and state governments.

The guide includes major new reporting requirements issued since the publication of the original guide in 2000, in areas including retiree health insurance and fund balance. The guide provides annotated examples of more than 50 government financial statements, notes, and schedules; a storyline designed to help the reader understand the concepts; an introduction to basic financial ratios used to analyze government finances; boxes and sidebars further exploring issues raised in the text; an overview of governmental accounting and financial reporting; and a glossary of terms.

“Meeting the needs of taxpayers and other financial statement users is a primary objective of the GASB,” said GASB chairman Robert H. Attmore in a statement. “However, when users have difficulty understanding the financial statements issued by local governments, the value of that information is diminished. For that reason, the guide is written from the layperson’s perspective, without excessive accounting jargon, but with plenty of examples of how to use the information in local government financial reports.”

The book can be ordered for $14.95 plus shipping by visiting www.gasb.org/store, or by calling the GASB Order Department at (800) 748-0659.

GASB plans to publish additional guides in the months ahead, including “What You Should Know about Your School District’s Finances, 2nd edition,” to assist taxpayers, parents, teachers, and educational advocacy groups in deciphering financial statements of independent school districts.

Another upcoming publication, “What You Should Know about the Finances of Your Business-Type Activities,” will be a new guide devoted to the unique features of financial reporting by the activities that governments operate similar to businesses by charging fees in return for service, such as public utilities, airports, public hospitals, and public colleges and universities.

Also coming up is “An Analysts’ Guide to Government Financial Statements, 2nd edition,” written for experienced and frequent users of governmental financial statements and explores basic analytical techniques to assess economic condition, financial position, liquidity, solvency, fiscal capacity, and risk exposure in a state or local government report.

These soon-to-be-published guides may be ordered when they become available in the first half of this year.

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