Fiscal Budget Requires Thought and Effort

Fiscal Budget Requires Thought and Effort

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The Editor’s Opinion Page

Soon every fire chief in the country will be involved with that annual chore called the fiscal budget. Some chiefs will have assistance in this. Others will have to go it on their own. But in any event, all will be called upon to produce this budget at the designated time, and to justify it in the eyes of the city or village fathers—no easy job.

In essence, a budget—any budget—is a plan prepared in advance that shows how much money will be needed by an organization to operate for a definite future period of time—usually the coming fiscal year.

Budgets, of course, require considerable thought and effort which is why a fire chief is (or should be) preparing his budget right now in January. The details of budget preparation are considerably too involved to be presented in this short space. But to do the job well, a chief should have at his fingertips the details of last year’s budget and for several years before. These past budgets will show a history of his successes or failures and consequently present some guidelines for the future.

A chiefs job, however, does not end when the budget is finally adopted. A department budget could be used up three or four months before the fiscal year runs out—and sometimes it does. But not with the chief who uses “budget control”—a comparison of what is happening to what should be happening. This “budget control” should be done regularly and frequently during the course of the budget period. Failure to do so can only bring on frustration and even embarrassment.

A good part of any fire department budget is allotted to services and salaries. But every fire department budget includes at least some purchases of equipment. The cheapest, of course, is not necessarily the best, neither is the fanciest. To get the best requires judgment which in turn is based on information.

Admittedly it is difficult for a fire chief to do comparison shopping for items that are manufactured all over this country. But he can check on equipment that has been purchased by his neighboring fire departments. He can attend the many conferences that display equipment. And he can read the Fire Service Catalog that appears in this issue.

Fire Engineering’s catalog was initially published (1970) at the request of several readers who bemoaned the fact that there was no ready reference catalog for all the equipment. And it has now become a tradition. It is painstakingly prepared from material supplied by the manufacturers. And we feel that it is a good budgetary tool.

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