PUBA 731: Public Financial Management

Credit Hours: 3

You can learn a lot about a town’s values by looking at its budget. For example, if crime is on the rise in a small town, should public officials cut after-school programs to help fund additional law enforcement? Or should they cut libraries that provide a place for young people to spend time?

Budgeting deals with making hard choices about revenue and expenditures. The goal of this course is to teach students not only how the budgeting process works at the local, state, and federal levels, but also how to use budgeting as a way to get to know a government’s processes and priorities.

The first half of the course explores the politics of budgeting and budgeting as a policy tool; it’s about getting to know your government’s values and choices. How does a government defend its expenditures? How does it help people understand what it values? How does the government view its role, and what is it planning for the future?

The second half of the class focuses on revenue, examining the four key factors for evaluating taxes: equity, efficiency, adequacy, and feasibility.

By the end of the course, students should have an understanding of:

  • The values and processes for the allocation of resources
  • How and why the national (and other levels of government) budget came about
  • How the budgeting system has evolved
  • The basic tools of budgeting and some of the difficulties in constructing a budget
  • How the revenue side of the budget plays a part
  • Key tax regulations at the local, state, and federal levels

Course Introduction Video

Get a first-hand introduction to Public Financial Management from Professor Whitney Afonso.

Sample Course Content

Watch a sample from Professor Afonso’s interview with Scott Fogleman, former budget director of Cary, NC, to see one of the ways that MPA@UNC course content is delivered.