While the annual operating budget is a plan for the allocation of tax revenue during the coming fiscal year, the ACFR displays the actual results of the prior year's financial activities. These documents are sometimes referred to as an audit because they are audited by a third party to provide an independent opinion regarding the operational success, financial health, and compliance with accounting and reporting requirements established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).
It includes a balance sheet, a statement of changes in financial position, a statement of revenues and expenses, and comparisons of budgeted to actual revenues and expenses. These items are presented within three basic sections:
The introductory section orients and guides the reader through the report.
The financial section presents the entity's basic financial statements as well as notes on the statements and the independent auditor's report.
The statistical section provides additional financial and statistical data, including data about financial trends that may better inform the reader about the government's activities.
Generally speaking, a reader can find the "high points" by reading through the Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) in the financial section. The MD&A describes the previous year's results and key factors influencing them; shows the entity's current financial condition; and provides an overview of likely future prospects.