Glossary of Government Terms

AB 939. An assembly bill that mandates waste reduction. This Bill requires that by the year 2000, 50% of the waste generated be diverted; e.g., incinerated or recycled.

Abatement. A complete or partial cancellation of a levy imposed by a government. Abatements usually apply to tax levies, special assessments and service charges.

Accountability. The state of being obliged to explain one’s actions, to justify what one does. Accountability requires governments to answer to the citizenry -- to justify the raising of public resources and the purposes for which they are used.

Activity. A specific and distinguishable service performed by one or more organizational components of a government to accomplish a function for which the government is responsible (e.g., police is an activity within the public safety function).

Ad Valorem Tax. A tax based on value (e.g., a property tax).

Allocation. Most often refers to the division of tax proceeds among local agencies.

Allotment. A part of an appropriation that may be encumbered or expended during a given period.

Appropriated Budget. The expenditure authority created by the appropriation bills or ordinances, which are signed into law, and the related estimated revenues. The appropriated budget would include all reserves, transfers, allocations, supplemental appropriations and other legally authorized legislative and executive changes.

Appropriation. Amount of money budgeted for a given program. Does not mean it will be fully expended. Appropriations are the means by which legal authority is given to expend public monies.

Assessed Valuation. A dollar value placed upon real estate or other property, by Los Angeles County, as a basis for levying property taxes.

Basis of Accounting. A term used to refer to when revenues, expenditures, expenses, and transfers -- and the related assets and liabilities -- are recognized in the accounts and reported in the financial statements.

Biennial Budget. A budget applicable to a two-year fiscal period.

Bill. A term used to denote a law or statute passed by certain legislative bodies. A bill has greater legal formality and standing than a resolution.

Bond. A City may raise capital by issuing a written promise to pay a specified sum of money called the face value, or principal amount, at a specified date or dates in the future, together with periodic interest, at a special rate.

Budget. A plan of financial and program operation which lists appropriations and the means of financing them for a given time period. Redondo Beach’s budget encompasses two fiscal years.

Budgetary Control. The control or management of a government or enterprise in accordance with an approved budget for the purpose of keeping expenditures within the limitations of available appropriations and revenues.

Capital Improvements. Physical improvements which typically cost over $5,000 and will have a useful life of a year or more and involve the construction or reconstruction of a physical asset. Examples are street resurfacing, storm drain construction, recreation, facility construction, etc.

Capital Outlay. A budget category which accounts for all furniture and equipment having a unit cost of $1,000 or more and a useful life of more than one year.

City Charter. Legal authority approved in 1949 by the voters of Redondo Beach establishing the Council-Manager form of government.

Continuing Appropriation. An appropriation that, once established, is automatically renewed without further legislative action, period after period, until altered or revoked.

Debt. An obligation resulting from the borrowing of money or purchase of goods and services. Debts of governments include bonds, time warrants and notes.

Debt Service Requirements. The amount of money required to pay interest on outstanding debt, serial maturities of principal for serial bonds and required contributions to accumulate monies for future retirement of term bonds.

Department. An organizational unit comprised of programs and sub-programs. Each department is managed by a single director.

Division. A unit within a Department that contains the necessary administrative services to function as a self-contained program or service.

Eminent Domain. The power of a government to acquire private property for public purposes. It is used frequently to obtain real property that cannot be purchased from owners in a voluntary transaction. When the power of eminent domain is exercised, owners normally are compensated by the government in an amount determined by the courts.

Encumbrances. Financial commitments related to unperformed services or contracts for goods for which part of an appropriation has been reserved.

Endowment. Funds or property that are donated with either a temporary or permanent restriction as to the use of principal.

Enterprise Fund. A type of fund established to account for the total costs of those governmental facilities and services which are operated in a manner similar to a private business. Redondo Beach has two such funds - Harbor Uplands and Harbor Tidelands.

Entitlement. The amount of payment to which a state or local government is entitled pursuant to an allocation formula contained in applicable statutes.

Executive Budget. The aggregate of information, proposals and estimates prepared and submitted to the legislative body by the chief executive and the budget office.

Expenditures. Expenditures include current operating expenses which require the current or future use of net current assets, service and capital outlays.

Expenses. Decreases in net total assets. Expenses represent total cost of operations during a period regardless of the timing of related expenditures.

Fiscal Year. A twelve-month period of time used for budgeting, accounting or tax collection purposes which may differ from a calendar year. California municipal entities operate on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal basis.

Fixed Budget. A budget setting forth dollar amounts that are not subject to change based on the volume of goods or services to be provided.

Forfeiture. The automatic loss of cash or other property as a penalty for not complying with legal provisions and as compensation for the resulting damages or losses. This term should not be confused with confiscation. The latter term designates the actual taking over of the forfeited property by the government. Even after property has been forfeited, it cannot be said to be confiscated until the government claims it.

Formal Budgetary Integration. The management control technique through which the annual operating budget is recorded in the general ledger through the use of budgetary accounts. It is intended to facilitate control over revenues and expenditures during the year.

Franchise. A special privilege granted by a government permitting the continuing use of public property, such as City streets, and usually involving the elements of monopoly and regulation.

Function. A group of related activities aimed at accomplishing a major service or regulatory program for which a government is responsible (e.g., public safety).

Fund. An independent fiscal and accounting term used to record all financial transactions related to the specific purpose for which the fund was created.

Fund Balance. The fund equity of governmental funds and trust funds.

Governmental Fund Types. Funds used to account for the acquisition, use and balances of expendable financial resources and the related current liabilities -- except those accounted for in proprietary funds and fiduciary funds. In essence, these funds are accounting segregations of financial resources.

Grant. Contributions or gifts of cash or other assets from another governmental entity to be used or expended for a specific purpose, activity or facility.

Impact Fees. Fees charged to developers to cover, in whole or in part, the anticipated cost of improvements that will be necessary as a result of the development (e.g., parks, sidewalks).

Infrastructure. Facilities on which the continuance and growth of a community depend on such as roads, water lines, sewers, public buildings, parks and so forth.

In-Lieu Tax. Tax levied in place of another tax or taxes. The State of California provides in-lieu motor vehicle fees to local governments to compensate for local personal property, not subject to property tax.

Interfund Transfers. Transfers are classified into residual equity transfers and operating transfers. Residual equity transfers are non-recurring or non-routine transfers of equity between funds. Operating transfers reflect ongoing operating subsidies between funds. An example of operating transfer is when the General Fund would report its annual subsidy to fund capital improvements in the Capital Projects Fund.

Internal Service Fund. A fund used to account for the financing of goods or services provided by one department or agency to the other departments or agencies of a government, or to other governments, on a cost-reimbursement basis.

Lapse. As applied to appropriations, the automatic termination of an appropriation. Except for indeterminate appropriations, an appropriation is made for a certain period of time. At the end of this period, any unexpended or unencumbered balance thereof lapses, unless otherwise provided by law.

Levy. To impose taxes, special assessments or service charges for the support of governmental activities.

Maintenance and Operations. A budget category which accounts for all the supplies, goods, and services required to support a program or activity.

Measurement Focus. The accounting convention that determines (1) which assets and which liabilities are included on a government’s balance sheet and where they are reported there, and (2) whether an operating statement presents information on the flow of financial resources (revenues and expenditures) or information on the flow of economic resources (revenues and expenses).

Modified Accrual Basis. The accrual basis of accounting adapted to the governmental fund-type measurement focus. Under it, revenues and other financial resource increments (e.g., bond issue proceeds) are recognized when they become susceptible to accrual, that is when they become both “measurable” and “available to finance expenditures of the current period.” “Available” means collectible in the current period or soon enough thereafter to be used to pay liabilities of the current period. Expenditures are recognized when the fund liability is incurred except for (1) inventories of materials and supplies that may be considered expenditures either when purchased or when used, and (2) prepaid insurance and similar items that may be considered expenditures either when paid for or when consumed. All governmental funds, expendable trust funds and agency funds are accounted for using the modified accrual basis of accounting.

Mortgage Bonds. Bonds secured by a mortgage against specified properties of a government, usually its public utilities or other enterprises. If primarily payable from enterprise revenues, they also are classed as revenue bonds.

Municipal. In its broadest sense, an adjective denoting the state and all subordinate units of government. In a more restricted sense, an adjective denoting a city or village as opposed to other local governments.

Municipal Corporation. A political and corporate body established pursuant to state statutes to provide government services and regulations for its inhabitants. A municipal corporation has defined boundaries and a population and usually is organized with the consent of its residents. It usually has a seal and may sue and be sued.

Objectives. Departmental statements describing significant activities to be accomplished during the fiscal year.

Objects of Expense. The individual expenditure accounts used to record each type of expenditure are categorized into groups of similar types of expenditure City operations may incur. For budgeting purposes, objects of expenditure are categorized into groups of similar types of expenditures called major categories of expenditure. The principal objects of expenditure used in the budget are:

¨ Personnel Services. Salaries and fringe benefits paid to City employees. Includes items such as health/dental insurance, retirement contributions, educational and other benefits.

¨ Maintenance and Operations. Supplies and other materials/services used in the normal operations of City departments. Includes items such as books, chemicals and construction materials, consultant contracts, vehicle use charges, advertising, travel and utilities.

¨ Capital Outlay. A budget category which budgets all equipment having a unit cost of more than $1,000 and an estimated useful life of more than one year. This includes furniture, automobiles, machinery, equipment and other types of fixed assets.

Obligations. Amounts a government may be required legally to meet out of its resources. They include not only actual liabilities, but also unliquidated encumbrances.

Operating Budget. A financial, programmatic, and organization plan, for furthering the goals of the City Council through the City departments, which does not include one-time capital improvement projects.

Ordinance. A formal legislative enactment by the City Council. An Ordinance has the full force and effect of law within the City boundaries, unless it is in conflict with any higher form of law, such as a State Statute or constitutional provision. An Ordinance has a higher legal standing than a Resolution.

Performance Budget. A budget that bases expenditures primarily upon measurable performance of activities and work programs. A performance budget may also incorporate other bases of expenditure classification, such as character and object class, but these are secondary to activity performance.

Personnel. Budget category used to denote salaries and all personnel associated benefits.

Principal. In the context of bonds other than deep-discount debt, the face value or par value of a bond or issue of bonds payable on stated dates of maturity.

Program. A division of a department which specifies a particular group of activities.

Proposition 4. Initiative constitutional amendment approved in the November 1979 ballot which imposes limits on allowable appropriations of state and local governments. Article XIIIB of the California Constitution. Also commonly known as the Gann Limit.

Proposition 13. Enacted as Article XIIIA of the California Constitution. Initiative constitutional amendment approved in the June 1978 ballot which imposes a 1% limit on property taxes, various assessment restrictions and limitations on the levy of new taxes.

Proposition 111 Limit. On June 5, 1990, California voters approved Proposition 111, to amend Article XIIIB, of the California Constitution, relating to the Gann Appropriations Limit Initiative.

Proprietary Fund Types. Sometimes referred to as income determination or commercial-type funds, the classification used to account for a government’s ongoing organizations and activities that are similar to those often found in the private sector (i.e., enterprise and internal revenue funds). All assets, liabilities, equities, revenues, expenses and transfers relating to the government’s business and quasi-business activities are accounted for through proprietary funds.

Reappropriation. The amount of money budgeted for a project in a prior year, but not spent, or encumbered, and which needs to be appropriated again in the current year.

Reimbursements. Payments remitted on behalf of another party, department, or fund. These amounts are recorded as expenditures, or expenses, in the reimbursing fund, and as reductions of the expenditure, or expense, in the fund that is reimbursed.

Reserve. An account used to earmark a portion of the fund balance as legally segregated, for a specific use.

Resolution. A special order of the City Council, which requires less legal formality than an Ordinance, in terms of public notice, and the number of public readings prior to approval. A Resolution has lower legal standing than an Ordinance.

Revenues. Amount received for taxes, fees, permits, licenses, interest, use of property, and intergovernmental sources during the fiscal year.

Special Assessment. A compulsory levy made against certain properties to defray all or part of the cost of a specific capital improvement or service deemed to benefit primarily those properties.

Special Revenue Funds. This fund is separately administered because revenues are restricted by the City Council, the State of California, the Federal Government, or other governmental agencies as to how the City may spend them.

Statute. A written law enacted by a duly organized and constituted legislative body.

Sub-Program. A division of the program unit. Sub-programs are used to further define a program to assist management and citizenry in better assessing the costs of providing an identifiable service.

Subventions. Revenue collected by the State (or other level of government), which are allocated to the City on a formula basis. The major subventions received by the City, from the State of California, include Motor Vehicle In-Lieu, gasoline taxes, and homeowner’s property tax exemptions.

Taxes. Compulsory charges levied by a government to finance services performed for the common benefit. This term does not include specific charges made against particular persons or property for current or permanent benefits, such as special assessments. Neither does the term include charges for services rendered only to those paying such charges (e.g., sewer service charges).

Tidelands. Harbor area land and water area granted by the State of California to the City via Trust. In Redondo Beach: the land and water area west of the mean high tide line of October 1935.

Uplands. Land and water area in the City's Harbor Area east of the Tidelands line (see "Tidelands", above).

Workplan. A schedule which identifies major action steps, time frames, and person(s) responsible for accomplishment of a department, or division objective.

Acronyms: Below are definitions for various acronyms commonly used in local government.


Assembly Bill


American Disabilities Act


Air Quality Management District


Beach Cities Health District


Boating & Waterways


Computer Aided Dispatch


California Anti Terrorism Information Center


Community Development Block Grant


Capital Improvement Project


Comprehensive Annual Financial Report


California Environmental Quality Act


Community Emergency Response Team


Constant Maturity Treasury


Compressed Natural Gas


Crime Scene Investigator


California Society of Municipal Finance Officers


Community Services Officer


Drug Awareness Resistance Education


Disposition and Development Agreement


Department of Justice


Driving under the Influence


Emergency Medical Services


Employer-Paid Member Contribution


Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund


Federal Communications Commission


Federal Emergency Management Agency


Field Training Officer


Fiscal Year


General Accepted Accounting



Governmental Accounting

Standards Board


Gang Enforcement


Government Finance Officers Association


Gang Resistance Education & Training


Household Hazardous Waste


Health & Safety Code


Housing & Urban Development


Heating/Ventilation &



International City/County Management Association


Independent Cities Risk Management Authority


Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act


Information Management System


Information Technology


Joint Terrorism Task Force


Los Angeles


Local Agency Investment Fund



Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force


Landscaping & Lighting District


Memorandum of Understanding


Maintenance & Operations


Metropolitan Transit Authority



Municipal Treasurers’ Association of the United States & Canada


Motor Vehicle in-Lieu


National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System


Office of Criminal Justice Planning


Office of Emergency Services


Owner Participant Agreement


Penal Code


Public Employees’ Retirement System


Public Improvement Commission


Public Information Officer


Public Financing Authority


Peace Officers Standard Training


Public Safety Augmentation Fund


Police Services Specialist


Professional Standards Unit


Petroleum Violation Escrow Account


Roof Analysis Mapping Project


Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center


Redevelopment Agency


Spousal Abuser Prosecution Program


Senate Bill


South Bay Youth Project


Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition


Special Investigations Unit


School Resource Officers


Special Weapons and Tactics


Transportation Development Act


Terrorism Early Warning Group


Transient Occupancy Tax


Tax & Revenue Anticipation Note


Uniform Crime Report


Utility Users’ Tax


Vehicle Code


Volunteer in Policing


Vehicle License Fee


Workforce Investment Act


Welfare & Institutions Code