Public Sector Budget Analysis

Workshop Description:

In this series of two workshops, you will learn how to successfully analyze public financial data with an eye towards building power for your members. Public sector accounting is notoriously arcane, and the wide availability of data can make it hard to know where to look. This workshop will help demystify public budgeting and set you and your organization on the right track. The session will focus on California data sources and the state’s legal framework, though some takeaways will apply in other contexts and all are welcome. You will leave this session ready to analyze any public sector budget which comes your way.

In the first session, we will cover the basics of public sector budget analysis with a particular eye to local governments like cities, counties, and special districts—how budgets are made, how to read a public budget, how to assess a revenue mix for fiscal stability, and how to find hidden pockets of money. We will also discuss the basics of how to easily compare your target city or district with others, and how to analyze public sector salary trends.

In the second session we will cover more advanced topics of public budgeting—state-level budget analysis, capital finance and bonds, and special considerations surrounding school district finance. We will also hold a strategy discussion around best practices to support public sector internal and external organizing drives, including list building and unit accretion.

Workshop Leader:

Justin McBride is a PhD candidate in the UCLA Department of Urban Planning and a former Campaign Manager for the AFL-CIO’s organizing department. Prior to coming to UCLA, Justin spend 15 years as a union organizer and strategic campaigner with UNITE, SEIU Local 1, and the AFL-CIO. He originally came to Los Angeles to support the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, a multi-organizational initiative dedicated to changing working conditions in the Los Angeles carwash industry and assist carwasheros in forming a union. Under Justin’s leadership, CLEAN eventually signed over 40 collective bargaining agreements with local carwash owners. At UCLA, Justin studies urban public finance and has published several articles on unionization drives, local sectoral bargaining policies, and local government and NGO finances. His dissertation concerns municipal bonds and connections between small disadvantaged cities and Wall Street. Justin works with the UCLA Labor Studies Program and has been one of the co-organizers of the annual UCLA Strategic Labor Research Conference from its inception.