MPOs are required to prepare financial plans as part of LRTP and TIP development. DOTs also have to prepare financial plans for their NHS TAMPs. The federal requirements help guide practice in many agencies. However, there are often additional state-level requirements for financial planning and reporting that may impact the preparation of financial plans.
The financial plan prepared for an MPO LRTP requires system-level estimation of costs and revenue sources with reasonably expected availability to adequately operate and maintain the federal-aid highways included in the plan. LRTPs have a planning horizon of 20 years or more, but beyond the first 10 years of the plan the costs may be specified using aggregate cost ranges. MPOs, transit operators and states are required to work together to develop the financial plan. Requirements for LRTP financial plans are listed in 23 CFR 450.324 (f)(11).
The financial plan for a MPO TIP serves a similar purpose as for an LRTP: to show that funding is reasonably expected to be available for projects within the plan. Funds must be estimated by year for over a period of at least four years. A TIP financial plan does not need to include funding for other activities outside of the projects included, but should include some form of system-level estimation of costs of operating and maintaining federal-aid highways, as well as confirmation that sufficient funds are available for implementing, operating and maintaining the system. As in the case of LRTP financial plans, MPOs, transit operators and states are required to work together to develop the plan. Requirements for TIP financial plans are listed in 23 CFR 450.326 (j).
For SLRTP and STIPs, the elements of a financial plan are similar to those for LRTPs and TIPs, respectively. However, the financial plan for these documents is an optional element. SLRTP requirements are described in 23 CFR 450.216 and STIP requirements are described in 23 CFR 450.218.
Separate requirements specify the contents of a financial plan prepared for a State’s NHS TAMP. 23 CFR 515 specifies that a TAMP financial plan is a “long-term plan spanning 10 years or longer, presenting a State DOT’s estimates of projected available financial resources and predicted expenditures in major asset categories...”
Regulations further stipulate that the process for preparing a financial plan must include:
- Estimating the cost of expected future work to implement the investment strategies in the TAMP by fiscal year and work type
- Estimating funding levels that are expected to be reasonably available by fiscal year
- Identifying anticipated funding sources
- Estimating the value of the agency’s NHS pavement and bridge assets
- Estimating the needed investment on an annual basis to maintain asset value
In addition to preparing financial plans in the documents described above, state DOTs and other organizations typically prepare annual financial statements. The U.S. Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) establishes standards for state and local governments to use in following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). These standards describe how governments should perform their accounting and prepare financial statements. A financial statement prepared based on GAAP describes an organization’s financial position for a given reporting period, such as a fiscal year, and typically does not include detailed projections of future funding and work. A financial statement prepared to comply with GASB standards and a financial plan prepared to support an LRTP, TIP or TAMP are meant to serve different purposes, but the same underlying concepts inform the development of all these products.
Financial statements and Federally-compliant NHS TAMPs both include calculations of asset value. Reporting asset value in a TAM financial plan helps communicate what assets an organization manages in a common unit applicable to all assets: dollars. Estimates of asset value in a TAM financial plan are typically based on asset replacement cost. The value of an asset may be depreciated on remaining asset life or current asset condition. Where a depreciated asset value is calculated the cost to maintain asset value is equal to annual depreciation. This can provide a useful benchmark for the minimum spending required to maintain an inventory of assets.
The asset value reported in a financial statement is prepared in compliance with GASB requirements, and is often prepared differently than that in a TAMP. For financial statements agencies typically apply straight-line depreciation to historic capital costs to estimate the current book value of their assets. The historic cost of constructing an asset is different from the cost to replace an asset in today’s dollars, and the annual depreciation calculated using this approach is different from the cost of actually maintaining asset condition. GASB requirements allow for addressing this issue using a “modified approach” for calculating asset value. This alternative approach involves calculating a cost to maintain assets using an organization’s management systems in lieu of calculating straight-line depreciation. Where this approach is used it provides a calculation of asset value that can be used in both a TAM financial plan and an organization’s GASB-compliant financial statement.