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Accounting Practices for Drug Courts: Suggestions for Developing a Funding Formula and Maintaining Program Expenditures

NCJ Number
Drug Court Review Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: 2009 Pages: 83-107
Cary Heck Ph.D.; Caskey Russell Ph.D.
Date Published
25 pages
This article provides recommendations for good accounting practices for problem-solving courts, such as drug courts, and offers suggestions to State administrators and legislators regarding viable ways of establishing and maintaining problem-solving courts.
The five principles presented in this article are designed to provide both accountability and transparency for local programs that operate with State funding. The first principle states that funds should be disbursed based upon a cost-reimbursement model in contrast to grant funding. The cost-reimbursement model focuses on actual program expenditures, so programs are only given funds to the level of their documented expenses. Whereas grants are commonly used for new programs, the cost-reimbursement model is commonly used with ongoing programs that have relatively stable budget categories and that require functional oversight at the State level. The second principle states that funds should be allocated, in part, based upon the number of clients served. Although income and expenses vary from location to location, basing funding on the number of clients provides greater incentive for all programs to streamline expenses and increase productivity. The third principle states that annual accounting reviews should be conducted, which provides evidence to the State that the program is being operated in a fiscally responsible manner. The fourth principle advocates zero-balance budgeting, which means that program balance sheets should be "zeroed out" at the end of each fiscal year. Funds should be distributed to programs based on actual expenses. The fifth principle states that training is essential. Court program personnel should be properly trained in maintaining accurate accounting ledgers, including receipts and invoices. It is the responsibility of the State administrator to ensure that new rules and policies are explained, understood, and followed by all program staff. 1 table, 1 figure, and 13 references