GFOA is always on the lookout for news items that will be useful for finance professionals, research that might help you do your job better, and legal and regulatory updates you need to know about. Check the GFOA news page for the updates and any relevant GFOA announcements, and see the GFOA Newsletter archive for back issues of our weekly electronic newsletter.
This week, GFOA unveiled a new resource center to help local governments support HR 2229 – the Municipal Bond Market Support Act of 2015, legislation to increase the bank-qualified debt limit from $10 million to $30 million. Bank-qualified bonds were created in 1986 to encourage banks to invest in tax-exempt bonds from smaller, less-frequent municipal bond issuers, and to provide those municipalities issuing $10 million or less in a calendar year with access to the lower-cost borrowing.
On January 22 the GFOA’s Executive Board approved five best practices and an advisory to provide guidance to government finance officers in the areas of budgeting, accounting, retirement benefits administration and debt issuance. A summary of each is provided below.
Since the recession of 2008, economic conditions have fluctuated between adequate and poor for the City of Elgin, Illinois, but it has been able to stabilize its bond rating through strong financial policies – most notably, those governing its general fund reserve levels. In fiscal 2009, on the heels of the largest economic downturn in recent history, Elgin’s revenue picture looked uncertain. The city had demonstrated sound financial stewardship but couldn’t escape the impact of broader, nation-wide, economic conditions.
As Congress and the White House return to discussions on comprehensive federal tax reform in 2016, GFOA is urging our members to help engage federal lawmakers regarding the need to preserve the tax exemption on municipal bond interest.
Most public finance professionals are carefully studying environmental and sustainability questions, but “getting it right” isn’t easy. Real-world, cost-first thinking means that prioritizing sustainability and resiliency in infrastructure will always be a challenge. Finance officers are generally accustomed to determining financial costs and benefits for capital projects rather than accounting for a project’s social and environmental impact.
The Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA), like many of its peers, needed to identify revenue to replace its degrading system infrastructure. Over the years, the agency had become less effective, and while the water utility’s core services were strong, inefficient business processes had created stress points. The authority was looking at increasing water and wastewater bills, which would create hardships for lower-income households. It therefore began looking for ways to use performance management technology to link core utility services with support services.
In an effort to better prepare for catastrophes, whether natural or man-made, the City of Norfolk, Virginia, chose to add a chief resilience officer (CRO) to its staff. The goal of the position is to create a single resource within the organization to prepare the community for cataclysmic events like earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as addressing ongoing challenges like rising sea levels, drought, or poverty. It’s an idea that’s been adopted by a few other cities, including San Francisco, California.
The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) will host its 110th Annual Conference, “Sharing Solutions and Strategies,” May 22-25, 2016, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Registration for the event is open on GFOA’s website.
The conference is expected to bring together thousands of public finance professionals through:
In June 2015, the City Council of Portland, Oregon, began exploring alternative financing options for environmentally responsible capital projects. The city aims to make use of a rapidly evolving market for green bonds to supplement its traditional financing methods. Portland and other issuers are defining their own policies and procedures, following the lead of the International Finance Corporation and World Bank.
In an effort to expand broadband connectivity statewide, the Commonwealth of Kentucky is in working out a partnership with a consortium of private firms to design and build a 3,200-mile fiber-optic system. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, acting as a conduit issuer, sold $230.05 million of 30-year tax exempt bonds for the project in August 2015. Fitch assigned the issuance a rating of BBB+ and Moody’s Investors Service gave it a Baa2.
The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) will offer an encore presentation of its 20th Annual Governmental GAAP Update live-streaming training event on
On November 3, 2015, the House Financial Services Committee approved HR 2209, bipartisan legislation that would require federal regulators to classify all investment grade municipal securities as high quality liquid assets (HQLA).
On November 2, 2015, the president signed into law a two-year budget agreement that raises spending caps by $80 billion above the levels agreed to under federal sequestration in 2011. The cap increases – $50 billion in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017 – were split evenly between defense and non-defense accounts.
One of the changes the City of Minneapolis made after its 2013 mayoral election was adding a new strategic goal: creating a better connection to the community it served. To this end, the city increased its financial transparency, moving beyond the 500-page budget document it had published in PDF format to online tools that presented information in a clear, user-friendly way.
As part of the mayor’s Back to Basics program, the City of Los Angeles, California, embarked on an open data initiative aimed at providing up-to-date information about the city’s performance on key initiatives and progress toward city-wide goals. The open data portion of the Back to Basics program sought to provide residents and employees with information that would help them better understand the city’s challenges, creating greater visibility that would lead to solutions.
Governments have long focused on developing efficient procurement processes, and creating modern procurement systems that make use of technological advances create their own challenges. The City of Raleigh, North Carolina, was grappling with these challenges and had grown frustrated with its traditional procurement process, which relied heavily on a paper-based system and made spending difficult to track. In an effort to modernize its approach to procurement and take advantage of the technology now available, Raleigh’s finance department started work on an electronic purchasing system.
Green bond issuance has generated significant recent attention as this market continues to expand. In 2014, there were 35 issuers of green bonds worldwide, totaling $36.6 billion in par amount, which is more than three times the 2013 volume of $10 billion. In the first quarter of calendar 2015, the global volume reported by the World Bank was $8 million. Green bond issuance by U.S. state and local governments represents less than 10% of these amounts.
Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting members met last week at GFOA’s office in Chicago to develop a set of guiding principles for the budget process, based on GFOA’s new best practices. These guidelines center on aligning district resources with the areas that will have greatest impact on student achievement. The Alliance members are from 35 school districts across the country, from the largest to some of the smallest, and from urban, suburban, and rural areas.
The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has invited GFOA members to participate in an important survey regarding the activities that you engage in when preparing and publishing your audited annual financial reports in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
On September 25, 2015, GFOA’s Executive Board approved five new best practices and seven revised best practices, providing recommendations to government finance officers in the areas of accounting, budget, retirement benefits administration, capital planning, and debt issuance.
Solidifying its position in the conversation on national health-care policy, GFOA’s Executive Board unanimously ratified a policy statement on the 40% excise tax on health plan premiums – the so-called Cadillac tax. This issue is vitally important to states and municipalities, which continue to work diligently within sometimes severe budget constraints to provide benefit plans that will help them attract and retain a quality workforce, in competition with private-sector wages and salaries.
The Supreme Court decided a number of important cases against local governments in its last term. The most notable of these was Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, which held that strict scrutiny applies to content-based sign ordinances. The October 2015 term will also be one to watch, not just because the Court has accepted numerous cases on controversial topics affecting local governments, but also because many of the court’s decisions this term are likely to be discussed by the 2016 presidential candidates up.
Managing a community’s fees and charges can be time consuming; in some cases, just keeping track of each department’s fees can be a major undertaking. The City of Sacramento, California, made an initial effort to address these challenges in 2006 by developing a database of the permits, fees, fines, and license charges the city collected. But while it was a good first step, this initial attempt to create a central repository for all city related fees was incomplete.
The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) announced the members of its Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting. The Alliance is composed of 35 school districts working with the GFOA to implement the Best Practices in School Budgeting. Alliance members include districts from 21 states across the US serving anywhere from a thousand students up to several hundred thousand students. Memers includes: