Wishing You All the Best This Holiday Season and in the New Year!
It’s That Time of Year Again
We would like to make sure that our records are up-to-date. Please review the State/Provincial Officer Directory we have on file and let us know if you have any changes. This information can be e-mailed to Kate Southard.
Important Conference Information for State/Provincial Representatives and Presidents
If you have not yet posted the details of GFOA’s 112th Annual Conference to your website, we ask that you please do so: May 6─9, at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, Missouri, www.gfoa.org/conference.
We will hold the rate of $380 for all GFOA state and provincial representatives and presidents through the span of the conference. Submit the conference registration form and write “State/Provincial President/Representative” on it. Once registered for the conference, please reserve your hotel room in GFOA’s official block.
Encourage your members to apply for a first-time Annual Conference attendee scholarship. GFOA will award up to 50 scholarships per state or province to GFOA active government members who have never attended GFOA’s Annual Conference. Scholarships will be awarded in the order of which applications are received. In four years, the scholarship has enabled almost 1,700 recipients to attend their first Annual Conference. Please note that the scholarships available for the State of Missouri are almost full.
Will your organization be holding a meeting or social event at the Annual Conference? If so, please e-mail the name, phone number, and e-mail address of your main contact as well as the date, time, and location of your event to Kate Southard. We will have a listing of events available at the Message Center onsite in St. Louis. Please Note: We ask that your social events not conflict with any GFOA sessions or social events. Open nights to host a hospitality event are: Saturday, May 5, after 5:00 pm; Sunday, May 6, after 6:30 pm; and Monday, May 7, after 5:30 pm.
If you have any questions about the Annual Conference, contact GFOA.
GFOA State/Provincial Representatives and Presidents Meeting
This year’s meeting will take place on Saturday, May 5, 3:00−4:00 pm (Time is tentative), in America’s Center Convention Complex (Room TBA). We ask that you please attend this meeting to learn more about GFOA’s activities and to share information with your fellow state/provincial GFOA colleagues.
We urge you to e-mail any suggested topics for discussion to add to the meeting’s agenda to Natalie Laudadio. You will receive a finalized agenda before the meeting date.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Deadline Approaching for GFOA’s Academic Scholarships on January 26
If you know a student who is passionate about a career in government finance, urge them to apply for the following GFOA academic scholarships:
- Frank L. Greathouse Government Accounting
- Goldberg-Miller Public Finance
- Government Finance Professional Development
- Jeffrey L. Esser Career Development
- Minorities in Government Finance
There’s Still Time to Host Your Members for the Encore Presentations of GFOA’s Web-Streaming Events
If you have not yet hosted your members to view GFOA’s Better Budgeting or GAAP Update web-streaming programs, there’s still time! There are no direct costs to your organization for hosting a viewing site. Out-of-pocket expenses, such as facility and/or equipment rental or food/refreshments will not be reimbursed, however. To help offset these costs, GFOA offers a revenue sharing program, through which organizations will earn a percentage of their site’s net revenue based on the total number of paid participants. The program is open to state associations and government entities, but is not open to private-sector organizations. To sign up as a host viewing site, contact Barb Mollo.
Learn more about each program:
- Second Annual Better Budgeting — January 11, 2018, 1:00–5:00 pm (Eastern) 4 CPE Credits
Speakers will explain: steps in the overall budget process as referenced in the report, “Recommended Budget Practices of the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting (NACSLB);” examples from Atlanta Public Schools, City of Boston, City of Madison, and the County of San Diego; GFOA’s best practices in budgeting and financial management; budgets that received GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award; and overall topics of financial policies, forecasting, and long-term financial planning.
- 22nd Annual Governmental GAAP Update — January 18, 2018, 1:00–5:00 pm (Eastern) 4 CPE Credits
Speakers will cover: the latest GASB statements, exposure drafts, and implementation guidance.
Take advantage of group discounts on the registration fees. If you have any questions about the training, contact GFOA.
Increasing Trust and Financial Sustainability through Transparency: Part 1, Equitable Responsibility
Trust produces financial sustainability for local governments, and transparency is a means to obtaining this end. However, financial sustainability is not simply a matter of dollars and cents. A local government has three fundamental responsibilities that are essential to reaching financial sustainability: equitable responsibility, fair pricing, and fiduciary responsibility. This article will cover equitable responsibility, which means that each jurisdiction must provide basic services for maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of the community, regardless of an individual resident’s ability for payment.
The responsibility to provide services to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of constituents may appear to be relatively straightforward, but the need to provide services equitably across stakeholders belies this apparent simplicity. This is because “equitable” can be defined in different ways. For example, under perfect equality, resources are equally distributed to all stakeholder groups. Another definition of “equitable” might provide services back to stakeholders proportionate to the amount they paid, while yet another might be to provide services in proportion to the individual need of the constituent. Different definitions might be appropriate for different services. For example, for a municipal water or sewer service, users’ financial contributions are typically proportional to their use of the system. For many social services, the users of the service do not pay taxes or fees in an amount sufficient to cover their costs – they are subsidized by other payers.
Perceptions of equity have real implications for trust in government. If resources are perceived to be distributed inequitably – e.g., according to family background, personal connections, political affiliation, etc. – then trust in the institutions responsible for distributing those resources will decline. If the standard of fairness is perceived to be reasonable and to not unduly benefit one group at the expense of another, this gives the impression that public officials care, and can be reasoned with and influenced.
A government should be clear on its definition of “equitable” and show how that value is implemented. For example, the City of Portland, Oregon, adopted equity as an overarching goal of its strategic plan. From there, the Council decided to focus on racial equity and equity for people with disabilities. The City adopted three specific equity goals, covering: 1) the representativeness of the City’s workforce; 2) outreach and engagement of marginalized groups; and 3) elimination of inequities in service provision. Each City department developed a racial equity plan to show how these goals would be implemented. The plans were adopted by Council resolution.
To identify where services are being provided equitably or not, Portland uses a series of performance measures broken down by geographies. Population information (e.g., race or disability) can be overlaid on the maps. For example, a map of pavement quality index shows that the east side of Portland, traditionally an underserved area, has some of the best-quality streets in the City. However, a map of traffic fatalities shows that this same area has a relatively large number of fatalities. Hence, a more equitable distribution of resources might not entail more street maintenance, but, instead, more investment in traffic control devices. Portland’s maps and performance measures are available online. Some of the maps are interactive, allowing the public to pursue their own lines of inquiry about equity.
Portland also has a “budget equity assessment tool” to help departments think through how their base budget and any requested additions (or subtractions) impacts equity. The effectiveness of this tool has improved over the years as departments get more acclimated and as the guidance from the City’s Budget Office and Office of Equity and Human Rights has become more refined.
Taken together, the performance measures, maps, and budget equity assessment show the “equity” value can be discerned in the way the City allocates resources and the results produced by City services.
Moving on from communicating how equity is valued, transparency can support a government’s civic responsibility in other ways. For example, one aspect of a government’s perceived competence is its reliability: its ability to deal with uncertainty and provide services in a consistent and predictable manner. To deal with uncertainty, a government can enact a variety of financial policies that are aimed at helping a government prepare for and respond to uncertainty. For example, a publicly adopted “rainy day fund” policy that defines the amount of money the government will keep in reserve and the conditions under which it can be used could offer assurances of reliability. Such a policy could be even more powerful if the reserved amount is based on an explicit analysis of the risks a government faces and there is a means for outsiders to verify that the guidelines set forth by the policy are being followed. For example, some local governments have published an annual self-assessment of the extent to which they are in compliance with their financial policies.
Transparency initiatives can be used to support perceptions of competence. For example, a program called “Boston About Results” quantifies how well public employees are able to respond to service requests and reports the results on digital scorecards. These statistics range from number of home healthcare visits to how much trash and graffiti is cleaned during a given period of time. Across these and other metrics, the scorecards compare actual performance to Boston’s goals.
All the scorecards are available on the “Boston About Results” website, and are aggregated to a daily “CityScore.” CityScore is easy to understand: a score less than 1.0 is below the City’s goal, and higher than 1.0 is exceeding the goal. All the data that goes in to CityScore is presented on a daily to quarterly basis, which shows how the numbers are trending over time.
To verify Boston’s financial probity, citizens can explore the City’s checkbook via a searchable “Open Expenditures” platform. The database aggregates all spending by department and over time, to help summarize data. Boston has won GFOA’s distinguished presentation awards for its comprehensive annual financial report and budget, thereby providing citizens with other means by which to check the City’s financial competence.
Finally, local governments might think about how open data could address the public’s emotions and intuitions. For example, charitable organizations have long realized that donors don’t care for pie charts that show where donor money is allocated. They prefer stories and images that show how their money is making an impact on people. Because many taxpayers are, in effect, “donors” to public services, having access to these stories and images may help build taxpayers’ trust that their money is being used well. School districts sometimes use this strategy when children who have benefited from an educational program are featured as part of descriptions of that program. There is likely potential for local governments to more systematically use similar techniques to build trust.
Next month, we’ll cover fair pricing. If you have any questions, please contact Shayne Kavanagh.
New Certified Public Finance Officers (CPFOs)
GFOA’s Certified Public Finance Officers Program is a broad educational self-study program designed to verify knowledge in the disciplines of government finance. Attaining certification is a mark of excellence in government finance. To earn the CPFO designation, candidates must pass a series of five examinations covering the major disciplines of public finance.
Congratulations to the following individuals who recently achieved a CPFO designation:
- Cheryl Jahnke, Financial Reporting and Risk Management Director, Minnesota State Retirement System
- Mark Romito, Director of Finance, Township of Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania
- Mark Whitaker, Principal Management Analyst, City of Portland, Oregon
- Heather Zacker, Accountant, Port San Luis Harbor District, California
There are now 725 individuals who have achieved the CPFO designation.
The next CPFO exams will be available this spring at locations across the United States.
Click here for more information about the Certification Program.
GFOA Awards Program Update
GFOA encourages and recognizes excellence in financial reporting, budgeting, and financial management by granting awards to those governments that meet program standards. Below is the latest program update:
- Participating in GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting
GFOA established the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program (CAFR Program) in 1945 to encourage and assist state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports (CAFR) that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal. More than 4,300 governments participate in the program each year, which include all types (general purpose and special purpose) and all sizes.
It’s easy to participate! Once the CAFR is prepared, submit it along with a completed application. The normal submission deadline is six months following a government’s fiscal year end. Requests to extend the deadline may be made one month at a time as a result of various factors (e.g., employee turnover, implementation of major pronouncements, audit issues, etc.).
Due date to submit June 30, 2017, fiscal year ended reports to the CAFR Program is December 31, 2017.
Extensions are available if you are not able to meet the normal submission deadline. You can request an extension by e-mailing CAFR Program.
Click here for information if you are interested in participating in the CAFR Program or serving as a reviewer.
- Distinguished Budget Awards Program Winners
- Popular Annual Financial Reporting (PAFR) Award Program First-Time Winners
GFOA’s Popular Annual Financial Reporting (PAFR) Program recognizes individual governments that successfully produce high quality annual reports which are specifically designed to be easily accessible and understandable to the general public and other interested parties.
GFOA would like to congratulate the following governments for achieving the PAFR Award for the first-time:
- City of Commerce City, Colorado
- City of Pataskala, Ohio
- City of Forest Park, Ohio
- City of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
There is still time to apply for an extension. The due date to submit the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, reports to the PAFR Program is December 31, 2017. Extensions are available if you are not able to meet the normal submission deadline. E-mail PAFR Program for an extension.
Do you have an Upcoming Annual Conference?
If so, please fill out the “GFOA Promotional Items” form, checking off any materials you are interested in receiving for your upcoming annual conference. The form is interactive, so you can type and save your changes directly to the document. Submit the completed form at least two months before your event to Kate Southard. Please note: raffle items are limited to Annual Conferences.
Share! If your state or provincial association has any new educational or mentor programs to promote or events at your Annual Conference to connect fellow finance officers and advance the profession, we will share the information in this monthly memorandum. Please send a brief description of your program to Natalie Laudadio.