Message from GFOA’s New Executive Director: Chris Morrill
It was great to meet many of you at GFOA’s State and Provincial Representatives and Presidents meeting in Denver, Colorado, and throughout the annual conference. During the meeting, we had an enthusiastic discussion about the challenges your organizations are facing and how GFOA can best assist you and your communities through the facilitation of best practices, training, mentorship, and publications. I look forward to continuing the discussion by visiting your annual conferences over the next year and learning more about the unique needs and specific challenges of your associations, as well as any programs that are working well. Through collaborative leadership, it is my hope that we can work together to enhance the services and benefits provided to each of our members. If you have any ideas or suggestions in the interim, please feel free to e-mail me at Chris Morrill or reach out to me on Twitter @chrisgfoa.
Annual Meeting Recap
Thank you to all who participated in the state/provincial representatives and presidents meeting that took place on Saturday, May 20, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado. Click here for a list of the meeting’s attendees compiled from the sign-in sheets. If you attended the meeting but are not on the list, please e-mail us so that we may update the list.
- GFOA Past President Marc Gonzales introduced GFOA’s new President Pat McCoy. McCoy expressed his enthusiasm to work with GFOA’s state/provincial representatives and presidents in the coming year.
- GFOA’s new Executive Director, Chris Morrill, explained GFOA’s strategic plan to enhance member leadership, knowledge, and skills by serving as an educator, resource, advocate, and facilitator. In doing so, he discussed GFOA’s latest initiatives in school budgeting, financial sustainability, Built by Bonds (#builtbybonds on Twitter), and upcoming web-stream training events. (Read more about these topics in the sections that follow in this letter.)
- Bruce Chase, Director, Radford University, talked about their joint Certified Public Finance Officer (CPFO) program with GFOA and ways to expand on preparing for the exams and offering additional host sites. If you’re interested in hosting the exams at an upcoming annual conference, contact Bruce Chase. (Read more about the CPFO program in the section that follows in this letter.)
- At the conclusion of the meeting, attendees had the opportunity to participate and share ideas in roundtable discussions and then with the entire group about the challenges they’re facing in their organization and how GFOA may be able to assist their communities. There were many common issues, including limited resources and training opportunities, questions about transition and succession planning, and how to attract millennials to government. In response, GFOA will work to create a forum where state and provincial representatives and presidents can exchange ideas— keep watch to these monthly postings for future announcements.
Continue the Discussion from GFOA’s Annual Conference
GFOA has audio recorded most of the sessions from the 111th Annual Conference, May 21–24, 2017, so you can refresh your knowledge of today’s most talked-about public finance topics or share the recordings with your members. The audio recordings offer a unique learning opportunity regardless of whether you attended the Denver conference.
Each purchaser will receive an audio recording of the Monday, May 22, keynote presentation by Jim Collins, and a recording of the Tuesday, May 23, keynote panel discussion, “Government and the Economics of Health Care.”
* To purchase a track using GFOA’s e-store, log into your e-store account, go to the “Books” tab and then to the category “2017 Conference Sessions — Online Content” to add the tracks to your cart. Once purchased, you will receive a receipt from the GFOA eStore and instructions about how to access the recordings. If you submit your order via mail, fax, or e-mail, you will receive a receipt via mail and instructions about how to access the recordings.
Plan to attend! GFOA’s 112th Annual Conference will take place May 6−9, 2018, at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, Missouri. Registration will open on November 6. Suggest a topic or speaker for the conference by completing the form here.
Bring Practical Budget Training to Your Association
Don’t miss GFOA’s Second Annual Better Budgeting web-stream event, 1:00–5:00 pm (Eastern), on October 5, 2017, (with an encore presentation on January 11, 2018). This year’s now 4-hour training will help your members to:
- Develop strategies for accurate budget forecasting,
- Learn effective strategies for aligning spending with community priorities,
- Develop strategies for budgeting with uncertainty,
- Facilitate necessary budget discussions, and
- Find out how to present the budget and communicate your budget message.
Click here to read more about the topics to be covered during the training as well as view the list of presenters. Four CPE credits are available, as well as early and group discounts. (Group discounts cannot be processed through online registration. Please submit the training registration form and attach the group spreadsheet.)
Sign up as a Host Viewing Site
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.
The New Financial Sustainability Framework
Leadership Strategies for Sustainable Communities, Part 1
Financial sustainability was the main concern for an overwhelming number of respondents to the 2015 GFOA member survey. In fact, respondents raised financial sustainability almost three times more often than the next-biggest issue. Even though this survey was years removed from the 2007 Great Recession, financial sustainability remained top-of-mind for a large portion of GFOA’s membership.
A popular answer to the financial challenges of local governments is to run government “like a business.” This prescription does offer value; it emphasizes efficiency in service provision and measurement of government performance, for example. But it ignores the fundamental difference between government and business: government is a public organization, and business is private.
In public organizations, decisions require the assent of multiple people, perhaps across different social groups, and the use of resources has to be negotiated among diverse stakeholders. The chief executive of a private company has far greater unilateral decision-making authority than a mayor or city/county manager could ever hope for. Furthermore, businesses have a clear overriding goal: profit. The goals of public organizations are often more ambiguous. For these reasons, the public sector requires a different model of leadership than the private sector.
Also, the design of a government institution empowers people to exert influence over how a government’s resources are used, simply by virtue of being a citizen. When a citizen works together with other citizens who have similar interests, their combined influence can be substantial, including voting public officials out of office. Compare this with a private company, where the individual consumer has relatively little influence over a company’s direction and collective action on the part of consumers is rare.
A more satisfying answer to the challenge of local government financial sustainability must account for these substantial differences in how leadership is exercised and how institutions are designed.
A promising new approach for local governments in the 21st century has its roots in 19th century England. A Victorian economist, William Forster Lloyd, described a situation where a group of farmers had common ownership of a grazing area. An individual farmer had an incentive to send his animals to the common grazing area as much as possible because there was no additional cost for using it, and if he didn’t send his animals, the other farmers’ animals would still graze, thus depriving the farmer’s herd of potential food. The result was that the common area was eventually overgrazed and became barren. This “tragedy of the commons” inspired a line of modern economic research called “common pool resource theory,” which is concerned with how to create sustainable management of commonly owned resources such as grazing lands, fishing stocks, or forests.
A local government budget has important similarities to the commonly owned grazing area. A government and its financial resources are commonly owned by all citizens of the government. Each stakeholder of the government has an incentive to extract resources from the public budget. Stakeholders often find themselves in “competition” with others to get resources and therefore try to get as much as possible, lest they lose the resources to others. The long-term result could look very much like the commonly owned grazing area.
Common pool resource theory has identified six leadership strategies and eight institutional design principles to encourage sustainable outcomes for commonly owned resource systems. Over the last few years, GFOA, the National Civic League, researchers at the University of Southern California and University of San Francisco, and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy have worked together to determine the value of common pool resource theory for local government and how it can be implemented. Practitioners and other university researchers provided feedback on the framework developed by the research team. The framework has great potential for several reasons:
- A Holistic Perspective. Common pool resource theory goes beyond budget numbers, addressing the underlying decision-making behaviors and processes that lead to financial health.
- Forward-Looking Focus. Because this framework does address the underlying causes of financial sustainability, it should be indicative of future financial health.
- Finance as Everyone’s Business. Common pool resource theory recognizes that because everyone is involved in using resources, everyone needs to be involved in sustaining them. This includes elected officials, staff, and citizens and other constituents.
- It Works. These strategies and principles have been proven to work in a variety of natural settings. Research has identified similar strategies and principles in local government settings by examining a series of case studies from local governments from across the United States.
This article was adapted by a GFOA whitepaper, “The New Financial Sustainability Framework: A How-To Guide for Changing Governance to Sustain Your Community without Breaking Your Piggy Bank.” For more information, click here to see the paper, or contact author 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:
- Vanessa Burke, Folsom, California
- Russell Cline, Financial Manager, Florida Department of Revenue
- Frank Costa, Accountant Auditor III, Shasta County, California, Auditor-Controller’s Office
- Carrie Curry, Staff Accountant, Town of Leesburg, Virginia
- Bonny Lynn, CFO, Coconino County, Arizona
- DeAnne Norton, Budget Manager, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Oregon
- Alan Rae, Director of Finance, Herriman City, Utah
- Robert Schiwitz, Administrative Services Manager, Lakeside Fire Protection District, California
- Thomas Shepard, Manager – Accounting, Texas County & District Retirement System
- Amanda Woodin, Assistant Director for Finance & Administration, Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (Kalamazoo County)
- Karen Van Winkle, Director of Finance Blue Springs, Missouri
There are now 699 individuals that have achieved the CPFO designation. The next CPFO exams will be available in the fall 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:
- Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program (CAFR Program) – Extensions are available if you are not able to meet the normal submission deadline
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 that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal. Over 4,200 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 comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) is prepared, submit it along with a completed application. The normal submission deadline is six months following the government’s fiscal year end.
Extensions are available if you are not able to meet the normal submission deadline. 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.). You can request an extension by e-mailing the CAFR Program.
Click here for more information if you are interested in participating in the CAFR Program or serving as a reviewer.
- GFOA’s Budget Awards Programs
The new Budget Award Programs for school districts, community colleges, and states, starting with budgets for the fiscal year beginning January 1, 2017, is now in effect. The new program for school districts and community colleges has an expanded focus that encompasses the entire budget process, rather than focusing exclusively on the presentation of the budget document. The new Budget Award Program for state governments will continue to focus on the presentation of the budget document, but program criteria have been modified to reflect distinctive aspects of budgeting at the state level. The Budget Awards Program for municipalities, counties, and special districts remain the same. Information about the Budget Award Programs is posted on GFOA’s website at the following links:
GFOA encourages your participation in these programs.
View a list of governments in your state that earned GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award in May and June 2017. For more information contact John Fishbein.
- 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 Award for the first-time:
- Town of Wickenburg, Arizona
- Napa Sanitation District, California
- San Bernardino County Employees' Retirement Association, California
- City of Greenville, North Carolina
- County of Los Alamos, New Mexico
- Xenia Community School District, Ohio
- City of Portland, Oregon
- Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System, Pennsylvania
- Virginia Retirement System, Virginia
Did you know you can request an extension for the PAFR submission? Thank you for those who have requested extensions. The normal submission deadline is six months after the fiscal year end. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016, the deadline to submit report was June 30, 2017. If you missed the deadline, there’s still time to apply for an extension. Requests to extend the deadline can be made one month at a time for various reasons (e.g., delay of audit, implementation of new GASB Statement, preparation of new popular report, staff turnover, etc.). You can request an extension by e-mailing the PAFR Program.
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.
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.