State/Provincial Update - October 31, 2017

Sign up as a Host-Viewing Site for GFOA’s Web-Streaming Events


Take advantage of an opportunity to bring GFOA training to your members and become a host-viewing site for GFOA’s upcoming web-stream events. Four CPE credits will be awarded to each participant. This is a great way to fulfill year-end CPE credit or to get a jumpstart on earning CPE credit in 2018:


    • 22nd Annual Governmental GAAP Update web-stream event from 1:00 to 5:00 pm (Eastern) on November 2, 2017, with encore presentations on December 7, 2017, and January 18, 2018. Sign up by Friday, November 3, to take advantage of the early registration fee on the December offering.
    • Second Annual Better Budgeting web-stream event (encore presentation) from 1:00 to 5:00 pm (Eastern) on January 11, 2018

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.

Save with early and group discounts! E-mail GFOA Training if you have any questions.

 

Washington Update 

Click here to access the latest Washington Update.

More information may also be found on the Federal Government Relations section of GFOA’s website.

 

Registration Opening Soon for GFOA’s 2018 Annual Conference

Registration for GFOA’s 112th Annual Conference, May 6−9, 2018, at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, Missouri, will open on November 6 on GFOA’s website.

As in prior years, we will once again offer the early discounted government rate of $380 to GFOA’s state/provincial representatives and presidents the span of the conference.

GFOA’s call for speakers and topics is open here.

For information about St. Louis, visit Explore St. Louis.

2018 Annual Conference Logo 

 

Join GFOA’s “Members-Only” Group on Facebook

If you have not yet done so, we encourage you to join GFOA “Members-Only” group on Facebook. This group will allow you to easily interact with members from across the United States and Canada and GFOA staff. You can start conversations, ask questions, provide feedback, and so much more. You’ll also be able to stay informed on important events from GFOA. All you have to do is click here and log into Facebook to join. It’s that simple!

Connect with GFOA:



Twitter Image@GFOA (#GFOA and #GFOA2018) 


@GFOAJobs 


@chrisgfoa



Facebook LogoGFOA of the United States and Canada 


GFOA Members Group 



LinkEd LogoGovernment Finance Officers Association (GFOA)


 

The Case for Using Text Analysis, Part 2

As we learned last month, text analysis is an intuitive and low-cost tool that can quickly analyze data. Simple algorithms display the readability of a given text passage, helping governments determine how easily staff, officials, and the general public can access its documents. A limited analysis of budget documents from major U.S. cities shows that comprehensive annual financial reports (CAFRs) are often at or above a college reading level, while popular annual financial reports (PAFRs) range from an 8th- to 12th-grade level.

City of Dubuque
As the City of Dubuque, Iowa, embarked on a quest to develop performance measures, the question of how to reach the public efficiently and effectively came up. Since the outcomes were developed for public consumption, readability was essential.

To this end, the city formed a group to create the performance measure website, which identified several outcomes and goals after meeting with the Dubuque Leadership Team. The performance measure group then gathered in front of a whiteboard, writing out one outcome at a time to be reworked and analyzed. It used the free Readability Test Tool at webpagefx.com to analyze each word in an outcome or goal that would be on the website home page. Any words that were beyond an 8th-grade reading level were changed and retested to give residents would the best chance of understanding each message the city wanted to convey.

Frequently, words from the city’s vision statements would be integrated into the outcomes Dubuque was trying to measure, including “sustainability,” “viable,” “equitable,” and “livable.” The reading level of these words scored between grade 21 and 43, and they were in every outcome. The city decided to find other words to tell its story for a website that was geared toward the public. For example, the word “equitable” was used in each of the city’s eight goals. To convey the same message to residents at a lower reading grade level, the city substituted “for all.” This new phrase scored a grade level of -1, meaning some of the cities tiniest residents, aged four and five, could understand the meaning. Combining too many words in one sentence or phrase also increases the readability score, but the team found that integrating very readable words helps keep the entire phrase at or below an 8th-grade reading level. 

After analyzing each word on the whiteboard, the team then analyzed the entire phrase. If the readability score rose above an 8th-grade level, the phrase was reworded. The process for assessing readability for the entire website was completed in a four-hour session where approximately one hour was dedicated to assessing readability.

The outcomes of this analysis were phrases of four to eight words, whereas the content on subsequent webpages would include paragraphs explaining major projects. A member of the performance measure group was identified to ensure readability throughout 30 additional webpages, a project that was expected to take an additional four to five hours, before the website went live in September 2017.

Dubuque has implemented some effective ways of reaching out to citizens in language they can easily understand, which improves fiscal transparency. The city found that it’s easier to have a readability project conducted by a small group that can quickly offer synonyms for words that need to be changed. The team members also need to understand exactly how changing a word can change the meaning of the original concept. Dubuque has started issuing a citizen’s guide to the budget and will soon produce its first PAFR.

CONCLUSIONS

Local governments should consider using text analysis to check the grade level of all documents, making sure they effectively communicate the intended content and message. Increasing the readability of text across government documents can also improve transparency. Even if an organization doesn’t have a formal transparency policy, ensuring that all stakeholders – including taxpayers, interest groups, and elected officials – can read government documents should help in communicating facts and building a shared understanding across the community. It might also engender trust and increase citizen participation.

Contact Vincent Reitano with any questions.

 

Certified Public Finance Officers Testing This Fall and Next Spring

GFOA’s Certified Public Finance Officers (CPFO) 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. There are 721 individuals that have achieved the CPFO designation.

To earn the CPFO designation, candidates must pass a series of five examinations covering the major disciplines of public finance. The CPFO exams are available this fall and will also be available next spring.



Click here for information about upcoming exams and 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) First Time Winners

Congratulations to the following entities that have received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the first time:

            • City of Phoenix Aviation Department, Arizona
            • City of La Habra Heights, California
            • City of Lemoore, California
            • San Lorenzo Valley Water District, California
            • Soquel Creek Water District, California
            • Town of Monroe, Connecticut
            • Town of New Canaan, Connecticut
            • Town of South Windsor, Connecticut
            • Town of Dundee, Florida
            • Miami Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works, Florida
            • Tampa Bay Water, Florida
            • City of Doraville, Georgia
            • Town of Arlington, Massachusetts
            • City of Beverly, Massachusetts
            • Town of Concord, Massachusetts
            • Town of Falmouth, Massachusetts
            • Town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts
            • Town of Norwell, Massachusetts
            • Charlotte Douglas International Airport, North Carolina
            • Town of Nags Head, North Carolina
            • Franklin County Schools, North Carolina
            • Strongsville City School District, Ohio
            • Xenia Community School District, Ohio
            • Bend Park & Recreation District, Oregon
            • County of Clatsop, Oregon
            • City of Prineville, Oregon
            • State of South Dakota, South Dakota
            • City of Clinton, Tennessee
            • Canutillo Independent School District, Texas
            • City of Celina, Texas
            • City of Nassau Bay, Texas
            • Santa Rosa Independent School District, Texas
            • Heber City Corporation, Utah
            • City of Burlington, Vermont



GFOA established the 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. More than 4,000 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. 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 CAFRprogram@gfoa.org

Click here for more information if you are interested in participating in the CAFR Program or serving as a reviewer.

    • Distinguished Budget Presentation Award Program (Budget Awards Program)

View a list of governments in your state that earned GFOA’s Distinguished 
 Budget Presentation Award in September 2017.

Read more about the Budget Program or 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 PAFR Award for the first-time:

            • Tampa Bay Water, Florida
            • Cherokee County Board of Commissioners, Georgia
            • Village of Carpentersville, Illinois
            • City of Powell, Ohio
            • Travis County, Texas
            • Travis Central Appraisal District, Texas

Do you need an extension for the PAFR submission? The normal submission deadline is six months after the fiscal year end. For the submissions with fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, the deadline to submit to the PAFR Program is December 31, 2017. Extensions are available if you are not able to meet the normal submission deadline. 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 pafr@gfoa.org.

Read more about the PAFR Program or e-mail us.





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.