#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

For the past few weeks, we have been featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Summer Conference. Our final #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Janet Schafer, Budget Manager, Gaston County.

As I listened to Vice President Brian Pahle kick off the 2020 Summer Virtual Conference with a reminder to step out of our comfort zones, I began to reflect on the ways local government budget professionals have been forced out of our comfort zones since the last conference.

Michael Walden started the Economic Update with a discussion on the uncharted territories of this “mandated recession” with a potential recovery occurring in 2023. This session brought back memories from just a few months prior when budget departments across the state began updating revenue projections without recent or historic data for guidance. Instead, we looked to our peers for guidance, many of whom we have built connections with at these conferences.

Next, I attended Norma Houston’s Purchasing with COVID-19 Funds session. This session helped me obtain a better grasp on how my own agency can grapple with the friction caused by varying levels of government fiscal policy in combination with the urgency of trying to protect a community during a global pandemic.

The Questica session reiterated the importance of high-performing technology and software at a time when offices and in-person meetings are dangerous, and teleworking is the new normal. Our standard budget procedures were completely disrupted at the most critical point in the budget process. I am still unsure how we all survived this disruption but Questica was able to turn “surviving” into “thriving” for several of our local government budgeting peers.

Lastly, the NCLM’s Legislative Update reminded us all just how unfortunate the timing of this global pandemic was for budget professionals. The NCLM was, and continues to be, an important source of guidance for North Carolina government agencies at all levels. At a time when public health and the economy are at odds, the NCLM keeps us up-to-date on legislation and policy surrounding both of these topics in an ever-changing environment.

My takeaway from this virtual conference is that we, as local government budget professionals, are extremely fortunate to have an extensive list of resources to guide us (or commiserate with us) during a time of discomfort. Our universities and their experts, our partnering agencies, and our peers provide us with a solid foundation that allowed us to navigate these discomforts a bit more comfortably.  So whether it’s a mandated recession, ever-changing fiscal policy, a disrupted budget process, or even the “Pahlenator” hashtag, we can handle any scary thing that comes our way!

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Engaging and Learning Through “Tele-everything”

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our second #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Heather Curry, Budget and Evaluation Analyst, City of Winston-Salem.

Despite looking very different this year, the morning of the NCLGBA conference still held that same electric energy and excitement that I have come to associate with these events. While only one day and held entirely online, I knew I was still in for a day of learning and I was excited to see colleagues from around the state on the computer screen and Twitter timeline.

The day started with the Economic Update, presented by Dr. Michael Walden from NC State. He described the current recession as a “mandated recession,” meaning that it was caused by our need to distance due the pandemic, and not by an excess and subsequent correction in some area of the economy. Theoretically, this should make recovery easier – just undo the mandate and things will rebound – however, the unknowns of the virus (how exactly does it spread, what activities are safest, when will a vaccine be available, will it be effective, etc.) complicate the recovery. The projections he shared showed it taking until 2023 for North Carolina’s GDP to reach pre-COVID levels. In the meantime, our economy is likely to undergo a shift to “tele-everything” – telemedicine, telework, teleschooling – which could result in people reexamining choices about where to live – if you’re engaged in tele-everything, do you need to live in the big city, or can you still access those resources while living in a rural area?

Next up were the concurrent sessions. I attended Dr. Kara Millonzi’s session on budget ordinances. Having attended Dr. Millonzi’s Introduction to Local Government Finance course at the School of Government, I was expecting a nice refresher, but not necessarily any specific new knowledge from this session. However, my expectations were exceeded when we got into the final section on interim budgets. Essentially, if a local government cannot pass a full budget and tax levy by the July 1 deadline, the Fiscal Control Act does allow for limited interim budgets. The tax rate still needs to be set by August 1, however, so no ongoing continuing resolutions for this level of government! For local governments facing extreme uncertainty in their budgets that could prevent them from having a complete budget for a longer period of time, Dr. Millonzi suggested using a hybrid interim/full budget model, described in the image below.

After concurrent sessions and lunch, the conference picked up with the business meeting. Along with the usual items – celebrating new CBEOs and promotions, thanking outgoing board members, and welcoming new faces – our VPs also shared a statement from the Board expressing the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and highlighting past and ongoing efforts in these areas. The full statement is in the image below.

The afternoon rounded out with two more general sessions. First, The Quest for a Balanced Budget highlighted the ways budget development – especially in a pandemic – is supported by technology. As the panel cities worked to adjust to developing their budgets remotely, ever-changing revenue projections, and other pandemic challenges, they relied on technology to engage residents, run scenarios, and validate data. Even with all our technology however, most offices are still building budget documents essentially by hand. Additionally, documents remain a moment-in-time snapshot, rather than living documents. These areas could be the next great innovations in budgeting.

 

Like many discussions recently, the final session – Legislative Updates – had a somewhat different tone than prior conferences as much of the update focused on revenue changes and resulting COVID relief legislation and ongoing advocacy. Other legislative highlights from the short session include updates for NC DOT funding, support for struggling water and wastewater systems, regulations for robotic package delivery, and funding for workforce housing.

While the conference format may have changed, it was still a time to learn, engage the brightest minds in budget, and – in this moment of tele-everything – as close as we can get to seeing our colleagues from across the state. And that makes the first-ever virtual NCLGBA conference a success in my book.

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Adapting to the New Normal

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our first #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Janice Hillanbrand, Budget and Management Analyst, Forsyth County.

Going into the 2020 Summer Conference, while I was hopeful and optimistic, I truly did not know what to expect from the organization’s first virtual conference. I had many questions – will the sessions be as impactful and instructional on a virtual platform? How will the Q&A sessions work on a virtual platform with so many people tuning in? Will the sessions be held on Zoom calls with all of the attendees awkwardly staring at each other on the screen?

The Summer 2020 Conference exceeded all of my expectations. I was deeply impressed with the virtual platform that was created for the conference, as well as the format of the general and concurrent sessions. I know planning a virtual conference in the short time that was available was no easy feat and I have endless respect for Paarth, Brian, and the rest of the NCLGBA Board for being able to do so seamlessly.

As to be expected, the underlying topic in each session was COVID-19 and the various responses we all took. During our legislative update, Chris Nida made a poignant statement when he said that the COVID-19 crisis kicked off at the worst possible time for all of us: in March when most Budget Offices are in the thick of Budget preparation. It left very little time for Budget Offices to get accurate projections of sales tax impacts- a vital revenue source for all local governments in the state. The uncertainty still continues, as Michael Walden pointed out in our first session: Economic Update. There will be continued effects of teleworking and prolonged closure that we are yet to see.

The session that left the most impact on me was the ‘What’s Your New Normal?’ concurrent session. All of the presenters talked about the importance of having adaptable, effective and compassionate leadership during times of crisis. All of the presenters spoke about the importance of listening to and being responsive of different voices, being compassionate towards those in your organization and your community, and trusting those around you to do their job and do it well. The message of this session (and the fantastic speakers) left me motivated and encouraged, despite the continued uncertainty that we all continue to face.

The overall theme of this year’s conference has proven to be the importance of being adaptable and responsive as budget offices and professionals. We work in a profession of the unknown and uncertain, and this year has clearly reminded us of just that. Despite this, it is important to keep effective leadership and work practices and to do them with compassion for the communities you serve. It will be interesting to see how this pandemic continues to effect the state as we continue through this fiscal year, as well as how it will play into planning for the Winter Conference. The NCLGBA leadership team and moderators did a spectacular job planning such a moving conference. I already cannot wait to see what is in store for this year’s upcoming Winter Conference!

Virtual Conference Materials Now Available Online

Presentations from the Summer 2020 Virtual Conference are now available online. Find them here, or in the Resource Archive.

A final thank you to our sponsors, conference planning committee, and moderators who helped make the Summer 2020 Virtual Conference a success! If you have suggestions for future conference topics or are interested in helping with a future conference, please reach out to us by emailing conference@nclgba.org.

Sponsor Spotlight: Summer 2020 Virtual Conference Sponsors

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NCLGBA recently held our first ever virtual conference. The virtual event provided an exciting opportunity to still bring high-quality content to our members, even though we couldn’t gather in the same place. One of the factors that made the virtual conference a success was the generosity of our sponsors. Check them out below. Thank you again for your support of NCLGBA!

Summer 2020 Virtual Conference Sponsor Information

Presenting/Title Sponsors

Questica (Handouts) (Video)

Debt Book (Flyer) (Video)

Governor’s Commission

Oracle (Handouts) (Video)

Legislative Committee

ADW Architects (Flyer) (Video)

Mark III Employee Benefits (Video)

LGFCU (Handouts)

In-Kind

Public Input

ELGL

Virutal Conference is a Go!

Here’s the story
Of a lovely conference
That was originally planned at the beach

‘Til the one day when a virus made an entrance
And who knew it had such a crazy reach
That’s the way we have a virtual conference!

Registration for the 2020 Virtual Summer Conference is now open!

Head over to the Conferences page for all the details.

Virtual Conference Frequently Asked Questions

How many CPE can I receive by attending?

  • There will be up to 5.5 CPE from the one-day conference.

What if I already registered?

  • We have already reached out to all those that previously registered and will be issuing refunds (full or partial) based on whether they will be attending the virtual conference or not.

Will there be any opportunity to take the certification exams?

  • We are working on opportunities for you to take the exam at the School of Government in August and the planning meeting in September. This will keep people on track if they are expecting to pass all exams and get their certificate by the 2020 Winter Conference. We are still trying to figure out exact dates for these options. Registration for exams and payment for exams will happen after conference is complete.

Will certificates be sent directly to those that should be receiving them?

  • For those that might be close to the Triangle, Paarth may be able to get them to you in a safe and social distancing manner. Otherwise, we will ship the certificates at no cost to you.

If you have any questions, please direct them to conference@nclgba.org.

2020 Summer Conference COVID Update

After much deliberation and careful study of the survey responses, the Board has determined to alter the format for the 2020 Summer Conference from in-person to a virtual one-day option instead. Planning for this virtual conference option is still in the early stages and more information will be coming your way.

For now, those that have:

  • already booked their rooms, please go ahead and cancel your reservations. There should be no penalty for your cancellation of those rooms.
  • registered for the conference previously, hang tight, and we will get back to you shortly. We still need to determine how best to re-deploy registration and cost.
  • been planning sessions, continue working with Brian per his e-mail messages
  • contributed to our organization as sponsors, continue working with Stephen per his e-mail messages

Thank you all so much for what you do. We know this is a difficult time for all your shops as you may be scrambling to revisit your budgets. We are sad that we will not be able to meet in Atlantic Beach this summer, but we will create an awesome opportunity for our members in July virtually, continuing our role as a premier local government association in North Carolina.

Please send any questions about the cancellation or virtual conference to Paarth. He will compile and send an FAQ by Wednesday, April 22.

We hope you, your friends, family, and colleagues continue washing hands, staying at home, and keeping in good spirits!

Summer 2020 Conference Registration and Room Block Now Open

Registration and room block for the 2020 Summer Conference is now open!

Registrations can be made by credit card or check. Every attendee must fill out their own registration form. More detailed directions for registration can be found on the Conference Information page.

Reservations for the conference hotel – the Double Tree by Hilton Atlantic Beach Oceanfront – can be made online or by phone at 252-240-1155 using group name NC Local Government Budget Association and code GBA. Cancellations must be received 72 hours prior to hotel stay. Additional information can be found on the Conference Information page.

The deadline for both conference registration and reserving at the group rate is Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Continue to watch the website and listserv for future 2020 Summer Conference news and updates!

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Innovation and Change

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Winter Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our second #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Mimi Clemens, Winter 2019 Conference Scholarship Recipient and MPA Candidate, UNC Chapel Hill

This December, I was able to attend the 2019 NCLGBA Winter Conference in Asheville, North Carolina with a scholarship from NCLGBA. Overall, the conference was a wonderful experience! Each day of the conference there was a general session in the morning followed by concurrent sessions with usually three sessions to choose from. At the end of Wednesday and Thursday, there were networking opportunities with roundtables and a happy hour. The conference concluded with the Economic Update and a raffle. I had a wonderful time meeting local government employees in different stages in their careers, including Budget, Finance, Performance, and Budget and Management Analysts, Senior Analysts, and Directors as well as City, Town, and County Managers. It was great meeting Analysts at the beginning of their careers in local government. This was greatly beneficial to me as a soon-to-be graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s MPA program this May. It was enlightening hearing from them their experiences and advice after graduating from MPA programs within the state and what ways MPA programs translate well with the local government profession and lessons learned.

Three of my favorite sessions of the Winter Conference were: The Value of Planning in the 21st Century: What’s Next? presented by Mitchell Silver, High Performance Leadership: Connecting to Your Manager, Supervisor, and Your Board presented by Jeff Richardson, and Public Engagement Tools to Reach a 21st Century Audience presented by Ming-Chun Lee and Scott Correll. I was drawn to all three of these sessions due to their innovative nature. In Mitchell Silver’s presentation, the changing demographics of America will create new norms, expectations, and needs from communities for local governments to address. Jeff Richardson’s presentation encouraged self-awareness as public leaders to be able to understand elected officials, residents, and staff’s viewpoints when addressing issues in the community. The test we took during Richardson’s session was eye-opening by showing how the viewpoint and expectations of the community, staff, and elected officials can shape organizational culture and performance of the organization when addressing issues in the community. Lastly, Ming-Chun Lee and Scott Correll’s presentation on public engagement in the 21st century was fascinating. Correll discussed how the City of Charlotte’s Urban Design Center created a board game as a new way to engage with the public. This started a conversation in the community on what city residents would like to see Charlotte become in the next 20 years. With the many different paths Charlotte residents could choose in the game, the city was able to gain insight into what priorities the community values and how the community would like the city to manage growth. And Lee used new geospatial technologies to create an app that would augment reality for users on their smart phone. This app allowed for residents to see what neighborhoods in Charlotte looked like in the past as well as changing demographic trends.

I am grateful to be given this opportunity to attend the 2019 NCLGBA Winter Conference. With the new year, 2020 will bring new challenges and solutions for local governments. It is my hope that I can take what I learned from these sessions and apply it towards future challenges that may arise.

RSVP to the Summer 2020 Conference Planning Meeting

On behalf of the NCLGBA Board, we invite you to the NCLGBA 2020 Summer Conference Planning Meeting on Friday, February 21st, 2020!

The objectives are to:

  1. brainstorm conference session topics that are exciting and relevant to our members,
  2. secure volunteer commitments including moderators and registration help, and
  3. network with state-wide colleagues!

Click here to RSVP (yes or no) by Friday, January 31st, 2020. Even if you can’t attend, please follow the link to share ideas for session topics, speakers, and/or volunteer to be a moderator or help at registration.

Join us in downtown Charlotte (free parking) between 12pm-3pm at the:

Charlotte Fire Department Headquarters
500 Dalton Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28206

Lunch (including VG, V, GF, etc.) options will be provided from 12pm-1pm. If you can join us, select your lunch option using the link above.

FAQ

Where and when is the 2020 Summer Conference?

Doubletree by Hilton, Atlantic Beach between July 15-17 (hotel reopening soon!)

Is the Planning Meeting only meant for Board Members?

No, all local government budget professionals are welcome! Even if you do finance, strategic planning, data analytics you are welcome!

Is a teleconference line available to join the planning meeting?

No, the teleconference option hasn’t worked too well because of how loud and decentralized (group-work) the conversation is.

If you can’t make it, the best way to share with us your ideas is through the RSVP link and then we can follow up accordingly and include your ideas as part of the conversation.

As always, thank you all for coming together to create great experiences and professional development opportunities for our colleagues across the State. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our Conference Planners, Brian or Paarth.