#NCLGBA21 Recap Series: Combining Creativity and Data in a Budgeting Career

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2021 Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our next #NCLGBA21 Conference Recap comes from Ashlee Anderson, one of the scholarship winners for the 2021 Summer Conference, and MPA Candidate at North Carolina Central University.

Hello fellow budgeting enthusiast! To all I did not have the opportunity to personally meet at the conference, my name is Ashlee Anderson, and I am currently in my second year of the Master of Public Administration program at North Carolina Central University. I am so honored to be selected as one of the Summer 2021 NCLGBA Conference scholarship recipients. I honestly did not have much experience with the public sector, particularly budgeting prior to this summer’s conference. However, my attendance at the NCLGBA Summer Conference in Wilmington opened my eyes to the many careers in budgeting offered state- and nationwide. Before attending the conference, I had other interests in the Public Administration field but frankly no desire to pursue careers in budgeting. I now admit that with the exposure experienced over the course of 3 days at this amazing conference, I have fallen in love with budgeting.

There were many insightful sessions opened my eyes to the fact that budgeting isn’t just about the numbers but about the impact we as public administrators are able to make through allocating funds. I particularly enjoyed the breakout sessions with Andrew Kleine and Alex Norman. Andrew’s session, “Turning Curves: How to get Better Results for Customers and Communities,” really drove home for me the integral role of budgeters in building an equitable community. Andrew shared the importance of being results-oriented and broke down how to use Results Based Accountability to ensure these results are achieved. In this mini session Andrew broke down how to use strategic planning and performance management to effectively use this tool.

I consider myself a creative and felt a sense of relief while attending Alex Norman’s session, “How I Learned to Stop Using Words and Love Design.” Prior to this session I feared that a career in the public sector meant trading creativity for policy, data, and reports. Seeing Alex present this same information in a creative way energized me and made me realize that in a budgeting career I will be able to marry my passion for creating and my love of data. After Alex’s session I felt I had gained new knowledge on how to present information to the public in a way that is Simple, Shareable, and Sexy and I now look forward to using these new skills in a future career.

I was most personally impacted by Thursday’s session: “Diversity is More than Just a (Buzz) Word”. Keyana Walston and Justin Amos did an amazing job facilitating what can sometimes be a difficult conversation and I am so thankful for the panelists who were so courageous in sharing their personal stories. After hearing their experiences, I felt even more empowered in my decision to pursue a career as a public administrator. As a black female I was especially taken by Patrice Toney’s experience, and later learning from her that there are currently only 3 black female budgeting directors, I understood why representation is so important.

Without this experience, and meeting and hearing the experiences of members of the public budgeting community, I would have never considered a career in public budgeting. I am so thankful to not only get out of the house for a beautiful weekend at the Wilmington Riverfront and put on actual clothes, but also to have been afforded the opportunity to be surrounded by such an amazing, diverse, and experienced group of public servants. I can’t wait to attend again in the future, perhaps as a member as the public budgeting community myself.

#NCLGBA21 Recap Series: A New Career Possibility

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2021 Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our next #NCLGBA21 Conference Recap comes from Tiffany Oliva, one of the scholarship winners for the 2021 Summer Conference, ARPA Coordinator for the City of Winston-Salem, and a student at UNC MPA.

This year, in 2021, I was so thankful to have taken the leap to apply and be selected as one of two scholarship recipients for the NCLGBA Summer Conference. As a young professional, I was excited to join an in-person conference focused on local government; it would be my first. To my dismay, I ended up not being able to join in person. So, to those of you I was not able to meet, *extends virtual handshake* Hello! I’m Tiffany Oliva, and I am a current student at UNC School of Government pursuing my Master of Public Administration with a concentration in local government. I also have the pleasure of working with the City of Winston-Salem. Even though I have only lived about a quarter of a century, working with the City has been one of the greatest honors of my life. It opened the door into a field that I had not even considered as one BIG way to make public service impact. I hope our paths will get to cross someday soon!

Now, back to what you came here for . . . my conference recap! With topics ranging from the American Rescue Plan Act funds to diversity to understanding the historical framework of budgeting and where we may be headed, I learned a great deal (to say the least!). I have experientially seen how important the budgeting process is. I also understand how it is, essentially, the living and breathing document of our local governments’ values and priorities. This conference solidified that for me, but it also made me realize that I should really considered budgeting as a potential career path. That is something I have always had tucked away in my mind, but it definitely brought it to the front of mind.

One of my favorite sessions was on day two: Turning Traditional Budgeting on Its Head. I really enjoyed hearing Andrew Kleine’s presentation. I found myself learning a great deal and also laughing quite a bit. His analogy of the traditional budgeting process to an iceberg with layers building up over time and becoming a slower, heavier mass really made a statement to me about the need for change. Government is increasingly being expected to do more for less, and to move more quickly. Andrew mentioned a theme from David Osborne and Peter Hutchinson’s book, “The Price of Government: Getting the Results We Need in an Age of Permanent Fiscal Crisis”, which was that budgeting should be outcome based. An outcomes-based budget means that you are purchasing results, rather than funding line-items. Three ways that Andrew suggests changing the budgeting process include:

  • Change the starting point for budgeting to what you want to accomplish next year and the years to come.
  • Put outcomes ahead of the org chart by replacing silos with pools (meaning that you allocate money to outcomes not agencies).
  • Shift the budget debate by talking more about how we can improve outcomes or performance, rather than how many dollars we should be budgeting.

But there were many more takeaways, and lucky for us, we have the opportunity to re-watch the presentations here.

In closing, I promise Andrew didn’t pay me for this plug, but I will also be picking up City On The Line (one of his books) soon! Needless to say, I certainly built a reading list through the conference that I am excited to dig in and through.

I hope that you enjoyed the presentations just as much as I did! A huge thank you to NCLGBA for allowing me to be a part of it!

#NCLGBA21 Recap Series: A Joy to Come Back Together

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2021 Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our first #NCLGBA21 Conference Recap comes from Kimberly Leonard, Budget Manager at Pender County.

July 21st, I was excited to return to the first in person NCLGBA conference since December 2019. Although the NCLGBA conferences seem to always exhibit a lot of Board generated enthusiasm; this year, you could feel an elevated level of energy erupting from the 157 registered participants, who appeared delighted to have direct contact with fellow budgeteers.

Many of us returned knowing our revenue projections for the last two years had larger variances to actual than any time in our county’s recorded past because of unknown COVID impacts. Soon after the  conference began, these variances were put into perspective and our self-confidence began to return as one of the larger counties reported a 69% variance in their sales tax projections. This was followed by economist Dr. Adam Jones confessing his previous economic projections had been off target due to the unknowns accompanying our first large pandemic. Due to the continuing unknowns, Dr. Jones provided us with a lot of information to assist in developing our own economic projections, including reasons for the previous economic assumption variances.

The economic update session was followed by numerous educational opportunities, from technical sessions, such as recommendations for your ARP and CARES funding, performance culture, problem solving, data presentations and diversity; to sessions on professional relationships, including relationships with elected officials and careers in budgeting, and  even personal sessions, such as personal financial health impacts on personal health and desk yoga. A few of my biggest takeaways from these sessions were:

  • Employees’ personal financial issues may be costing my county an estimated $2,250,000 in lost productivity.
  • Measuring our County’s budget expenditure percentages by county objective versus by department would help merge our perception with reality. In addition, it would aid in creating a county wide perspective within departments.
  • You should establish a method for personal development for your employees before they are ever hired, to aid in employee retention.
  • When working with your County Commissioners always recognize their time limitations and give them bullet points. Provide information in small pieces over a period of time.

Although we learned a lot from the seminars, we also learned a significant amount from interacting with other participants. The reception Wednesday night not only provided a great social opportunity, but was accompanied with great food and drinks, such as a grits and shrimp bar, cupcakes, crab cakes, and fried pimento cheese. In addition to making great connections and obtaining productive suggestions for a few budgeting obstacles, I also obtained a list of great sightseeing ideas for my Asheville vacation in November. The comraderies and relationships that we developed will continue to grow in years to come.

As we return to work to implement and utilize a lot of the knowledge obtained from this conference, I hope everyone who worked to make this event such a great success realizes the impact of their efforts. Thank you to all who contributed to the success.

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Public Servants Facing ‘Wicked Problems’

Over the next few weeks, we have been featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Winter Conference. Our final #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Vincent Roberts, Budget & Management Analyst with Guilford County.

In a year like no other, public servants deserved a conference like no other, and that is exactly what NCLGBA was able to deliver with the 2020 Virtual Winter Conference.  From a global pandemic to social justice, 2020 was a year of many firsts for the public sector.  Many of these instances proved to be extremely difficult topics to not only discuss in a professional manner, but also to willingly address directly.  In the 2020 Winter Virtual Conference, NCLGBA showed its willingness to address such issues regardless of how uncomfortable the topic at hand.

Maurice Jones, Town Manager of Chapel Hill, led attendees through his own experience with racial strife as it pertained to a topic that seemed all too abundant in 2020, Confederate monuments.  Mr. Jones highlighted the difficulties that he was able to lead the City of Charlottesville and Town of Chapel Hill through during his time as City Manager in the presentation “Leading Through Adversity.”  From Klan rallies to domestic terrorism, Mr. Jones described the intricacies involved in our jobs as public servants and how the public will look to us for leadership during these trying times.  As public servants it is imperative to remember that we serve the greater good and must approach each situation with fairness regardless of our own personal beliefs.  Mr. Jones also reminded attendees that at its core our profession is based in politics, and this will always play a role in every situation especially those that strike a chord with the public.  It is important to remember that we serve at the pleasure of elected officials, yet do not need to sacrifice morals or integrity in order to be viewed as successful public servants.

The success of public servants is almost certainly defined by their willingness to address these difficult topics, and that was reinforced by three high-level NC budget representatives in the presentation “Racial Equity and Social Justice in Budgeting.”  Patrice Toney, Budget & Evaluation Director for the City of Winston-Salem; Federico Rios, Assistant Director of the Office of Equity, Mobility, and Immigrant Integration for the City of Charlotte; and Tony McDowell, Assistant Finance Director for Budget & Forecasting for the City of Asheville, guided attendees through the intricacies of tackling social injustice by way of budgeting.  The presentation did a tremendous job of showing how one can take theoretical solutions and apply them to real world examples in ways that truly address the problems at hand.  The speakers were able to show attendees that regardless of the amount of a jurisdiction’s budget, there are always tools and ways in which we as budget professionals can directly or indirectly influence our region to become a better place.  Budget professionals have a great impact on the organizations in which they work, and the ability to aid things such as racial equity should not be undervalued.

NCLGBA conferences are always a time of professional networking and fellowship, but the 2020 Winter Virtual Conference proved another key aspect of these conferences.  The fact of the matter is that even when we cannot gather in person, we still have each other’s backs and are constantly looking at ways to improve and address the difficult topics throughout society.

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: Benefits of Engaging; Benefits of People

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

Our second #NCLGBA20 Conference Recap comes from Brian Pahle, Assistant City Manager, City of Hendersonville.

In 2015, on a recommendation from Megan Powell, I attended my first NCLGBA conference.  My first survey response was that I felt like people were not welcoming, especially the people with yellow ribbons on their nametags (Board Members! – looking at you Steve H. and Justin A.).  By my second conference I started to get more involved during sessions and was then encouraged by Josh Edwards to start moderating.  Little did I know what that entailed.  I had started getting my legs under me when Josh then asked me to apply for an “At-Large Representative” position on the Board.  Fast forward many e-mail communications with speakers, nights out getting dinner and frequenting a bar or two, stressing about speaking in front of an audience, running in a group 5k, interacting with vendors, and expanding my network, later…I now sit in the background working with a team of extraordinarily talented and compassionate individuals trying to execute [ed. note: succeeding at executing!] a second virtual conference.

The past five years engaging in this organization have been some of the most transformative of my early career.  The impact the Association, Board, and people involved have had on my life is probably unknown to many.  It is also probably unknown to many, how much of an impact engaging with one another can have on your own personal development.  For example, I would never have the friendship with my good friend Paarth Mehta that I have now, if it were not for engaging.  Nor would I have a couple great pictures of Paarth and I superimposed on bees or compared with greats like Bob Costas and DJ Khaled (a previously unimagined dynamic duo rivaling that of Batman and Robin).  I now have so many uplifting memories with so many new friends and professionals.

This benefit in my life was heightened and highlighted during this extremely difficult year.  I could not help but feel so fortunate and introspective while watching Heather Curry kick-off and lead our virtual conference.  Even though we were all apart, the impacts of great friends and mentors was palpable in my living room the past week.  Although I was Zoom fatigued, I look back on these past five years with the Association, and smile because I would not have the knowledge, confidence, and most importantly friendships that I do now if it were not for those little nudges to engage.  Do not let a chance to engage pass you by.  Trust me, I wrote that NCLGBA was not engaging in my first survey response, and then was forced to engage in ways I never could have imagined.

A huge thank you to my good friend Heather Curry for raising the bar as a master of virtual ceremony (MVC) and sharing her amazing talents and knowledge with me along the way.

#HC-MVC

#NCLGBA20 Recap Series: More Than Spreadsheets – The Human Side of Budgeteers

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2020 Virtual Winter 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.

“…looking at our members as whole people, and not just budget professionals, was something that was really important to me while planning this year’s conference.”

This was a line spoken by Heather Curry, our third Vice President, during the opening of the session “Stress and Wellness in the COVID-19 Local Government Workplace.” It was a powerful line, one that stuck with me both as a conference attendee and as a Board Member, on the thought that went into this conference and the external factors surrounding it. As someone who was part of the planning discussions for this year’s winter conference, I participated in the discussions for more holistic programming. At the time of conference planning, I would not have predicted that this kind of programming would be delivered at the peak of the pandemic (so far) in this state and nation, nor would I have been able to predict how badly I would have needed such holistic programming at the time of the conference.

I am not saying anything new or revolutionary when I say that all of the cumulative events that have occurred in 2020 have led to a hard year – not just for local government professionals, but for all of us as people. At this point it’s an accepted fact, one that we laugh and make jokes as a society about how to cope. 2020 has been a year of isolation, separation, and loss for us all. Whether it’s been choosing to work from and stay at home for our coworkers’ and loved ones’ protection; watching the reactions (or non-reactions) of those around us to the continued racial injustices and inequities bred into our society and its institutions; or the rhetoric flung between neighbors during the election – 2020 is a year that has constantly put neighbors, coworkers, friends and family both physically and mentally at odds. Despite the rhetoric you follow, this has been a shared experience felt by all. It is a never-ending battle that has taken a toll on my mental health, as well as the mental health of those around me.

The resources and takeaways that I have from this conference go beyond improving my skills as a budget professional; they are lessons that I can use to grow as a person. There were, of course, enlightening and engaging sessions related directly to me as a budgeteer – the opening economic outlook, how Charlotte is tackling climate change, monitoring financial condition, and selecting the right visualizations. Attending a conference continues to be a great resource for a young Budget Analyst like myself, not just for networking opportunities but to learn valuable lessons from my neighbors and colleagues. From each of these sessions I was able to hear and hold onto important, tangible information to bring back to better my work, effective immediately.

The sessions that have stayed with me and that have lived in my thoughts rent-free since the conference ended are not those that just impact me as a professional, but those that impact my personal self too. Attending the session on stress and wellness not only gave me tips on how to manage the personal stress I have been having, but gave me a much-needed assurance that I am not alone and that we truly are all just trying to make it one day at a time together. “Leading through Adversity” taught me that no matter how much you think you have prepared, there are some events you can never be fully ready for. What matters in those moments is how you respond and respecting your personal integrity before outsider opinions. The introduction to mindfulness gave me the much-needed reminder once again that despite how overwhelmed you are, how defeating any particular day may be, there should always be time for self-care, no matter how small.

Leaving this year’s conference, I am going into the new year with a renewed hope for my colleagues and myself. Going into 2021, my personal goals are to learn to give myself more grace, not to harbor on my perceived failures, and to continue to learn to trust and have confidence in myself and my abilities as a person and a Budget Analyst. My hope, for anyone who struggles with perfectionism and anxiety as I do, is that you find the same as we all embark into the new year together. Luckily for all of us, we are part of an association that has provided the perfect materials on where to start.

#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!

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Checking the Boxes for a Successful Conference

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 third #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Rusty Mau, Winter 2019 Conference Scholarship Recipient and Budget Analyst, Buncombe County

Consider the last conference you attended (other than the NCLGBA winter conference).  After the conference, you probably received a survey that asked, “Would you recommend this conference to a colleague?”  The answer is not always “strongly agree”.  When I think about the NCLGBA winter conference, I “strongly agree” that every budget professional in North Carolina should attend!

The conference started on a high note, with NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver sharing why planning is critical in the 21st Century.  He discussed the “clash of values” between the 20th and 21st centuries and encouraged us to consider the importance of density in our communities.  The family unit of yesterday is not the family unit of tomorrow, Silver shared, as an estimated 25 million single family homes will be on the market by 2030 with no buyer.  How will a public trend towards density align with the powerful forces of NIMBYism?  What are the tax implications of density?  These questions came to my mind as Silver helped us peek into the future.

Throughout the conference, I came back to the question of “why?”  In The Value Beyond Strategy and Data, Mary Vigue with the City of Raleigh said Raleigh’s goal with innovation and performance management is to empower people to ask why.  In Jeff Richardson’s session on High Performance Leadership, we learned you must understand why managers, boards, and colleagues are motivated and successful in order to be successful yourself.  In the screening of All the Queen’s Horses, we saw what can happen when we don’t ask “why” when something doesn’t add up.  For local government to continue to improve, all employees must be empowered to both ask why and understand why.  This mutual understanding of why transcends innovation, routine operations, and even ethical behavior.

Before I “strongly agree” to recommend a conference, I must be able to check two boxes: solid content and ample time for valuable networking (plus, of course, good food).  While I thoroughly enjoyed the content, the networking opportunities were the highlight of our time.  In Buncombe County, for example, we are drafting a new grants policy.  I was able to ask several jurisdictions about their practices and provide a firm foundation for our first draft.  The conference also included opportunities for speed coaching, budget-focused networking, and informal conversation.  I am no “master networker”, but I truly appreciated the opportunity to learn from other attendees.  The diversity of expertise among attendees made the conference impactful.

When I reflect on the NCLGBA winter conference, I think about my motivation to attend.  First, I wanted to learn more about budgeting in North Carolina.  Second, I wanted to gain valuable insights that I could use in my work.  Third, I wanted to build connections that will help us build an even better budget.  All of these have been accomplished and more.

So, when I ask “why” I attended the conference, I realize my conference experience was a success.  I strongly encourage other budget professionals to reflect on why you attended and consider attending a future NCLGBA conference.  As I mentioned above, I “strongly agree” all of my colleagues attend!