#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: The Range in Budget on Display at Summer Conference

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

Our first #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Michelle Burgess, Budget and Management Analyst, Wake County.

I finished reading Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World  by David Epstein the night before heading to Wilmington for the summer NCLGBA conference. The book explores how diversity of experience, learning, and skill sets improves performance and long-term success. Pulling from different disciplines and problem-solving approaches allows individuals to more readily tackle the sticky problems with ill-defined rules or solutions.

Throughout the conference sessions, I kept thinking about how well that theme fits with the ethos of budget work as well as with NCLGBA. My work as a budget analyst spans several departments, exposing me to different services, thought processes, and county needs. Likewise, the budget development and monitoring process itself requires coordination across budget, finance, service departments, the manager’s office, and elected officials – each representing a different perspective and interest. Given the complex issues facing local governments (on any given day ranging from disaster response to affordable housing concerns to the impact of Medicaid transformation), I find that diversity of perspective comforting and am energized by the role budget offices can play in increasing cooperation and conversation between different parts of the organization.

I’m also grateful for NCLGBA for bringing that diversity to its conference agenda. Sessions covered emergency response, budget engagement, local government revenue, pension funding, and energy conserving investments. The biannual Legislative and Economic updates as always added the political and economic perspectives to our work. Those topics created an energy that translated into the broader networking and conversations among conference attendees.

As the first day’s zip code map showed, conference participants came from small towns and larger jurisdictions from across most areas of the state. Moreover, conference attendees included budget staff, finance officers, managers, performance measurement analysts, students, and department representatives. That range of backgrounds created the perfect fodder for attendees to compare notes and share best practices.  Although the scale and problems may vary by jurisdiction, I left the conference convinced by Epstein’s argument and glad that NCLGBA creates a space to share our different processes and solutions.