#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!