Lesley Reder, Budget Analyst, City of Concord

NCLGBA: The People Who Balance NC Communities

We invite you to hear from North Carolina’s local government budget professionals who believe in the value of public service and consider it an honor to bring value to their communities in their respective roles. We are highlighting NCLGBA members who are an important part to the balance in their communities.

Today we will hear from the City of Concord’s Lesley Reder.

The City of Concord is a vibrant community that honors heritage and tradition while racing towards the future. Since 1990, the total population of Concord has nearly tripled in size from 30,844 to 87,130 people. In the same time period, the square mileage grew from 23 to 62 miles. The continued growth and expansion of the City is supported by our comprehensive infrastructure and services, all of which help enhance the quality of life for Concord’s residents. Visit www.concordnc.gov to learn more!

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What was the biggest challenge facing your community in the 2017 fiscal year and how did you address it as part of the budget development process?
With the City beginning to grow again, balancing the needs of City departments to handle growth with the realities of available revenues was particularly challenging. After reducing the budget and “doing more with less” for almost a decade, departments had a wide variety of needs. For FY17, the City added 36 new staff and provided funding for six major Parks & Recreation capital projects.

What drew you to a career in public service?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in civics and government. Growing up, my mother used to have me fill out a questionnaire at the end of each school year. One of the questions was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” There were little check boxes for things like “Vet”, “Astronaut”, “Doctor”, “Teacher”, etc. I always selected the only government-related box – “President”, because I knew that was where I wanted to be. My strongest elementary school memory is related to the 1992 election (I was a Perot voter in case you were curious). I was also the incoming freshman at my high school who was most excited about taking Economic, Legal, and Political Systems.

I briefly considered law school after college, but soon realized that I should listen to my inner government-nerd and get an MPA. The MPA led me to budget, which led to me Concord!

What career advice do you wish someone would have shared with you when you started your first local government budgeting job?
Don’t be afraid to speak up when you have something valuable to add to a discussion. You may be the youngest/greenest/newest person in the room, but if you can provide insight on a decision or have additional information, sharing it with your superiors in a respectful way is never a bad thing.

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What excites you most about what you have been working on during FY 2017 in your community and your department?
Growth! I began my career in Concord in June 2007 – barely two weeks before Philip Morris announced the phased closure of its 2.4 million square foot manufacturing plant in Concord. Approximately 2,500 employees were laid-off and the City lost $4 million dollars in revenue (taxes, utility revenues, etc). The recession and its aftermath defined the next eight years of my time in Concord.

The City is aware of more than 800 homes to be built in the near future, with the potential for more many more. Concord Regional Airport has been expanding its reach to commercial air service and is the process of building a new terminal to handle the increased passenger traffic. In FY17, Concord will be adding 36 new positions to bring service levels back to where they need to be, including public safety staff for the new terminal building.

If you didn’t work in budgeting, what would you do?
My husband and I have a long-standing semi-serious joke about quitting our jobs and opening a bagel shop. If we weren’t such terrible morning people, I think we really would do it!

Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
My first job ever was at the Carolina Renaissance Festival. For a few weeks each fall during high school and college, I put on my sturdiest boots, laced up a corset, and spoke in the worst faux-British accent imaginable. My job was officially called “game wench” and I spent my weekends trying to convince people to pay for the chance to hit plastic ‘’froggs” into wooden buckets.

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Josh Edwards & the Center for Advanced Hindsight Discuss Innovation in Local Government

NCLGBA President and City of Durham Strategy & Performance Manager Josh Edwards recently participated in the “Sanford School @ Duke” podcast to discuss innovation in local government. This episode focuses on the use of behavioral economics in local government as previously discussed at the 2016 Summer Conference and this post calling for proposals for local government project proposals.

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Listen to the full episode here: https://soundcloud.com/sanford-school-duke/ryan-smith-gov-inn-master

From the episode description: “Guest host Ryan Smith, Senior Director of Innovation at the Sanford School, discusses local government innovation with Mariel Beasley of the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke. Mariel and Ryan are collaborating on a new course on the topic and the City of Durham is working with the Center to improve their own processes. The founders of a Durham, N.C.-based Idea Lab join the discussion.”

 

 

2016 Summer Conference Highlight: Ashley C. Qualls

Ashley C. Qualls is a Budget Analyst with the City of Asheville.  She is also the recipient of one of NCLGBA’s two scholarships to the 2016 Summer Conference.  These are her conference highlights.

I greatly enjoyed attending the 2016 NCLGBA Summer Conference in Wrightsville Beach as a scholarship recipient. The Conference had a variety of fun and informative sessions on how budget professionals can make positive impacts on their organization. The two general sessions by UNC School of Government professor Dr. Willow Jacobson (Shared Vision) and Cleveland County Manager Jeff Richardson (Growing Leadership Capacity) were two of my favorite sessions. Leadership development is a topic that has always interested me personally and academically, and the general sessions demonstrated ways budget professionals can be leaders in their organization regardless of their (at times unclear) position in the organizational hierarchy. The general sessions were also very interactive and gave me an opportunity to discuss the topics with other attendees.

 
Jeff Richardson, Cleveland County Manager | Dr. Willow Jacobson, UNC School of Government

Local government has a reputation for being a profession resistant to change, stuck in “the way we’ve always done it.” Through this conference and other networking opportunities, the people working in budget have always stood out as constantly looking for ways to improve themselves, their organization, and their communities. Regardless of their formal title or level of authority, they show leadership in their work ethic, initiative, ability to collaborate, and willingness to approach a problem in new ways. “Budget people” are rarely doing only budget work. They bring a variety of skills to the table, and they hold themselves to the highest standard. I look forward to more opportunities to learn from and with my fellow budgeteers.

Justin Amos, Strategy & Budget Analyst, City of Charlotte & 2nd Vice President, NCLGBA Board

NCLGBA: The People Who Balance NC Communities

We invite you to hear from North Carolina’s local government budget professionals who believe in the value of public service and consider it an honor to bring value to their communities in their respective roles. We are highlighting NCLGBA members who are an important part to the balance in their communities.

Today we will hear from the City of Charlotte’s Justin Amos.

The City of Charlotte, located in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is the largest city between Baltimore, Maryland and Jacksonville, Florida. The City is in the Piedmont Region of the Carolinas, two hours east of the Appalachian Mountains and three and one-half hours west of the Atlantic Ocean. Location and growth reinforce the City’s role as a regional center in the Southeast. Charlotte was incorporated in 1768, became the county seat in 1774, presently covering 310 square miles of the 527 square miles in Mecklenburg County. The City referred to as the “Queen City” owes its name to German born Queen Charlotte, wife of England’s King George III, and the County’s name to her birthplace of Mecklenburg. The City’s vision is to be a model of excellence that puts citizens first and makes this a community of choice for living, working, and leisure. The City’s mission is to ensure the delivery of quality public services and to promote the safety, health, and quality of life of its citizens.

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What was the biggest challenge facing your community this fiscal year and how do you see it impacting the budget development process for FY 2017?
Charlotte faced a $21.7M gap in revenues going into FY2016. This was a result of a combination of factors that included the loss of BPLT ($18.1M) and the loss of property tax revenue from the recently completed review by Mecklenburg County of the 2011 Property Assessment revaluation that resulted from higher declines at the end of the review process than had been projected. This resulted in reducing the City’s total property tax revenue by $10.8M. While the losses came from two of the City’s main sources of revenue, Charlotte continues to grow and place growing service demands on City infrastructure.

The losses were addressed by reduction in city services ($2.3M), reduction in expenses within departments ($4.5M), reducing market compensation increase to city employees in FY2016 (3% increase reduced to 1.5% for a savings of $2.6M), increase in regulatory user fees ($1M), shift of $2.1M of expenses into other appropriate funds outside of GF; 1 cent property tax increase, and the elimination of 101.50 frozen FTEs, avoiding layoffs however.

While the revenue picture in Charlotte has improved going into FY2017, the City continues to face the burdens of increased service demands with incremental growth in property and sales taxes. City Council has made public safety the top priority next year, and we are proposing to add 75 positions (50 sworn officers, 25 civilian) for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and 18 firefighter positions for a new ladder company for the Charlotte Fire Department.  The City Manager presented his recommended budget to City Council on Monday, May 2nd and Council will vote on Monday, June 13th on the final FY2017 Operating and FY2017-2021 Community Investment Plan.

What drew you to a career in public service?
My parents have been and continue to be the biggest influence in my life. My dad taught 8th grade American history until he retired five years ago. My mother has worked as a nursing administrator at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro since 1979. From an early age they both instilled in me the value of public service and the impact one can have on your community. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do since I was 8 years old, about the same age that I figured out that I wouldn’t make the NBA or enjoy a career that involved math or science… lucky for me we now have Excel.

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What career advice do you wish someone would have shared with you when you started your first local government budgeting job?
I would tell them not to worry about figuring out your career path as soon as you start your first job. You will have a long and varied career, one that hopefully will be enjoyable, fun, exciting and challenging. You will meet so many wonderful people in our profession that it is more important to build relationships, to learn from your peers, to do some networking, and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Do not be afraid to network and reach out to people, they will support you throughout your career. If you concentrate your energy on building relationships and recognizing opportunities, then your career path will be one full of challenging issues, a wealth of contacts and relationships to depend on in times both good and bad, and you will leave your mark on your community—which is the reason most of us got into public service.

What excites you most about what you have been working on during FY 2016 in your community and your department?
In Charlotte, FY 2016 has been a year full of interesting projects, new department assignments, and challenges. Charlotte continues to build out the state’s only functional light rail system, and the $1.1B extension to UNC-Charlotte should be nearly complete by 2017. We opened the first segment of Charlotte’s street car line in July and continue to invest in bike lanes, sidewalks, and greenways. As a part of the 2014 bond package, we are preparing for a 26.2 mile greenway trail (Cross Charlotte Trail) that will run the length of Mecklenburg County, from Pineville to the Cabarrus County line near the Charlotte Motor Speedway. When it is finished, hopefully I can help organize the City’s first greenway/trail based marathon.

Charlotte’s Budget & Evaluation office was recently merged with several other financial related departments to form a new Management & Financial Services department. We continue to find ways to better integrate our duties and to continue to serve the organization by being the source for budget, strategy and performance related issues.

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If you didn’t work in budgeting, what would you do?
Growing up I wanted to be a history teacher (like my dad) and high school football coach. If not that, then I’d like to work for a professional sports franchise (if I couldn’t participate).  When I retire, I’d like to learn to brew beer and open my own brewery somewhere in the mountains. It would be called Famous Amos Ales.

Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
I’ve run 8 marathons and plan to complete by 9th this January at Walt Disney World. I’ve traveled to 48 of 50 states (still need to visit North Dakota and Alaska) but I’ve been a Tar Heel since I was born (my mom still has my baby blue shirt that I came home from the hospital). I’ve never lived anywhere else, and don’t plan to move anytime soon

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Robin Barham, Budget & Performance Manager, City of Concord

NCLGBA: The People Who Balance NC Communities

We invite you to hear from North Carolina’s local government budget professionals who believe in the value of public service and consider it an honor to bring value to their communities in their respective roles. We are highlighting NCLGBA members who are an important part to the balance in their communities.

Today we will hear from City of Concord’s Robin Barham.

Concord is a growing community, and one that honors its heritage and tradition while racing towards the future. Over the years, Concord has developed a diverse economic base that includes distribution, manufacturing, racing, hospitality, and professional services. The city is home to Charlotte Motor Speedway (despite its name, it is located in Concord), Concord Mills mall, Amazon, Fed Ex, Great Wolf Lodge, Alevo, Concord Regional Airport, and many NASCAR race teams.

Our City has grown tremendously from just over 30,000 people in 1990 to 85,600 in 2015. As NC’s 12th largest city, Concord is 7th largest in land size with just over 61 square miles of service area. Concord offers an excellent variety of entertainment options and leisure for visitors and residents alike, with the addition of mixed use/walkable development, extensive greenway options, the Clearwater Artists’ studio, and quality infrastructure that provide a high quality of life for our citizens. With all that Concord offers, the City lives up to its tag line “High Performance Living.”

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What was the biggest challenge facing your community this fiscal year and how do you see it impacting the budget development process for FY 2017?
Managing growth is our biggest challenge right now, and the ever-present possibility that the state will change our revenue streams. With the recession squarely behind us, residential, commercial and industrial development are all occurring at a fast pace. At this month’s City Council meeting alone, 4 tracts of land for over 819 homes were voluntarily annexed into the City, with a build out anywhere from 2 to 7 years. Our commitment to the newly developed areas must be the same as the quality of services provided to our current residents; and as we all know, that takes resources. Revenues are growing, but not always at the pace that sustains this growth from year to year. We are working towards a balanced budget for FY17 that adequately funds staff and infrastructure to handle this growth. The number of positions requested for FY17 is astonishing, so it will be interesting to see how that all plays out.

Planning has become vital, especially within zoning, as we update both our Downtown Master Plan and our Land Use Plan. Multiple City departments are undergoing Master Plan development/revisions – all of these future plans for our City will be exciting to see. Certainly the budget office is a great place to see all of these plans come to life!

Just as we have a firm handle on our current revenue streams, we are ever watchful of the NC General Assembly and members’ efforts to redistribute sales tax and other revenues streams across the state. The loss of state revenue always remains a possibility.

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What drew you to a career in public service?
As a child, I was always drawn to folks in my small town who made a difference, no matter what role they played in our community. I came from a family with limited financial resources, so I often found myself on the “receiving” end, taking advantage of the opportunities (whether programs or scholarships) that were available to participate in after-school activities, attend college and graduate school. So many people helped me over the years, I always viewed public service as my way of “giving” back. As a child, I often heard my grandmother say “Be a blessing, not a burden.” With that in mind, I have always sought a career with purpose, meaning and commitment to the community in which I live. One of the best compliments someone can give is to say how much they enjoy living in Concord. In my personal life, I am married to a firefighter (both paid and volunteer), so public service is a way of life for us. I hope that service to others is something that we are instilling in our children too.

What career advice do you wish someone would have shared with you when you started your first local government budgeting job?
The one who talks the most is not necessarily the smartest (or most respected). It’s common to see early career employees jump in and give assessments and/or opinions in hopes of impressing others with their knowledge and skill. I’m positive I did this on occasion (and likely still do). What I’ve realized over the years now is that listening to the group and putting idea connections together is a far better use of time than just blurting out whatever it is that I am thinking at that moment. Two of the best City Managers I have ever worked for were incredibly thoughtful contributors to the discussion, but in no way drove it. When they spoke it was sparingly, but what they spoke mattered.

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What excites you most about what you have been working on during FY 2016 in your community and your department?
We just moved into a new City Hall, consolidating 3 separate buildings downtown into one. It’s been a delight in the budget office to first see the project as a CIP in our 5 year forecast, then to move to the architectural phase, construction and now, to show it off to the public. We are very excited to have a City Hall that matches the quality of service the City provides – if you have ever visited our old building, you know exactly why we are so excited!!

If you didn’t work in budgeting, what would you do?
I often joke that I should quit my job, open my own floral or photography shop, and run for City Council. But in reality (and to more consistently pay the bills), I would have liked to become a cardiologist.

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Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
I am a huge sports junkie. My television at home is almost always on sports and my weekend schedule revolves around my son’s sports games or my favorite teams (VT Hokies, Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, and Boston Red Sox). My son Zach received a football from Cam Newton at a Panthers/NY Giants game back in December and was featured on a national sports segment on FOX. He still “thinks” he is the coolest kid at school, but he has a tough time keeping that ball away from his 6 year old little sister!!