Megan Piner Powell, Henderson County Management Assistant

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. Twice a month we will be highlighting NCLGBA members who are an important part to the balance in their communities.

Today we will hear from Henderson County’s Megan Piner Powell.

Henderson County is in the western part of NC, bordering South Carolina.  In 2013, its estimated population was 109,000 (with an annual growth rate of 2%) and its FY 16 budget was $122,373,450 with a tax rate of $0.5136. Henderson County has five commissioners elected by districts; the County Manager is Steve Wyatt.

Economic development is strong in Henderson County; since 2012 there has been $217 million dollars invested with a net addition of $628 million dollars in the industrial tax base.  In 2014-2015 these investments included Sierra Nevada Brewing, Cane Creek Cycling, Raumedic, Bold Rock Cider and Kyocera Industrial Ceramics.  This development has kept Henderson County’s unemployment rate low. The rate was 4.8% in May 2015.

PWB Powell Henderson Co CH

What was the biggest challenge facing your community this fiscal year and how did you address as part of the budget development process?

This year was a reappraisal year for us, and one of our biggest challenges was less than expected growth. We were very lucky in that our county saw some growth, but it was not the growth that had been predicted in the early stages of our revenue forecasting.

What drew you to a career in public service?

My family has a long history of public service, my grandfather was an Alderman for the City of New Bern back in the 1960’s and my aunt was a Health Department Director. When it came time to pick a major at Appalachian, Public Administration seemed like a natural fit.

What skills and lessons have been most important to your development as an analyst?

I think working in two different departments and positions has really helped me in my current job. Having worked in the departments that I am now budgeting for helps me look at an issue from both sides.

PWB Powell Portrait

How do you create public value for your organization?

I work very hard with departments to properly plan for the year so that we keep ‘emergencies’ to a minimum to keep from spending more tax payer dollars than if the situation had been planned.

What excites you most about FY 2016 in your community and your department?

Henderson County continues to grow along with the rest of WNC, we have had, and continue to have a large focus on economic development. With this focus we have seen our community have a renewed family-centered atmosphere, and I am excited to see the continuation of that atmosphere.

If you didn’t work in budgeting, what would you do?

I can’t imagine doing anything that is not in local government.

Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.

When I was in college I was the only person registered with the last name Piner.

Patrice Toney, Forsyth Co. Budget & Management Analyst

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. Twice a month we will be highlighting NCLGBA members who are an important part to the balance in their communities.

Today we will hear from Forsyth County’s Patrice Toney.

 

Forsyth County, located in North Carolina’s Piedmont region, was formed from Stokes County in 1849 and took its name from Col. Benjamin Forsyth, a state legislator who fought and died in the War of 1812. The town of Winston, named after Revolutionary War veteran Maj. Joseph Winston, became the county seat in 1851. In 1913, it merged with its older neighbor Salem (a Moravian town named after the Hebrew word for peace) to form Winston-Salem. Other communities in the county include Kernersville, Clemmons, Lewisville, Tobaccoville, Walkertown, Rural Hall, Bethania, Bethabara, and Belews Creek*.

W-S Downtown

As of 2013, Forsyth County had a population of 361,220 **. Forsyth County is home to major businesses like R. J. Reynolds Corporation and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Important agricultural and industrial products include tobacco, corn, soybeans, furniture, textiles, tractors, and optical fiber. Forsyth County is home to the nation’s first local arts council (the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, established in 1949) as well as the first state-supported arts conservatory (the North Carolina School of the Arts, which opened in 1965). Salem College (1772), Wake Forest University (1834), and Winston-Salem State University (1897) are important academic institutes in the county*.

 

What was the biggest challenge facing your community this fiscal year and how did you address as part of the budget development process?
Two significant issues facing the Forsyth County budget were the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and tax base pressure faced by the volunteer fire departments. There was also significant discussion by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) about funding critical Board of Education projects and improving the condition of the Hall of Justice (Courthouse). In order to address these needs, the BOCC approved an amended debt policy that increases the debt ceiling from 15% to a maximum of 18% of budgeted expenditures. The debt policy change has created an opportunity to consider which projects could be included on a referendum for general obligation bonds, how much, and timing of a ballot issue. Also, several fire tax districts were approved for an increase.

What drew you to a career in public service?
I have always been passionate about helping people and communities which drew me to a career in public service. My entire career (17 plus years) has been dedicated to public service where I have had the privilege of progressively serving in various positions within local government – all of which have made tremendous contributions to the quality of life for residents in this community.

What skills and lessons have been most important to your development as an analyst?
Having the experience of actually working in a couple of departments prior to me working in the budget office has truly enhanced my skills as an analyst. I spent over six years in the Public Library and six years at the Public Health Department. Currently, I am the budget analyst for both of these departments and two others. Understanding firsthand the nature of programs and services truly enhances my ability to make sound recommendations on resource allocations for my departments.

How do you create public value for your organization?
I create public value for Forsyth County government by offering transparency and good fiscal stewardship in the budgetary planning process each year. In addition to my current role, I also have had opportunities to contribute to the shaping of public policies, develop programs, and offer innovative solutions to community needs – all of which create public value.

Patrice Toney (2)

What excites you most about FY 2016 in your community and your department?
FY 2016 presents new opportunities, not only to maintain the current level of services, but also to enhance services to the community. For the first time in years, the Board of County Commissioners approved a 1.15 cent tax rate increase. The school system will benefit from this increase, and also other departments will be able to enhance/expand their services. For example, Public Health was approved for six new school health nurse positions; several non-profits received county funding; and the county is now fully funding a domestic violence program in the District Attorney’s Office called ‘Safe on Seven’.

What excites you most about FY 2016 in your community and your department?
FY 2016 presents new opportunities, not only to maintain the current level of services, but also to enhance services to the community.  For the first time in years, the Board of County Commissioners approved a 1.15 cent tax rate increase.  The school system will benefit from this increase, and also other departments will be able to enhance/expand their services.  For example, Public Health was approved for six new school health nurse positions; several non-profits received county funding; and the county is now fully funding a domestic violence program in the District Attorney’s Office called ‘Safe on Seven’.   

If you didn’t work in budgeting, what would you do?
I have truly learned a lot about the broader organizational view of local government by working in the budgeting and management office.  Therefore, if I did not work in budgeting, I would love to be in a higher-level local government management role with governing and supportive duties to departments.  I plan to continue a career path in public service as I desire to be in a position that can impact policies and programs that shape the landscape for economic prosperity and a good quality of life for all people – through hard work and innovation.

Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
Others may not know that I was an organist for an Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem for several years.  In my spare time I play the piano, tutor children, and participate in a host of volunteer activities.

 

References:
First image: visitwinstonsalem.com
*http://ncpedia.org/geography/forsyth
**Frank Tursi, Winston-Salem: A History (1994)
***U.S. Census Bureau

 

Eric Olmedo, City of High Point Budget Manager

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.  

Twice a month we will be highlighting NCLGBA members who are an important part to the balance in their communities starting with High Point’s Eric Olmedo.

 

High Point is a thriving city of over 110,638 residents situated along the rolling Piedmont crescent region of North Carolina. High Point lies in four counties, Guilford, Davidson, Forsyth and Randolph. With Greensboro and Winston-Salem, High Point anchors the Piedmont Triad region with a population of 1.6 million. It is the nation’s 33rd largest combined statistical area. Centrally positioned along the East Coast with easy access to several interstate highways and the Piedmont Triad International Airport, High Point is a great place to live and to do business. Home of the semi-annual High Point Market, the largest wholesale finished goods home furnishings market in the world, High Point has a tremendous impact on the economy of the entire Piedmont Triad. An average of 80,000 retail home furnishings buyers, manufacturers sales representatives, interior designers, and news media attend each market held in April and October of each year. All 50 states and more than 110 foreign countries are represented at these market.  For the regional economy, the annual economic impact is $5.39 billion and over 37,616 jobs supported.* In addition to the home furnishing’s industry, some of High Point’s largest employers include such diverse companies as Ralph Lauren, Bank of America, Thomas Built Buses, Aetna, Solstas Lab Partners, New Breed Logistics, Volvo, Patheon, and Newell Rubbermaid.

 HP1

 

What was the biggest challenge facing your community this fiscal year and how did you address it as part of the budget development process?

The biggest challenge High Point faces is low assessed value growth.  To help address this, our new City Manager, Greg Demko, wanted to put additional resources into code enforcement, street sweeping, blighted property demolition, and other programs to clean up the appearance of the city as part of a long term strategy to increase property values.

In order to free up General Fund dollars to devote to these initiatives, I proposed raising the monthly storm water fee from $2 to $3, which raised an additional $1.3 million in our Stormwater Fund.  Prior to FY 2016 the General Fund had paid debt service on bonds we issued for stormwater projects, and this debt service will now be paid for out of the Stormwater Fund, which freed up $1.3 million in the General Fund for these initiatives.  We were able to add 4 code enforcement officers, devote $500,000 to building demolition and other neighborhood cleanup programs, and add a streetsweeper and equipment operator by making this change.

What drew you to a career in public service?

I was a working student and paid my own way through college, which took a little longer than normal.  As a 24 year old senior my advisor strongly suggested I do an internship.  I was a Political Science major at the University of Texas at Arlington, and he wanted to send me to DC to do a Congressional internship or to Austin to intern at the statehouse.  I told him I was too poor to move away, so he sent me to the City of Grand Prairie, Texas, where I interned in the Human Resources Department.  I was hired full time after graduation, and moved to the Budget Department when there was an opening.  I quickly realized that the Budget Department was the one department in the city where you get a broad overview of the entire operation and that was appealing to me.

HP3

What career advice do you wish someone would have shared with you when you started your first local government budgeting job?

Fortunately my first Budget Director gave me great advice and suggested I get involved in professional organizations.  In North Texas we have a very strong regional professional organization called the Urban Management Assistants of North Texas (UMANT) which was designed for entry level and mid-management public sector employees.  I was very involved in UMANT and served as the President in 2006.  UMANT is also affiliated with the Texas City Management Association, and I served on the board of that organization as well. The Government Finance Officers Association of Texas is also very strong.  My advice to anyone starting out is to get involved with professional organizations, and it is why I strongly support my staff members to participate in NCLGBA, GFOA and other organizations.

What excites you most about FY 2016 in your community and your department?

It is exciting to have a new City Manager that will rely on the Budget Department as a sounding board and as his eyes and ears in the departments.  He will expect us to know what’s going on in the departments and to give him sound advice.  I am also excited to have a new member on our staff filling the Budget Analyst role.  Roslyn McNeill started in January and finished her first budget season.  Watching her develop into the role and seeing the Senior Budget Analyst, Laura Altizer, continue to grow into her role is exciting to me.

HP2

If you didn’t work in budgeting, what would you do?

I guess I’d be selling widgets somewhere.

Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.

My twin sister and I are New Year’s babies.  I am three minutes older so I was the first baby born in Arlington, Texas that year.