By: Jesse Takahashi
Springtime in California
Spring is in the air, at least it is in California. It’s a big reason we put up with earthquakes, traffic jams and the insane cost of housing—we do enjoy our weather year-round. Spring is also the time of year we devote many hours to developing our budgets and making sure it is balanced. Hopefully, for most of you, this task has been considerably less challenging in recent years given the extended economic recovery that most of us have been experiencing. While not all of you are seeing the bounty of surpluses, depending upon where you reside in the state, many of us have seen significant improvement in our budgets in recent years. It has been a welcome change providing some “breathing room” and allowing our agencies to regain financial footing. However, as finance professionals, we know that, as history will attest, the good times don’t last forever, and prudence goes a long way in maintaining fiscal stability and health—important lessons that we all would do well to heed.
While it is tempting to spend and commit excess revenues from recent and current years by creating new, and expanding existing, programs and services, we remain mindful of what can happen when the economy begins to cycle downward. One of the challenges we face is to remind our governing bodies and senior leaders in our organizations of the importance to develop and maintain strong reserves and fiscal policies and to budget thoughtfully for that next downturn so that our organizations are better prepared to absorb a financial hit without causing draconian impacts to the services we provide our residents. As stewards of public funds, it is one of our roles to encourage prudent budgeting to ensure the long-term financial health for our agencies.
Economic Forecast After All
Those of you that attended the Annual Conference in February know our Thursday keynote speaker, Jordan Levine, from Beacon Economics, was unable make his presentation that day. Thanks to the work of our Program and Career Development Committees, we have arranged to bring you his presentation by way of a webinar that is scheduled for April 16th from 10:00-11:00 am. Mr. Levine will be providing the latest economic forecast for California and its various regions. Discussion will also focus on how we can apply the forecast as we are putting together our own budgets for next year. We hope you will be able to join us in this information-packed session. Advance registration is required although there is no charge for this webinar. An email from Don Maruska has been posted on our listserv with details for how to register.
In addition, CSMFO will provide, for the next year, a link to Beacon’s monthly newsletter which will allow our members access to the latest updates and insights on the economy and various economic indicators. Be sure to take advantage of this free member benefit that will be coming soon to our website.
Thank you to those that protect and serve us well
Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the passing of San Jose police officer Michael Johnson, who was shot and killed in the line of duty while responding to an emergency call for service. His death is a painful reminder to us all how fragile life can be and that change often comes quickly and unexpectedly. Funeral services were held on April 2nd, with some 8,000 in attendance at the SAP Center in San Jose in a stunning show of support of solidarity by members of the public, officers and other officials from not only our local area but from around California and the United States. Their presence demonstrated and recognized the importance of the sacrifices that are made in the public service. Our thoughts and prayers are with Officer Johnson and his family, as well as with our neighboring City of San Jose and its Police Department for their loss. It is times like these that make us remember we all serve the public together and a loss for one city or department is really a loss for all of us.
Today is a good day to tell your loved ones how you feel and to hug your kids and spend some time with them doing something you enjoy. Go out and make it a good month!
Executive Director’s Message
By: Melissa Dixon, CAE
The majority of my CSMFO time in March was spent getting the directory content pulled together (the directory will be mailed later this month). This entailed a lot of emails to people who hadn’t at that point renewed their memberships, to make sure it was intentional. I’m happy to report that a majority of those I contacted had just missed the dues notices, and renewed their memberships on the spot! After all was said and done, we had 1450 members renew out of 1739, or 83%. For those of you keeping track, that’s right about where we are every year at this time–which is good, but not great. I’m hoping for a higher retention percentage for 2016!
Did you notice the CSMFO staff wearing CSMFO sweaters and polo shirts at the Annual Conference? CSMFO is now offering those items, plus fleece jackets, available for purchase through Land’s End.
Winner of the “CSMFO Like Us on Facebook Campaign“
Congratulations to Colleen Ishibashi from the City of Rosemead! Colleen won the “CSMFO Like Us on Facebook Campaign” and is the happy winner of a new Kindle. Thank you to all the members who participated.
Exploring the Benefits of Shared Services Arrangements
By: J.P. Morgan Government Banking
As states, counties and cities work to balance budgets while facing rising operating costs and continuous funding challenges, many are beginning to explore the benefits of shared services initiatives to streamline and centralize administrative tasks. But is a cost-sharing partnership right for your agency? Eileen Roberts, J.P. Morgan Treasury Services Specialist, encourages CFOs and treasurers to ask themselves a few important questions that, surprisingly for some, are more closely related to organizational strategy rather than size. “Some of our clients are concerned that their organization isn’t large or complex enough to warrant shared services,” explains Roberts.
“But the question isn’t about the complexity or size of a government entity, it’s about having the ability to consolidate similar functions into a single office. This can often free up scattered resources to streamline processes, resulting in financial savings and a better constituent experience.” When considering shared services arrangements, Roberts suggests a few key considerations below.
Clearly Established Goals
Before exploring shared services initiatives, Roberts recommends identifying the key goals your organization has that could benefit from such an arrangement and the success metrics you’ll use to quantitatively measure its performance. In the initial data-gathering phase, begin by assessing financial operations and identifying where your organization has tried to bring about change in the past. Then, compare yourself to other case studies from similar government entities, or ones facing a similar challenge or need. “By clearly defining the ‘what’ and the ‘why’—two foundational elements in any change management effort—officials can take a more metric-based approach to the discussion, which can help with securing senior stakeholder buy-in,” says Roberts.
Think Outside the Box
According to Roberts, shared services can help improve efficiency and manage costs in numerous departments for government organizations. “Governments who consider shared services beneficial only for their Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable departments are often missing out on a larger opportunity for their citizens,” she explains. “Often, these are the most obvious areas to consolidate first, but frequently, they’re just the beginning. Areas such as Human Resources, Payroll, Connectivity Services, Purchasing, Audit, and Compliance are also prime contenders for shared services benefits.”
Timing is Everything
One of the most frequent challenges to successfully using shared services arrangements, in Roberts’ experience, is failing to consider when they should happen. “It’s critical to consider other organizational changes that are either in progress or planned to occur in the near- and mid-term that could interfere or cause a resource drain,” says Roberts. Instead, she suggests mapping out future resource planning efforts and the impacts they could have during historically busy periods (e.g., the beginning or end of the fiscal year) to determine the optimal timing for this type of initiative.
“By their nature, shared services arrangements will impact both operations and culture at any organization,” adds Roberts. “Securing senior leadership buy-in and willingness to commit resources is key in successfully implementing this type of initiative.” She recommends reviewing any existing strategic plans that may compete with the resource and management commitment needed to pursue shared services. She also suggests taking the time to think through all the different levels of senior leader commitment and executive sponsorship needed to provide the oversight, guidance and visible support necessary to ensure funding and implementations are achievable.
Training and Implementations
Taking into consideration the knowledge, experience and tools your organization currently has related to the services you’re exploring can help determine what types of training may be needed across the organization to implement a shared services arrangement. Roberts recommends reaching out to peers in other areas of the country who can offer advice and serve as a sounding board for questions and obstacles that arise and proactively identify answers.
Executive Director, treasury Services Eileen Roberts is a member of the Public Sector & Healthcare Solutions Group at J. P. Morgan. She works with state and local government agencies to provide innovative, results-oriented ideas reflecting her broad experience in strategic and transactional situations within the public sector industry, developing solutions for clients that provide significant bottom line impact.
Eileen has been with the firm for 30 years and over her career has developed a keen understanding of public sector processing needs. Eileen was involved in the technical design for the tax processing solution currently used for the various state and local programs across the country that J.P. Morgan operates. In addition, she has been an integral member of teams supporting federal paper and electronic receivables processing programs.
A graduate of Loyola University, Eileen holds a BS in Accountancy. She is a Certified Public Account, an active member of the AICPA and the Federation of Tax Administrators. She is also a member of the industry council for the South East Association of Tax Administrators.
For additional industry insights or to learn more about what J.P. Morgan can offer your organization, visit www.jpmorgan.com/cb/government or contact your J.P. Morgan Government Banking representative. (pdf version).
CSMFO MiniNews Chapter Vice Chair Spotlight
Q: How long have you been in the municipal finance profession? Why did you choose this profession? How long have you been a CSMFO member?
I have been involved in municipal finance for 20 years. I started my career as a Budget Analyst in Inglewood, and left there as Assistant City Administrator after about 13 years. I took the job as Culver City’s first Chief Financial Officer, replacing an elected Treasurer, after a change to the City’s charter in late 2007, and have been here since. I honestly ended up in this profession somewhat by accident. I did not really know much about municipal government coming out of college, but my sister-in-law turned me on to a part-time job for the City of Inglewood, and the rest is history. I have been a member of CSMFO for many years, but have become more active since taking the job in Culver City.
Q: Describe your first chapter meeting experience.
I wish I could remember that… I would say my experiences have been good, and I have normally taken something of value from the meetings.
Q: What prompted you to come back and get involved? How did you become Chapter Vice Chair?
I just took on the role of Vice-Chair for South Bay. It has always been hard for me to decide I could carve out the time from my day-to-day time requirements to become more involved. But I decided recently it was time I do so. There was an e-mail about volunteers for this Vice-Chair role and I was the first responder.
Q: What are your goals for your Chapter for the coming year, and how do they relate to the organization’s overall goals?
As Vice-Chair, I want to provide the support needed for our Chair in putting on our educational events, and anything else required. I think the most important role of the local chapters is the coordination of topical educational gatherings where we can walk away feeling like we learned something useful and that we are able to establish relationships with those in our area.
Q: What advice would you give to people new to the profession and/or CSMFO?
I think this is a great profession that provides plenty of opportunity for those with the desire and work ethic. And CSMFO provides great avenues for training and education that are specific to the profession. It is sometimes difficult to make the time given the frequent issues that pop up, but even if you can only make a few things at first, it is worth it.
Q: Name your desert island book and movie.
Hmmm… I am a big Stephen King fan, but I’m also a Sci-Fi guy. One of my favorites is Ringworld by Larry Niven. Difficult for one movie. Three movies I can watch anytime I see them on are Shawshank Redemption, Inception and Avatar…
April 16, 2015 – 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Advance registration required for this no-charge webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6498778190593486338
Are you getting the most from your CSMFO membership? Find out what you (and employees who aren’t members of CSMFO) are missing.
- Where are the California and U.S. economies headed – near- and long-term future?
- What do key indicators such as commercial and residential real estate, employment, consumer spending, business activity, personal income, international trade, and GDP growth suggest?
- How can finance professionals apply this forecast in planning and budgeting?
- Jordan Levine, Economist and Director of Economic Research at Beacon Economics, LLC.
CSMFO Color Commentator:
- Grace Leung, Finance Director, Sunnyvale, CA
Audience: all local government finance professionals
Welcome New CSMFO Members!
- Christina Crosby, Financial Services Manager, South San Francisco, Peninsula Chapter
- Steve Toler, Senior Manager, Management Partners, Peninsula Chapter
- Belinda Warner, Finance Director, Richmond, East Bay Chapter
- Scott Arbuckle, Section Manager, Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange County Chapter
- Jun Nguyen, Finance Specialist II, City of San Mateo, Peninsula Chapter
- Carole Wayman-Piascik, Controller, Moulton Niguel Water District, Orange County Chapter
- Jodie Dompier, Student
- Lorenzo Hines, Assistant City Manager, Pacifica, Peninsula Chapter
- Miki Ewens, Senior Accountant, San Bernardino Assoc. of Governments, Inland Empire Chapter
- Ron Penington, Senior Accountant, Redding, Northeast Counties Chapter
- April Mitts, Finance Director, City of St. Helena, North Coast Chapter
- Carmen Vargas, Senior Vice President, BOSC, Inc, San Gabriel Valley Chapter
- Jim Koetting, Public Funds Trainer, CPFIM, Out of State
- Anna Francisco, Finance Analyst, Bellflower, Central Los Angeles Chapter
- Veronica Villasenor, Vice President, U.S. Bank, San Diego County Chapter
- Gergroy Lucido, Deputy Finance Director, Galt, Central Valley Chapter
- Helen Yu-Scott, Financial Services Manager, San Bruno, Peninsula Chapter
- Mark Sullivan, Senior Accountant, Capitola, Monterey Bay Chapter
- Farrah Jenner, Assistant Controller, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Inland Empire Chapter
- John Valadez, Accountant, Santa Ana, Orange County Chapter
- Sarah Ro, Senior Accountant, Santa Ana, Orange County Chapter
- Camille Kazarian, Acting Administrative Services Director, Windsor, North Coast Chapter
- James Lanzarotta, Partner, Moss Adams LLP, Out of State
- Alice Ng, Director of Fiscal Resources, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Trans. Dist., East Bay Chapter
- Michele Dold, Finance Supervisor, Vallejo, East Bay Chapter
Orange County Chapter and CMTA Division IX – April 9, 11:30am – 1:30pm – Dave & Busters Irvine, CA
Sales and Property Tax Outlook for 2015
-Speaker: Paula Cone/Andy Nickerson, HdL Companies
Central Los Angeles & South Bay Chapters Meeting – April 30, 11:30am – 1:30pm – Clearwater Building Paramount, CA
Super Circular Changes
-Speaker: Phil White, Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Company, LLP
Power of Fiscal Policies / Long Term Financial Planning, Livermore Area Recreation & Park District
– April 9, 8:30am – 4:30pm
–Presented by Bill Statler
Intermediate Governmental Accounting, City of Monterey
– April 22, 8:00am – 5:00pm
– Instructed by Susan Mayer
Introduction to Governmental Accounting, Sacramento, CA
– April 29, 9:00am – 4:30pm
– Instructed by Ahmed Badawi
Intermediate Governmental Accounting, Beverly Hills, CA
– May 7, 8:00am – 5:00pm
– Instructed by Susan Mayer
CSMFO provides government finance professionals with numerous resources for enhancing and advancing their careers. Visit the job opportunities page of the CSMFO website for a list of current job openings.