Magazine article Government Finance Review

Proud to Be a Finance Officer. (President's Message)

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Proud to Be a Finance Officer. (President's Message)

Article excerpt

Believe it or not, I think it's a great time to be a government finance official.

Yes, the economy is in the tank. And yes, the federal government seems intent on making policy decisions without regard for their effect on state and local governments. As a result, the job of balancing budgets and serving the people who count on us for critical public services has become almost impossible.

While our problems sometimes seem insurmountable, we are needed now more than ever before. In good times, many people can do our jobs. In times like these, however, a knowledgeable, trusted, independent finance official can make a critical difference in how well your community weathers the storm.

I am proud of what we do. I am also proud to be part of an organization like GFOA, which can help us through these trying times. Consider a few noteworthy examples.

GFOA has updated its recommended practice on reserve policies. We are using it in San Francisco to support a ballot measure this fall that would add to our city charter an economic stabilization reserve to temper the next boom and bust cycle. Sometimes you can only make these types of changes when things are tough. When the economy is strong, there is little interest. I encourage you to dust off your GFOA recommended practices and look for things that would make sense for your governments to implement now.

We are also establishing a new GFOA standing committee on economic development and capital budgeting. We know that our local policies can encourage and discourage development. As finance officers, we can and should be part of the discussion. This new committee will consider economic development tools, such as tax increment financing districts and local tax incentives, and establish recommended practices for state and local governments. As we do so, we must ensure that we make our decisions in a way that promotes the sustainability of our communities.

Another area in which I believe GFOA can strengthen its role is our presence in Washington, D.C. Because the federal government has such a significant impact on us, it makes sense to play a greater role in the nation's capital. From discussions of Internet taxation to debt policy, Washington sets many of the rules we must live by. When the federal government chooses to provide funding for emergency preparedness and response, for example, we are the ones who have to account for those funds or lose them 10 years later-which has happened to many local governments. …

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