Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

LTI Seminar Focuses on Guarding the Public Checkbook

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

LTI Seminar Focuses on Guarding the Public Checkbook

Article excerpt

"One of the first things that you find after being elected is that the environment that you are in is very, very different from the private sector. I think that is really important when you consider local government finances." Len Wood kicked off "Guarding the Public Checkbook," a Leadership Training Institute seminar held during the 2001 Congress of Cities in Atlanta, by giving some advice to attendees.

Participants started off the day by discussing common mistakes and errors that council members have made. As local officials, processes are out in the open and are evaluated. Wood indicated that when the mistakes are made one should not only look at how to fix it, but to focus on how they got into that situation to begin with.

Establishing accountability by setting missions and goals should be a primary focus for officials. "Accountability is NOT micro-managing," Wood emphatically stated to the group. "As officials, you set the policy, you should set the goals, and it is your responsibility to set a direction of where you are going."

Wood identified five areas in which to establish accountability and avoid fiscal mistakes that elected officials typically make. One way is to have oversight happen as a day-to-day response rather that after you noticed a problem began. Secondly, having an idea of financial policies will help you guide your staff. Third, as far as capital investment programs, project long term rather than year-to-year budgeting. Fourth, have solid investment policies. What is your treasurer following? Finally, have a long-range financial plan. …

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