'Once a Budgeter, Always a Budgeter': Five Reviewers for the GFOA's Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program Explain Why Their Interest in and Dedication to Budgeting Continues after They've Retired
Fishbein, John, Government Finance Review
TPe GFOA's Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program--which encourages and assists state and local governments in preparing budget documents that are of the highest quality and reflect both the guidelines established by both the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting and the GFOA's best practices--would not be possible without outside reviewers. Many of these individuals continue to volunteer as reviewers for the program after they retire. Below, five reviewers explain why and discuss life after retirement--which includes a continued dedication to their profession.
CONTRIBUTING TO THE PROFESSION
Retirement means many different things, especially to GFOA members who have spent many years doing reviews for the Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program and have continued to review budgets in retirement. Some people might think reviewing budgets in retirement is a mighty peculiar thing. But others find it is enjoyable; if not actually fun. For instance, try to explain budgeting and the GFOA budget review program to some friends who want you to join them for some hospitality during an annual golf trip, but you have a review due at the end of the week and a budget document spread around the floor of your hotel room.
Why do it? Because in retirement, just like in your "active" career, you want to see the best in governmental budgeting and you want to contribute to your profession. Learning from others in this activity is more than imitation and a sincere flattery; it is learning from the wise, applying best practices to your government, hopefully to the satisfaction of the public. With increased expectations for transparency and accountability from the public, more is expected with less, and the budget document is key to meeting those expectations. Presenting a clear, understandable, and accountable plan gives the public the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way. The budget award program does that.
Continuous improvement and peer review by reviewers through the budget award program is critical to the continued development and success of our profession. Participation can help make significant accomplishments in challenging times. We can and should be there for the next generation.
We try to not judge in a review, but advise and assist. We are often called on to give good ideas to peers on how to further improve budgets that are already considered excellent. Alas, there are occasions, especially with first-time submittals, when an applicant is not fully up to award standards. Then the hard work really starts, as you need to give them the benefit of all your years of experience and provide concrete, practical steps for improving their budget presentation and receiving the award with their next submittal. It is always a great pleasure to see agencies you reviewed several years ago make spectacular progress in the art and science of budget preparation and presentation.
When I started my career, I was not sure about being a "budgeter." About 33 years later, I am happy to say that once a budgeter, always a budgeter, and I am good to go for at least 10 more years.--John Farris
'PAYING YOUR DOES' WORKS
I retired from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 2003, after nearly 30 years as its budget manager. The primary job was to prepare and defend the commission's annual budget proposal. The job entailed a good facility with numbers, of course, but also an intricate melding of social and persuasive skills in a political environment. Work program planning and objectives were also important. The greatest benefit of the job was that it was supported by a very skilled set of players. The most intriguing aspect of the job came as part of the management side of a union bargaining team. The role was to try to evaluate the costs of proposals and negotiate the final contract. Here, one faced a very intelligent, committed group whose object was to secure the maximum share of scarce resources within legally defined parameters. …