Finance Officers Trade Fireworks for Fretting

from the Government Finance Officers Association meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Last year there were fireworks: At its annual conference, GFOA leaders threw down the ...
by | June 16, 2008

from the Government Finance Officers Association meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Last year there were fireworks: At its annual conference, GFOA leaders threw down the gauntlet over GASB's entry into setting standards for performance measures.

This year, the Government Finance Officers Association's 102nd annual conference is off to a more tempered and tense start. Rather than fireworks, there is a sense of unease over falling state and local revenues, troubles in the municipal bond market and political change in Washington that could upend current tax and health policies.

In his opening remarks at the kick-off general session, outgoing GFOA President Charles S. Cox, director of finance for the city of Farmers Branch, Texas, took note of GFOA's success at beating back Securities and Exchange Commission proposals to oversee activities in the municipal bond market. In a minor slap at the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, Cox noted GFOA's "continued efforts for accounting standards" that would be "for accounting, not accountability."

But those remarks were followed by a firm backing for compliance with GASB's OPEB accounting rules. Referring to Texas's ("my state") and other local attempts to set separate standards for reporting retiree health and other benefits, Cox said that such steps are a major setback for implementing national systems, and jurisdictions that persist in such efforts would "not be eligible for GFOA certification awards."

But the unease that ran like a current through the sessions and among conference goers keyed in on fallng revenues and budget problems. The talk in the hallways was about Vallejo, California, and its decision to declare bankruptcy. Finance officers talked about how their revenues, spending and budgetary pressures compared to Vallejo. The beleagured California city seemed to become a benchmark for how worried conference goers should be about their locality's future.

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