GFOA's 2014 Awards for Excellence in Government Finance

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada announced the winners of its 2014 Awards for Excellence in Government Finance at the GFOA's annual conference in Minneapolis on May 19.

This year's awards include the Louisville Award for Innovation in Government Finance, awarded occasionally to recognize an exceptional accomplishment that introduces a new concept or technique with enduring value to the government finance profession. This year, the Louisville Award went to Williamson County, Texas, for Williamson County Creates Business Intelligence System for the Public Sector, the first fully supported Software as a Service package built by and for the public sector to meet public-sector business intelligence and operational reporting requirements in a manner that is transferable to most other jurisdictions.

This year's Awards for Excellence-winning entries encompass such innovations in areas of capital financing and debt administration, e-government and technology, and pensions and benefits:

Williamson County, Texas

Williamson County Creates Business Intelligence System for the Public Sector
Category: eGovernment and Technology

When Williamson County, Texas, decided to implement a more sophisticated internal reporting system, it went well beyond an ordinary approach to business intelligence, creating a public?private partnership to develop and implement technology that will now be marketed to other public-sector organizations. The new, cloud?based reporting tool - known as Performance Center - improves reporting capabilities at the operational, staff, management, and taxpayer levels while reducing costs by 95 percent, as compared to a typical business intelligence implementation that would have cost the county approximately $750,000 to $1 million over three years. Performance Center is a state?of?the?art package that provides standardized reporting for the unique needs of government and eliminates the manual, time?intensive processes involved in routine public-sector business practices. Governments have numerous tools available for building custom business intelligence software, but Performance Center is the first fully supported Software as a Service package built by and for the public sector to meet public-sector business intelligence and operational reporting requirements in a manner that is transferable to most other jurisdictions.

Contact: David U. Flores, County Auditor, 710 S. Main Street, Suite 301, Georgetown, Texas 78626 (512-943?1500)

Town of Cary, North Carolina

Aquastar Metering Infrastructure: Improving Customer Service and Efficiency while Saving Money
Category: eGovernment and Technology

Aquastar, the Town of Cary's innovative, advanced water metering infrastructure system, provides the jurisdiction with hourly water meter usage data that completely redefines customer service while saving money - more than $10 million above and beyond the project's capital and operating cost over its 17-year life. An automatic meter-reading system is still relatively new technology for water utilities, and before the Aquastar system replaced approximately 60,000 residential and commercial water meters with wireless meters that collect water data every hour, the town read meters manually, once a month. Another feature: Few, if any, other utilities have web portals that display hourly usage data for their customers to review. Aquastar also supports the town's commitment to preserving and protecting the environment by reducing carbon emissions (the result of taking meter readers off the road); more quickly detecting and stopping leaks; and providing daily information on water use that allows customers to improve their efforts at using water wisely.

Contact: Karen Mills, Finance Director, PO Box 8005, Cary, NC 27512, (919-469-4110)

City of Raleigh, North Carolina

Creating a Marketplace: Raleigh's e-Procurement Project
Category: eGovernment and Technology

A new e-procurement project expanded the City of Raleigh's existing payment system to provide employees and vendors with a robust, cart-based shopping experience they can use to easily compare vendor pricing for material-based purchases. The initiative aims to reduce purchasing costs and provide a number of additional benefits; for one, the city and its key suppliers can now send and receive electronic purchase orders and invoices, leading to faster delivery times and lower vendor pricing. Policy changes were made to help ensure compliance and at the same time increase the amount of data available for analytics. The city also outsourced a portion of its more complex catalog management, giving users access to a wide array of supplier catalogs and pre-established vendor pricing. Shoppers can assign their carts to the appropriate personnel for approval before the requisition is submitted for processing. The city projects annual savings of more than $4.2 million by the fourth year, and a five-year return of more than ten times the initial investment amount.

Contact: Hilary Bognar, Assistant Business Systems Manager - Finance, PO Box 590, Raleigh, NC 27602 (919-996-4958)

City of Houston

Houston Encourages Self-Funding Capital Projects with an Internal Loan Program
Category: Capital Financing and Debt Administration

Self?funding capital improvement projects are not unique, but the City of Houston's long?term, systematic approach to continually encouraging such projects is far from common practice. Through its internal loan program, called the Fund 1850 Reimbursable Program, the city provides selected projects with a dedicated funding source for debt service and removes these projects from the general competition for scarce debt capacity. Each department's capital project request must generate a sufficient amount of revenue and/or savings to fully fund the cost of the proposal, and the department commits to paying an annual debt service payment out of its operating budget. Selected projects receive funding to move forward and are assigned a repayment schedule, which holds the department accountable for its projected target outcomes. The city has funded more than $190 million of these projects since 2008 and anticipates averaging $21.7 million in savings annually over the next five years. Over the program's lifetime, the city expects an internal rate of return of approximately 5 percent.

Contact: Jennifer Denick, Assistant Director, 611 Walker, Houston, TX 77002 (832-393-9112)

Orange County Employees Retirement System

Orange County Employees Retirement System Creates State-of-the-Art Portfolio Risk Toolkit
Category: Pensions and Benefits

Responding to a need for increased portfolio risk assessment abilities, the Orange County Employees Retirement System created its pension portfolio risk analytics program. It has three central components: 1) economic and market risk analytics; 2) portfolio-wide risk analytics; and 3) an analysis of “micro” risks at the manager level. For the first segment of the project, OCERS created economic dashboards designed to improve staff proficiency and accountability, and to help board members make better decisions. The pension system provides these dashboards at no cost to any public pension plan on request. Part two of the project required OCERS to develop risk analytics systems that quantitatively analyze the investment portfolio itself, with the unprecedented inclusion of risk advisory and interpretative services seldom employed in the public sector. Finally, the third part of the project allows OCERS to evaluate individual manager risks, including variations in performance from manager benchmarks and performance proxies that would indicate a potential violation of investment policy. The unique portfolio risk toolkit OCERS has constructed is one of the most robust means of risk analysis available to mid-size and smaller public pension funds.

Contact: Girard Miller, Chief Investment Officer, 2223 E. Wellington Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701 (714-558-6223)

Click here for online information, including links to materials referenced above, or to request a free subscription to OCERS Economic Dashboards.