Conference Sessions

GFOA’s 114th Annual Conference will be held on May 17-20, 2020, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.  A sample of sesions that will be included in the program are displayed below. The full program will be finalized, including specific dates and times, and posted in January 2020, and include approximately 75 concurrent sessions. Each session will contain a panel of speakers carefully selected to provide best practice guidance, discussion of current events, case studies, debate, and interactive exercises to cover a complete suite of topics pertinent for finance officers of all types and representing all forms of state and local governments. Information on each session including speakers, bios, handouts, will be available as it becomes available.

For more information on conference sessions, please contact Mike Mucha.

25 Sessions

Issuing and managing debt is one of many responsibilities for the finance office. The complexities inherent in the process and limited staff resources often makes it a necessity to rely on external resources like municipal advisors, underwriters, and legal counsel to access the municipal debt market and meet the disclosure responsibilities of the Continuing Disclosure Agreement (CDA). Speakers for this session will include a panel of industry professionals to discuss what issuers should expect from those engagements and how they can be better prepared to leverage those relationships to improve their debt management programs.

Governments already have several required disclosures for debt, but users of financial statements continually want more. As a result, finance officers must now become familiar with the latest round of new reporting requirements for debt. In this session, speakers will discuss what constitutes debt and the additional debt disclosures required by GASB 88, the issuance of GASB 91 for conduit debt, and the soon-to-be-issued new guidance on derivatives related to changing from LIBOR to SOFR.

It’s common for governments to develop multi-year plans. Oftentimes, though, plans are not comprehensive and are written as simple wish lists that change from year-to-year based on political considerations or the influence of outspoken citizen groups. To develop a true multi-year capital plan, governments need a structured approach to capturing capital needs, identifying both capital and operating financial impacts, prioritizing project requests, and developing appropriate funding strategies. Speakers in this session will highlight GFOA's best practice and provide case study examples of multi-year planning in governments of varying sizes, types, and complexity.

An audit committee provides an independent review and oversight of a government's financial reporting processes, internal controls, and independent auditors. GFOA's best practice guidance recommends that all governments establish an audit committee. This session will be based on GFOA's best practice statement and will provide answers to frequently asked questions on audit committees including: What should the committee do? Who should serve on the committee? How much financial knowledge is required to serve? How often should the committee meet? What is the proper level of funding for an audit committee?

Governmental business-type entities (BTAs), such as public utilities, transit systems, airports, colleges and hospitals occupy a special place in the world of accounting and financial reporting. Subject to GASB standards, including many based on old private-sector guidance, these governments have unique challenges. This session will be a discussion of current accounting and financial reporting topics of particular interest to BTAs, based on the experiences of current officials responsible for such entities. Likely topics include the impact on BTAs of recent GASB guidance, such as on leases, PPPs, interest capitalization and those that affect governments that follow regulatory accounting.

There are a myriad of ways in which governments can embrace technology solutions in the treasury office to better facilitate receivable and payable functions. These include integrating treasury data and procedures into government-wide ERP systems, facilitating cash and check handling in a more streamlined and anti-fraud manner, and accepting customer payments using new technology platforms. Finance officers should be aware of solutions that can assist with the processing of treasury functions to prevent fraud and know about what is on the horizon that could be of value to a government’s treasury operations.

It’s no secret that the public sector is vulnerable to cyber criminals. Public sector organizations typically lack the resources to adequately protect their systems. When they are forced to take drastic action, such as pay a ransom to retrieve data, it is publicly advertised. And that invites other cyber criminals to repeat their offense. Join this session as speakers debate the issue to pay or not to pay ransom to cyber criminals, how to best control what everyone knows to be the weakest link in any security policy (employees), and how to handle the constant tension between access and security. In addition, speakers will take questions from the audience and address what attendees are most concerned about in this scary and ever-changing world.

The budget process has many stakeholders and a quality budget process must engage all in a collaborative discussion about priorities, proposed services, and appropriate allocation of funding. While many finance officers understand the budget and the process used to develop it, do they also understand how other key stakeholders view it? This session will feature several department heads from non-financial positions in local government in a discussion about what makes a budget process successful. Attendees can expect to hear honest feedback on how to make a budget process more transparent, more inclusive, and more focused on allocating resources to the right programs to achieve the right results.

Actuarial reporting can be complex, but is important for understanding the status of pension and OPEB plans. Speakers in this session will focus on key components of an actuarial report and will guide finance officers on how to interpret their government’s actuarial reports. In addition, speakers will address frequently asked questions about the actuarial reports to allow finance officers to better understand and explain this information to other stakeholders in the government.

Incremental budgeting is easy, convenient, and readily accepted as a standard process in government. But is it the best approach? Incremental budgeting can make it difficult to reallocate funding based on current priority, compare funding to service levels or performance, or facilitate strategic long-term decision making. Unfortunately, many governments never test what is best because changing a key organizational process is difficult. This session will provide a plan forward using smaller (achievable) steps to build a better budget process. Speakers will discuss how they were able to initiate efforts to reform the budget process and how they overcame common challenges along the way.

Financial management processes often evolve over time. However, these changes can build inefficiency, complexity, lack of standardization, and confusion. Speakers in this session will present how simple tools and strategies, like asking "Why?" can break a pattern of "we've always done it this way" and lead to effective process improvements. This session will also provide practical strategies for leading process improvement efforts, change management, documentation, training, and developing a plan for sustaining change.

Budgeting is just as much about values and priorities as it is about dollars. Unfortunately, in times of a recession and when decisions get tough,governments can fall into focusing too much on getting the dollars to work out and abandon those principles. While universally true, but especially important in times of fiscal stress, it is important for governments to communicate their priorities and values as strategy to improve budget transparency, demonstrate fairness, and help justify difficult decisions. As governments work to prepare for the next recession, how much have you communicated on "why" you budget the way you do? In this session, speakers will present practical strategies on how to develop a framework and set priorities for making those tough decisions and ways to communicate to those most impacted.

Financial policies set guidelines for decision making and communicate the strategic intent for financial management. They are also central to a strategic, long-term approach to financial management and essential for all small governments. Presenters will discuss common challenges in developing policies in a small government, make recommendations on appropriate roles for finance staff and elected officials in policy setting, and provide an opportunity for discussion of common policies. In addition, GFOA will provide sample policies for the top ten policy areas in local government that are specific to small governments.

Public-sector organizations can’t succeed without talent – the right people with the right skills in the right places at the right times. This is particularly true for government financial management. But just having talented employees isn’t enough – they must also be committed and engaged. This session will cover how to measure employee engagement and then achieve a high level of engagement in your organization – in order to drive superior performance and outcomes. Attendees will learn how employee engagement improves performance and service in order to improve customer satisfaction and, ultimately, trust in government.

Cash flow forecasting is an essential aspect of a government’s operations that sets the stage for budgeting, cash management, and investing decisions. GFOA’s best practice and resources related to cash flow forecasting highlight the need for governments to conduct this exercise regularly using a 12-month rolling period separate from the entity’s fiscal year. Speakers will discuss how to establish cash forecasts, which help governments make decisions related to outlays and investing for both liquidity and core portfolios. Government and market leaders will also discuss the importance of and how best to review, update, and report an entity’s cash flow forecast.

Finance officers from state and local governments don’t need to be told how helpful federal funding can be to a capital project. Luckily, the federal government makes billions available in grant funds every year to support a wide variety of government projects and government functions. Unfortunately the federal grant system is complex and can be difficult to navigate. In this session, speakers will provide tips and strategies for finance officers and their staff looking to obtain those elusive additional grant funds and how to better "work" the existing system. In addition, speakers will provide an overview of major sources of available funding and how to determine which program is best suited for common needs and projects.

Finance officers must stay aware of the many factors that impact a government's investments. While the core principles of an investment strategy – liquidity, safety, and return - rest within a government’s investment policy, knowing about market conditions, current events, and investment products is just as important in determining if there are opportunities for core investing beyond liquidity. Speakers for this session will provide an economic update and expert predictions on interest rates and other factors related to government investing, provide an overview of new products that are being used by your peers, and engage in conversation about what governments need to do in order to prepare for investing in the next decade.

Public sector finance professionals in the utility industry continue to express interest in taking the opportunity to network with others facing the same problems and issues that they face on a daily basis. This session will not only offer a networking opportunity with others in public sector utility finance, but will also provide discussion on current issues and topics specifically requested through engagement in the Forum.

The availability of data has increased exponentially in recent decades. As the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and natural language generation have emerged, organizing and searching big data has become easier, making this trend likely to continue. This increase in data availability in the private sector has left some government struggling to keep up. Financial information can be complex and nuanced and the rules governing how public money must be managed can be difficult to explain. This session will focus on how local governments can be transparent in an appropriate and responsible way. Speakers will offer ways how best to provide context to financial data as it’s shared with various audiences.

GASB Statement No. 84, and the related implementation guide 2019-2, both named Fiduciary Activities, became effective for reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2018, eliminating the ambiguity that has existed in defining a fiduciary activity, but also changing the way that many governments will report on fiduciary funds. This session will provide a comprehensive review of fiduciary activities and and fiduciary fund accounting and financial reporting, including discussion of challenges of implementation by finance officers who have recently implemented the standard.

Since issuing GASB 87 on Leases, GASB has followed up not only with extensive implementation guidance for that statement but also with guidance on accounting and financial reporting for cloud computing and public-private (and public-public) partnerships that is explicitly based on the leases standard. This session will be an opportunity to review the authoritative literature and hear about GASB 87 from those who have begun or completed implementations. In addition, speakers will present similarities and differences between the newer guidance and lease accounting as well as provide tips that all governments can use to prepare for this next change.

As the dust settles from the recent amendments to SEC Rule 15c2-12, issuers continue to grapple with how to identify, record, and report event #15 and #16 notices. This session will include a discussion on the issuer experience managing their disclosure programs and guidance from outside professionals on the advice they provide to their governmental clients. Attendees will also be updated on changes to GFOA Best Practices and Advisories related to disclosure practices.

Each year at the annual conference GFOA presents this can't miss round-up to discuss key developments in accounting, auditing, and financial reporting that affect state and local governments. Topics covered will include recently promulgated standards, including GASB's statements on public-private and public-public partnerships, the transition from LIBOR, and IRC Section 457 deferred compensation; the AICPA's and GAO's auditing standards developments, and the standard setters' on-going projects likely to affect issuers and auditors in the near future.

The software industry has embraced agile methodologies for some time and lately it has been embraced by firms responsible for implementing software. Originally developed as an alternative to waterfall project management methodologies that require sequencing and identification of dependencies, agile focused on customer engagement, design affirmation, team effort, and monitoring. Lately, agile has become a “buzzword” to hide behind when tasks are late or incomplete. Project Managers are quick to report that agile permits these anomalies. Join this session as facilitators compare and contrast project management methodologies and the impact they have on your ERP project. The audience will also learn how to develop contracts that support the benefits of agile, waterfall, and hybrid approaches, while also incorporating essential public-sector best practices related to quality assurance, testing, acceptance, and payment.

The legislative and regulatory environment surrounding the municipal bond market is constantly changing. This session will provide an outlook on how state and local governments are adapting to recent changes from the nation’s capital and what they might expect in the future, especially in light of the upcoming general election and how it may shape new policies and proposals. Speakers will also highlight discussions in Washington, D.C., regarding infrastructure finance, disclosure of climate change and cybersecurity risks, public pensions, and other legislative proposals that may impact a government’s comprehensive fiscal structure.