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A MESSAGE FROM GFOA'S NEW PRESIDENT, TERRY STONE.

I am honored for this opportunity to serve as President of your Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. I look forward to working with the Executive Board, our standing committees, state and provincial organizations, and all of you, our members who are building stronger communities every day

In his address at this year's annual conference, Past-President Steven Gibson described the many accomplishments of the last year. Here, I will outline some of our initiatives for the coming years. As you know, finance officers play a vital role in leading our organizations and supporting the citizens, visitors, businesses, and the other institutions that make our communities thrive. Nowhere is that more true than with public infrastructure. Across the United States and Canada, governments face challenges in building, upgrading, and maintaining the infrastructure vital to our lives.

Addressing infrastructure deficiencies will require skills and knowledge from across a wide set of public-finance and local government management disciplines including capital planning, budgeting, debt management, citizen engagement, accounting, economic development, and more.

Tackling our most difficult infrastructure challenges will require much of what GFOA has to offer. We can all play a role in working together, sharing ideas, documenting best practices, and building our professional network. GFOA can provide the link that you, our 20,000-plus members who represent nearly 9,000 governments, need to help you collaborate, innovate, and advocate for your communities.

According to the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card by the American Society of Civil Engineers, our nation's infrastructure earned a cumulative grade of D+! The same report estimates that unmet infrastructure needs for the period of 2017 through 2025 totals $2.1 trillion--yes, trillion with a "T." The deteriorating infrastructure affects our communities every day.

For more than a century, tax-exempt municipal bonds have been the major funding source for public infrastructure. The volume of municipal bonds issued from 2007 to 2017 totaled $3.6 trillion. You might be surprised that the largest project category in the tax-exempt market is education, with an average of 28 percent. And I can tell you firsthand that these investments make a difference.

In my state of Virginia, 40 percent of all school facilities are 50 years old or older. This statistic holds true in my locality, where 40 percent of our schools are 50 years old or older, and 16 percent are more than 80 years old. Virginia school divisions do not have taxing authority and rely solely on local governments to fund capital projects.

I am pleased to say that my division was successful in developing a plan with our local government to replace or significantly renovate all of our 80-year old buildings over a seven-year period. These new schools can only be a reality with the use of municipal bonds.

Replacing aging schools is important to our mission because we recognize that the condition of an educational facility has an impact on the health, achievement, and safety of our students. Updating this infrastructure is necessary to ensure an equitable learning environment for all students.

GFOA members understand the great importance of tax-exempt municipal bonds. 1 ask you to help tell your stories about how they have made a difference in your community and share those stories with us by using the hashtag #builtbybonds. We also need you to help by contacting your U.S. senators and representatives and asking them to:

* Protect the full tax-exemption for municipal bonds.

* Restore advance refundings.

* Adopt bond modernization provisions.

While support from our nation s capital is critical, we must also lead locally to address our communities' infrastructure needs. We must refine our practices, improve our policies, and invest in better programs and services. GFOA provides that best practice knowledge, lessons learned, and guidance that you can implement. For example, I have been involved with GFOA's Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting.

GFOA developed Smarter School Spending and the Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting, a framework and network designed to share information and collaborate on strategies that enable:

* Alignment of resource allocation and student performance.

* Stronger connections between finance and academic staff.

* Integration of strategic and long-term financial planning.

* Improved stakeholder engagement.

* Data-driven decision making.

I am pleased to report that since this new initiative was launched with half a dozen school districts five years ago, more than 100 districts across the nation are now fully engaged, adopting best practices, sharing their experiences, and using the tools provided by GFOA. Alliance member districts have made strides in graduation rates and are working collaboratively within the organization and with their communities to make tough decisions that will lead to better student outcomes. 1 am very proud of the work GFOA is doing to apply our best practices to a major national issue: improving K-12 educational outcomes.

Within other networks, GFOA will be providing additional opportunities for members to discuss key issues facing their governments. This year, we will expand offerings within our membership groups, including the Urban Forum, Small Government Forum, and Utility Finance Forum. These groups and their events will provide members with opportunities throughout the year to engage with peers on the topics that are most relevant to their specific type of organization. Watch for announcements about future webinars and networking events.

We've heard from you about the challenges you face in attracting new talent to the government finance profession. In response, last year, GFOA launched a student chapter initiative to engage college students in government finance. I am proud to report that our first student chapter launched at Virginia Tech in March of this year. It is my hope that next year we'll be able to announce many more student chapters.

Participating students receive free membership to GFOA and a front row seat to networking with professionals they one day hope to work alongside. As part of each chapter, there's a mentor, and members like you, who can help guide students as they work toward graduation and a career in the public service.

We want to show the next generation that public finance is a rewarding profession and career. In addition to the excitement of budget spreadsheets, accounting standards, continuing disclosure, and actuarial tables, finance officers have a huge impact on building a thriving community.

At times, we all lose sight of why public finance really matters and the outcomes we all influence. I'd like to share a personal story about why I do what I do.

While Hanover County Public Schools is one of the highest-ranked school divisions in Virginia for student achievement and graduation rates, we earned those accomplishments without keeping pace with technology. In 2016, we recognized the immediate need for upgraded technology infrastructure and devices for teachers and students. Hanover did not issue student devices, which may have affected educational equity. We knew we could do better.

That year we developed a $17 million technology plan that received student, parent, citizen, and funding support. Our technology infrastructure can now support robust learning experiences for all students to make sure they have the opportunity for personal growth and the ability to achieve their fullest potential. The superintendent and our entire leadership team are very proud of this accomplishment.

In closing, I'd like to recognize my organization, Hanover County Public Schools, led by Superintendent Dr. Michael Gill. He has been extremely supportive of my service to GFOA because he sees the value it brings to our schools and the Hanover County community.

Finally, I especially want to thank my family, who has supported my involvement in the GFOA--even when it meant more time away from home. And, a very special thank you to my husband, Steve, who has been my enthusiastic partner in both this GFOA journey and my public service career with his continuous energy and encouragement.

I look forward to my term as president of this outstanding organization. Most of all, I look forward to meeting and working with many of you over the next year. I challenge you to become more active in the organization by applying for standing committees and participating in member forums and networking groups.
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Title Annotation:Perspectives
Publication:Government Finance Review
Date:Jun 1, 2019
Words:1344
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