In this session of the 2021 NJMMA Fall Conference, attendees were educated on the importance of budgeting, effective ways to budget, and tips on better managing budgeting on a large scale. This session also addressed many frequently asked questions regarding surpluses, debt, police expenses, licenses and fees, audits, capital spending, and more.
The Get Smart with Budgets session was presented by Matthew Laracy, Chief Financial Officer of Verona, NJ, and Jim Burnet, Assistant Administrator and Chief Financial Officer of Madison, NJ. Providing over 20 years of expertise between both of their professional careers, this session breaks down resources and categories of each town's financial state and how to best manage those budgets.
"We want to teach you how to develop a budget and help you identify what the big priorities are for your town this year," said Jim Burnet as an opening statement.
This session is designed to be a 101 class for budgeting and an open discussion to learn from one another. As CFO's, Laracy and Burnet give attendees first-hand experience on the responsibility of planning, organizing, and directing budgets, auditing, and financial reporting of a town's functions.
"Really, the factors we are all dealing with have to do with sustainability," said Matthew Laracy, CFO of Verona, NJ. "We want to sustain, we don't want to use all of our fundamentals, and we want to manage what we have."
Sectors of a town's tax bill were examined. In the session, the 2019 Budget summary of Madison, NJ, was used as an example. Laracy guided attendees through the budget chart and explained the three main sectors, Municipal, County, and School tax. During this session, learning the components that fall under each category and discussing the experiences among attendees was an essential part of the engagement.
Understanding current events and the effects it has on a town's budget was a popular discussion during this session. Speakers Laracy and Burnet spoke about the aftermath of the pandemic in their towns and neighboring towns in New Jersey. Attendees learned about the obstacles many towns had like sending checks to homeowners and how to provide financial aid for the town during these unprecedented times.
Additional topics discussed were affordable housing, property tax and value assessments, proper internal control, and the duties CFOs face daily.
An example given was of a town in New Hampshire. The town's CFO received a note from the CFO of the board of education about a bank change. The town's CFO failed to confirm the information before sending the school payments, later learning that the claim was fraudulent. Burnet emphasized the importance of efficiency and reporting.
"It's always timely topics, issues going on in local government," said Michael Rogers, City Administrator for the city of Summit. "This event allows the administrators to get in a room and talk about what's going and learn from one another."