Issue 1 | Volume 2021 | SEPTEMBER
in this issue
Page 2 | President's Message from Aria Negahban
Page 3 | Lesli Cathey retires after 30+ years
Page 4 | October Webinar - Wendy Morton-Huddleston, AGA National President
Page 6 | Member Spotlight - Lorna Schwimmer
Page 8 | August Board Minutes
Page 10 | How Public Sector Finance Can adjust to COVID-19
Page 13 | 2020-2021 AGA Austin Chapter Officers and Committee Chairs
Hello Austin Chapter,
I hope everyone has had a restful and relaxing summer! I am excited to serve as your new Chapter President and start the AGA Program Year, quarantine and all! The last several months have definitely put everyone to the test; from WFH, to virtual school, and everything else in between, we have certainly been placed in very challenging times. However, with new challenges come new opportunities: the end of last year saw multiple webinar events for our chapter, and record-breaking attendance at each! The ability to connect virtually has proven both successful and very popular, as many of our members who couldn’t attend in-person events now have the ability to participate, listen to great speakers, and connect with accounting professionals in Greater Austin (even if there is no seafood included. Sorry Pappadeaux!).
Under my leadership, I believe we can capitalize on these difficult times and persevere in the coming year. As a chapter, we have solidified our commitment to CPE Webinars and other virtual events by purchasing a new software called Conferences i/o -- this web-based platform will enable more interactive presentations from our speakers, as well as new avenues of audience participation from our members. I think if anything can be gleaned from 2020 so far, it is the power of technology. The late-great Science Fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke said it best, as he asserted “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. With that, I am honored to serve as your President, and look forward to the magical year ahead.
Aria Negahban, PMP
President, AGA Austin Chapter
The Chapter reported 115 active members as of August, including 3 new members who joined in July and August 2020:
Mr. Justin O. Hedlund
Mr. Andre L. Leroux
Mrs. Terrie A. Rodriguez
The following members also celebrated their one-year membership anniversaries during the months of August and September.
Ms. Breanna L. Jones
Ms. Rebecca Lyssy
Mr. Arnold K. Robinson
Ms. Mamie L. Steverson
Ms. Jacqueline D. Tate
Mr. David Vasquez
Lesli Cathey, AGA Austin Chapter Past President has retired after 30+ years of service to the government community. Her nearly 30 years of auditing, analysis, management and organizational experience began at the State Auditor’s Office (SAO). In 1991, she was selected to the prestigious Texas Performance Review team to conduct the first ever historic top-to-bottom review of all of Texas state government. The legislature continued the program, and she was recruited from SAO to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and worked with Comptrollers John Sharp and Carole Keeton Strayhorn. In 2003, the legislature moved the performance review programs and Lesli went with the programs to the LBB. As she enters retirement, the family continues to enjoy time on Lake Marble Falls where Lesli grew up.
Issue 1 | Volume 2021 | SEPTEMBER
past aga austin chapter president, lesli cathey retires after 30+ years
Join us virtually as we welcome AGA 2020-2021 National President, Wendy Morton-Huddleston, CGFM, PMP. Wendy will be presenting on servant leadership with purpose and passions. She will discuss ways to cultivate a diverse slate of leaders for local chapter and national leadership positions, leadership in times of crisis with resiliency such as during COVID, unemployment as well as leadership resources to inspire courage.
Wendy is an Advisory Principal and Risk Service Line Leader at Grant Thornton Public Sector LLC. Wendy has over 25 years of experience providing insights to federal, state, local and not-for-profit clients. Wendy's professional experience is in enterprise risk management, business process optimazation, project management, financial management, internal controls, grants managaement and stategic planning. Wendy served as president of the 2,200-member Washington, D.C. chaoter of AGA from 2016-2017. Wendy is a United Way National Capital Area (NCA) board member and an executive sponsor or ally for the following Busines Resource Groups: Women, African-Americans, Equality GT and Veterans.
Wendy holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Norfolk State University, an MBA in Management and a MS in Finance from the University of Maryland and an Executive Leadership Certificate from Cornell University.
october 8, 2020
12pm - 1Pm
Platform: Conference i/o
Registration Fee: $5.00
WITH PURPOSE & PASSION
Issue 1 | Volume 2021 | SEPTEMBER
Matthew Swenson presented on "Cybercrime Supply Chain - What Happens to your Stolen Data?" at the AGA Austin Chapter's' September virtual luncheon. Mr. Swenson currently serves as a Section Chief at the Homeland Security Investigations Cyber Crime Center in Fairfax, VA. At C3, he oversees the Network Intrusion Section and teaches the Network Intrusion First Responder course. Previously, Mr. Swenson served as a Special Agent assigned to the Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles, California, field office. In Los Angeles, he conducted computer forensics and mobile device forensics on a wide array of digital media, supporting Homeland Security Investigations. Mr. Swenson has 18 years of federal law enforcement experience focusing on digital forensics, cyber-crime, and incident response. He has also taught computer forensics and cyber-crime related courses to investigators worldwide.
Before his assignment in the Los Angeles field office, Mr. Swenson served as a Section Chief for the Department of Homeland Security Cyber Crimes Center’s Digital Forensic Unit and also supervised a team working cybercrime investigations at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA
The Cybercrime Supply Chain:
What happens to your stolen data?
Issue 1 | Volume 2021 | SEPTEMBER
September 10, 2020
12PM - 1PM
Lorna followed the typical path to a career in government internal audit, via a degree in nutrition.After graduating from the University of Texas with said degree, she took an administrative position at the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, where she learned about the CPA designation.For the next three years, she worked in Enforcement and then Accounting at The Board while studying accounting after work.In 2013, she became a CPA herself.Between Grant Thornton and Weaver, she spent two years in public accounting before starting with DFPS in 2015.She squeezed in a wedding, a CGFM, and an HHS Aspiring Leaders Academy before the babies took over.
BI2 ("Before Isaac and Ilan"), Lorna and her Baylor Bear husband, Deacon, enjoyed watching Texas beat Baylor at football in-person.They also attended Spurs games and other college sporting events and traveled internationally whenever possible.AI2and during COVID, they mostly just hang out with Grandma and Grandpa Schwimmer and engage in riveting debates with two-year-olds about the superiority of the red bib with apples over the blue bib with pineapples.
Lorna Schwimmer-Staggs is an Audit Project Manager with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).She has been there over five years and enjoys working to improve processes to help protect children and adults.
Lorna has been in AGA Austin for over seven years.She was Research Chair for one year and Treasurer for four years until her sons, Isaac and Ilan, were born in 2018.Upon realizing she would have to choose between her children and being AGA Treasurer, months of deliberation ensued. She remains fairly confident she made the right decision.
Beginning Bank Balance
Dividend through 6/1/2020
ACH - ERS - Invoice 108 - March Luncheon
Dividend through 7/1/2020
ACH Transfer - Square
Dividend through 8/1/2020
Total Funds Received:
Ending Bank Balance
Check No. Description
2190 Chapter Conference Aug 20 - Jul 21
Total Outstanding Checks:
Adjusted Ending Bank Balance - 8/30/2020:
Total Chapter Funds Available Per Check Register - 8/30/2020:
Cash on Hand:
CU Min Savings Balance
For the period ending 08/30/2020
Meeting called to order at 12:10pm
In attendance—Aria, Bhakti, Priscilla, Richard & Sharita
Commencement of CEC Meeting
Webinar Software Comparisons & Vote
GoToWebinar Pro ($800 cost annually, share with Dallas and OKC chapters, up to 500 users)
Conferences i/o ($250 per year, don’t need to share, polling/many features, doesn’t seem to be user limit
We have to give a decision to Megan (took Louise’s place) by Monday afternoon (August 24th) & a check (will need to get with David for that)
Conference I/O has good features, but would we use them? Maybe Leita would during her training; the features may work if we do something else outside of having speakers
All CEC in attendance were in an agreement that Conference I/O will be the better option for us
It is 100% web-based for easy access for attendees
They are having a training on August 26thor 27th, sometime next week; Aria will let us know so that we can log in & take it
Will set it up by the end of the day, email Megan to let her know we are interested; will also email OKC & Dallas to let them know we are not using GoToMeeting b/c Conference I/O is more cost effective
If we charge the $5-$10 we discussed, we will make our $$ back; Bhakti says if we charge $10, using the Conference I/O, we will get our $250 back with 25 attendees, & for the year with 9 trainings & at least 25 attendees per training, we will make $2250
We will charge $5-$10 for the first training & see how it goes
We will have AGA Nationals put training events on their webpage they send out so that we can get more attendees
Conference I/O has a way of sending out certificates; this will make it easy for Patti
We will have to work out with Eddie & Patti, to ensure those who sign up late can get link; will not be able to do walk-ins
MS Teams (free, polling available, up to 250 users
One of our Speakers, Wendy (AGA Pres) said this is specifically what she wants to use
For polling, we could send out a Google survey to their email they use to register; this would be a free solution to using the Conference I/O
This may be an issue/deal breaker not having the polling
Update on Webmail Service negotiations?
Decided to keep website for external registrations/and keep domain names for email addresses, but want to stop webmail service)
Current speaker lineup:
September 2020 (Matthew Swenson, DHS special agent on cyber fraud or crime), almost confirmed
October 2020 (Wendy Morton-Huddleston, AGA National President, topic TBD) confirmed
February 2021 (Tracey Armstrong, RSM Exec on Diversity and Inclusion) confirmed
April 2021 (Tamara Lily, Assistant Inspector General, OIG at HHS, topic cybersecurity audits or soft skills)
Still need to put out some feelers for Nov & Dec; if you run across anyone who wants to speak, please let us know
Bhakti was suggested; possibly discussing the CARES Act & where the $$ is going (teaching in October for CLA, can send slides; maybe for November or December)
Richard—possibly discussing Single Audits or Risk Management; he will ask Crystal Bearley if she can speak
Priscilla will see if she can get her new management to speak
Other: Latasha is going to have to drop off the CEC board this year due to her kids having to do virtual learning; Aria told her she could jump back on once the kids go back to school
Past President (Priscilla)
Education Committee Chair (Patti)
Communications Chair (Bhakti)
Research Committee Chair (Debi)
Chapter Historian (Sharita)
Meeting adjourned at 1pm
August 20, 2020 | 12PM
BOARD MINUTES, cont'd
How public sector finance management can adjust to COVID-19
Even as the pandemic drains revenue, governments must brace themselves for more of the same. Here's how bright public servants will keep the lights on.
If local governments have lived for generations by the mantra "do more with less," then 2020's COVID-19 pandemic has added a dire level of complexity: one you could sum up as "do more in distress with less and less."
Given the unprecedented challenge for the public sector, local and state finance professionals are struggling with how to address revenue shortfalls created by COVID-19, even as they come to grips with what post-pandemic budgets and hardships will look like.
"Governments were getting squeezed prior to the pandemic with higher demands for their services and political difficulty in raising taxes," said public sector accounting veteran Jack Reagan, CPA, now a partner with UHY LLP based in Columbia, Md. "The pandemic only exacerbated these existing pressures, and most of the financial structural issues present prior to the pandemic will definitely be there once we reopen government."
The stresses are particularly tough in states such as New Jersey, said Walter J. Brasch, CPA, CGMA, chief success officer at Prager Metis CPAs in Cranbury, N.J. "Many states in the Northeast already have huge debt issues facing them for such things as pension obligations, and unemployment funds running out of cash."
As with private businesses across the spectrum, the disturbing notion of a new normal might as well be a new abnormal. But whereas coffee shops and retail stores can close temporarily or permanently without jeopardizing public services, governments can't.
"The COVID-19 pandemic will absolutely exacerbate financial hardship for many governmental entities," said Carrie Kruse, CPA, CGMA, economic development coordinator for the city of Des Moines, Iowa. As for the hits that local and regional governments will take in revenue, Kruse ticked off a list that sounds like the backbone of Main Street itself.
Said Kruse: "We are experiencing massive declines in a number of revenue streams including road use taxes as many people are working from home and driving less; hotel/motel taxes as hotel occupancy rates have plummeted to unprecedented levels as corporate and leisure travel have suspended; sharp parking revenue declines, especially in urban settings with more people working from home; and sales tax reductions as overall taxable spending has dropped."
About the only bright spot in all this requires a glance in the rearview mirror. In the years leading up to the pandemic, municipalities such as Des Moines enjoyed strong gains in real estate and construction revenue, Kruse said. "We were seeing record numbers of building permits and upward pressure for property values to start surpassing annual inflation." And yet, "we were considering it more of a catch-up from a prior decade of strategic cost-cutting measures."
At a time when local governments have shifted from catching up to catching their breath, here are five ways they can maneuver during the COVID-19 squeeze, provide service to their communities, and prepare for an uncertain future.
Share resources.Now more than ever, local governments should consider teaming with other municipalities to pay for the services they need.
"Pooling resources across jurisdictional boundaries is one of the greatest ways to provide high-quality public services at a lower cost to the taxpayers," Kruse said. In Des Moines, that has meant sharing library services with the adjacent city of Windsor Heights, just steps from Des Moines's Franklin Avenue Library. "It's far more cost-efficient than our neighboring community building and maintaining their own library and having to hire their own staff to operate it."
Address technology.One obvious solution is to invest in new technology; for example, with legacy systems a generation older or more. "The issue with many governments is that their IT systems are more than 40 years old," Brasch said. "In New Jersey, the unemployment system shut down in March and April as it couldn't handle the volumes of claims."
Of course, most, if not all, 2020 budgets went out the window in March as the pandemic froze or cut additional funding for needed new systems. But while a full technology overhaul may prove impossible, a small department could upgrade one small system as a start.
Governments can also look for other technology solutions to support community needs. For example, consider a cloud solution that depends on current IT resources and thus could be implemented with little additional cost. Review technology within other areas as well.
Double down on data.Need to do more with even less? Leverage more data. Reagan pointed to data and analytics as part of "the emerging next wave of government reinvention. Capturing, standardizing, and analyzing this data — then using it to make quicker decisions — is critical for governments in the next few years." That said, Reagan noted, "None of that matters unless there is also subsequent monitoring of the effectiveness and efficiency of the decision. The old saying when I first got into the industry used to be 'what gets measured gets done,' but governments measure a ton of things already. The effective governments continuously monitor because in reality, 'what gets monitored gets done.' Don't be afraid to change course if that is what the data is telling you."
Get energy efficient.Upgrading the city's public properties also encourages private developers to follow suit. "We recently passed a benchmarking ordinance that requires privately owned commercial buildings over a specific size to benchmark the energy use of those buildings," Kruse said. "One of the best ways for the city to participate in these efforts is to lead by example and show the factual fiscal savings and environmental benefits with energy-efficiency upgrades with our very own city facilities."
Develop or enhance partnerships with elected officials.While political gears often grind slowly, there's an added incentive for politicians and public sector finance pros to hammer out smart solutions that avoid the last-resort option of massive tax hikes. This requires intentional, proactive effort to get all parties together and initiate discussions on best strategies. Keep in mind that video meetings or conference calls will be more effective and direct than exchanging emails.
This will also set the stage for ongoing regular interactions that can include brainstorming sessions or calls to action, such as revisiting antiquated legislation that gets in the way of smart fiscal practice.
—Lou Carlozois a freelance writer based in Chicago.
By Lou Carloza
September 14, 2020
industry news, cont'd
Summer 2020 Journal: Leaning in on Technology
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