SOUTHFIELD, Michigan – March 1, 2013 - Plante Moran, one of the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms and a service provider to 400 government entities in more than 35 states, has released its Government Outlook for 2013. Beth Bialy, CPA, leads the firm’s government practice and notes that 2013 is the year the local government of the future debuts.
“Local government has shed 650,000 jobs since a peak in 2008, cities are drawing down their reserves to balance budgets, and property taxes and state funding support are simultaneously shrinking,” notes Bialy. “Smart local governments aren’t waiting for more bad news, they are taking action to debut the local government of the future now.”
Recession-imposed cost cuts have trimmed most local government budgets to the bone. Plante Moran’s Government Outlook 2013 reports that in this new era, local government will look to three core areas for efficiency and effectiveness to provide safe and healthy communities where families and business can thrive:
- Using technology for efficiency and better insights
- Staging a community for economic development
- Collaborating with neighboring communities for cost savings and service delivery
In the information technology realm, lack of investment in infrastructure means the quality of data is at risk. Yet governments need proper data to make informed decisions. As the cost to maintain existing infrastructures and implement upgrades and innovations increases, governments need to re-evaluate the way they collect and share data while finding the right balance of confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
The report cites Memphis, Tenn. as an example where the mayor’s office, the police department and the criminal justice department at a local college collaborated on a process that analyzed data and could predict crime “hot spots” based on historical and real-time crime data. The police department then used the data to more efficiently allocate resources and reduce serious crime by 30 percent and violent crime by 15 percent and quadruple the number of solved cases.
Similarly, the Alameda County Social Service Agency in California combined business intelligence software and analytical tools to create a lifecycle view of their clients’ interactions with the system. Insights from these patterns helped program administrators identity $11 million in fraud and waste reduction in the first year.
Services such as police and fire are often benchmarked by municipalities to improve services and potentially reduce costs. The process of benchmarking needs to continue and broaden in local governments of the future to areas such as library services, refuse/recycling, code enforcement and building inspections and human resources to find similar success. But Bialy cautions that governmental units need to understand the definitions of the categories and provide accurate data according to cost accounting requirements.
“As government IT upgrades remain on hold, the need for accurate and helpful data still remains. Adapting new ways of collecting and sharing data helps ensure data quality while using analytics to accelerate outcomes,” said Bialy.
When it comes to economic development, Bialy offers a familiar analogy.
“The staging of a community for economic development is key in attracting businesses. Just like a homeowner hires a staging expert to help her prepare her home to play well with potential buyers, local governments can prepare themselves for new partnerships and visiting businesses, including foreign investors, seeking new locations,” she says.
Through the use of an economic development score card, communities can evaluate multiple factors, including new and traditional tax credit lures, labor availability and cost, and proximity to airports and major highways to decide what industries should be courted for potential new business.
Plante Moran’s Government Outlook 2013 also addresses the increasingly popular governmental solution of shared services.
“No matter where a municipality is in considering if shared services is an appropriate option, due diligence for determining and defining what the new approach will mean to service levels, costs and administration is critical,” says Bialy. “A well-designed plan for shared services requires an outline of the steps needed to reach implementation, including: creating a timeline, agreeing on governance issues, developing service agreements, drawing up an organizational chart, deciding on staffing, and allocating costs.”
To read the full report, which includes professional perspectives from leaders in the field including Bob Scott, CFO, and Pam Hodges, Controller, City of Carrollton, Texas; Alan Shark, executive director and CEO of the Public Technology Institute (PTI); Bob Kittle, owner of Michigan-based Munetrix; Carol Caruso, senior vice president of advocacy for the Greater Cleveland Partnership and Randy Cole, president of the Ohio State Controlling Board, visit http://www.plantemoran.com/perspectives/outlooks/Documents/2013-government-outlook.pdf
About Plante Moran
Plante Moran (www.plantemoran.com) is among the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, providing clients with tax, audit, risk management, financial, technology, business consulting and wealth management services. Plante Moran has a staff of more than 2,000 professionals in 21 offices throughout Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, with international offices in Shanghai, China; Monterrey, Mexico; and Mumbai, India. Plante Moran has been recognized by a number of organizations, including FORTUNE magazine, as one of the country’s best places to work.
Contact: Dan Artman, Plante Moran, 248.223.3469