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Member Relations Corner: Your citizens deserve well educated and trained public servants 

by Rob Shepherd, League Manager of Member Relations

It’s that time of the year again…

Most might immediately think "income tax time" -- However, what is on my mind and hopefully yours is that it is municipal budget time! As you are probably aware, the adoption of the annual budget is arguably the single most important decision elected officials will make during the year.

The budget provides a financial plan identifying the essential operating costs for the successful operation of your city or town.. For several years, the budget development and adoption process has been a daunting task to say the least due to effects of the Great Recession. During this period of time, many governing boards and managers have had to tighten the belts or cut many worthwhile items. It has been my experience that one of the first areas to be cut, or reduced, is travel and training budgets. And, it’s not any secret that many North Carolina cities and towns reduced or eliminated their travel and training budgets over the past several years.

But, as most will agree, operating a city or town, regardless of size, can be very complex for elected officials and staff alike. For municipal officials to effectively serve their hometowns, they must stay abreast of the ever-changing laws, best practices and technology. One of the best ways to do this is to participate in the abundance of educational and training opportunities offered through the League and the UNC School of Government.

As you are in the midst of preparing your municipality’s FY 15-16 budget, I highly encourage you to make sure you have allocated funds for attending the following educational, training and networking opportunities in the next fiscal year: the League’s Annual Conference is in Winston-Salem on October 10 – 13, 2015; the Essentials of Municipal Government workshops to be held in five locations in 2016 beginning in January and running through early March; and, the 2016 Town Hall Day to be held in June 2016. These opportunities provide great opportunities for elected officials and municipal staff to learn tools and information that will enable you to better serve your citizens. In addition, you will able to network with colleagues from across the state and learn what other cities and downs are doing.

Also, don’t forget to include funding to attend the mandatory two-hour State Ethics Training for elected officials who are elected or re-elected in 2015 (A special note about Ethics Training: if you attend the Essentials of Municipal Government training, the cost of the Ethics Training is included in your registration fees.) Be sure to include travel and training funding for your appointed officials and employees as well. Many of your employees belong to professional organizations, such as the International and North Carolina City & County Management Associations or the International and North Carolina Municipal Clerks Associations, which provides meaningful professional development so your staff can better serve elected officials and citizens alike.

As citizens expect more from their elected officials and municipal staff, you owe it to them to provide the financial resources necessary to provide the education and training that elected officials and municipal staff need to better serve your citizens.