“We’re in a pivotal moment. I believe it’s our response that matters most. The choices being made today, and the implementation of strategic planning during this critical time, will determine a community’s sustainability.” That was the comment made by MRB Group President Ryan Colvin, PE, when announcing that his SmarterLocalGov team would be launching a survey and hosting a roundtable on the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on municipalities.
The event took place on Thursday, June 25th, with participation from approximately forty communities. Mayors, Supervisors, Administrators, Managers and Budget Officers joined in the virtual roundtable to discuss the novel coronavirus, its impacts on operations and revenue sources, and significant anticipated shortfalls as the next budget cycle approaches. Survey results were shared, and compared with newly evolving responses and trends emerging just 10 days after initial responses were received.
“It’s amazing how quickly the landscape is changing, and how important having good data will become as we attempt to make reliable predictions about the future,” said Michael N’dolo, MRB Group’s Director of Economic Development and author of the survey.
Titled MRB Group Roundtable: Local Government Strategies for the COVID-19 Budget Crisis, the event was hailed as “extremely helpful” to community leaders, who requested that the discussion be just the first of an ongoing series.
“We plan to schedule a follow up session,” said organizer and presenter Matt Horn, Director of the SmarterLocalGov team at MRB Group. “The information shared by participants was both enlightening and helpful, with many providing detailed accounts of their recent strategic decision-making and interactions with agencies as well as feedback from residents about service levels,” he continued.
“For several, it may have been eye opening to learn that they are not alone in making tough choices,” Horn said.
Many participants signed on as community leaders are diligently working to prepare for the staggering losses in sales tax revenue. For some, that source of revenue supports 25% or more of their annual budget.
“We are likely to have to increase property taxes well in excess of the Tax Cap,” said one participant.
“We are living in unprecedented times,” Colvin stated. “That’s why I’ve asked my team to provide data, insight, and assistance to community leaders.”
His SmarterLocalGov team led the participants through the data collected by the survey. Then they facilitated a discussion among participants regarding responses implemented to date, and considerations and options in preparation for the next fiscal period. Participants were engaged in an hour long-discussion. Much centered on the overwhelming challenges created, but Horn was quick to point out that “an inherent opportunity exists within the crisis.” According to Horn, communities can foster public awareness and recognition of extreme fiscal conditions to more effectively reexamine service levels, operations and costs.
“It’s a time for questioning everything,” he said, “except our core values.”
“The SmarterLocalGov team has been helping communities analyze operations and seek out efficiency for several years,” Horn continued. “The COVID-19 crisis put a spotlight on the immediate need for that effort. Good information sharing and reliable data can help, and we’re here to facilitate communication among municipal leaders,” he concluded.
For more information about MRB Group’s leadership roundtables, or to learn about the survey and results, visit http://mrbgroup.com/survey .
MRB Group is a municipal services, engineering, and architecture firm that has assisted communities throughout New York in providing essential services, such as water, wastewater treatment, and public facilities to residents since 1927. The SmarterLocalGov division was created in 2011, when community leaders needed access to expanded resources for community and economic development, along with guidance in the implementation of best practices and creating operational efficiency.