City of Burlingame
City of Burlingame – Forecasts and Reports
My internship in the City of Burlingame’s Finance Department continues much as it began: with research. My first project, the collection and compilation of data future budgetary forecasting, continues at a slower pace as the last bits of data are being brought together with my research. One major purpose behind the forecasting research which I neglected to mention previously is the continuing nature of the project. The Finance Department is assembling the data not just for statistical forecasting of next year’s budget but for future years as well. The intent is to create a rolling ten-year database to be used for forecasting which will be updated annually for future use by the department. As the data becomes more complete (some local data has not been collected for the entirety of the past ten years) the database will become a better indicator of how Burlingame compares with the area, the state, the region, and the nation.
A New Report
As part of a new project assigned to me by Jesus Nava (Burlingame’s Finance Director), I am compiling the City of Burlingame’s revenue and expenditure data from its Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR’s) for the past ten years. This project is not related to my previously mentioned project. In fact, this is part of a project being conducted by Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network for a report in its annual Index of Silicon Valley. They are compiling information from cities throughout the area. As this project originates from outside of the City, there is little chance that I will be able to experience the formation of the report outside of the City’s direct involvement.
This project marks my first interaction with a CAFR. Throughout my recent education and my time as an intern for the Finance Department I have been exposed to numerous budgets, surveys, and other reports but never a comprehensive annual financial report. Despite being a new type of report (for me) I found much of the information to be similar to data in other reports. The similarities between layouts and styles made the documents much easier to navigate.
As I was recently explaining the depths of my internship to a room full of students and professionals during a PSIP reception, I began to appreciate the true depth of experience I have been given by my internship. I found myself speaking with more knowledge than I knew I had accumulated on subjects about which, two years ago, I knew relatively little. My time as an intern is cementing the classroom knowledge I have obtained at USF into real-world knowledge.
- Scott M. Blake
City of Burlingame – Finance Department
The City of Burlingame’s Finance Department is responsible for many aspects of the City’s responsibilities, including budget forecasting and collecting business license fees. Because of the economic “roller coaster” of the past decade, organizations everywhere are becoming increasingly strict in regards to budgeting. On of the more difficult aspects of budgeting is forecasting for future years. The City of Burlingame is no exception. Alongside budget forecasting, the Finance Department must find a way to fund repairs of a deteriorating storm drain system. The existing system was built over 70 years ago and is in need of repairs and improvements. The impacts of the repairs, or lack thereof, would affect residents and business throughout the city.
Before going into further detail about these projects, allow me to explain a few things about myself.
I am senior at the University of San Francisco set to graduate in December of 2010. I am completing a bachelor’s degree in public administration through the Professional Studies program. I have always had the desire to help my community and this program has given me the basic tools to realistically accomplish that goal. Thanks to the courses offered, I have gained increasingly better knowledge regarding how a public organization operates and the types of challenges facing them in today’s environment. The program has also helped me to increase my research skills, which have been invaluable during my internship with the City of Burlingame. Until this internship, I have not had any experience in the public sector and did not know what to expect. I was aware of the types of work accomplished at the city level, but did not have a clear understanding of how that work was actually accomplished. My time with the City of Burlingame has given me that experience and has better prepared me for a future in the public sector.
When I first began my internship with the City of Burlingame I was not sure what to expect. The BPA program had prepared for the “what” but was fairly clear that the “how” can vary from organization to organization. My first day was a whirlwind of introductions not only to the staff but to the duties carried out at City Hall as well. Not yet knowing what my duties would be, I felt as if I was about to be handed a great deal of responsibility. Things settled down a bit when Jesus Nava, the Finance Director, came in and explained what I would be doing. I would be working directly for him collecting data for various projects as need dictated. As my duties were explained and I settled into my physical space within the office I began to get a greater sense of what I would be doing in the following months. Even though I was new to the organization and to the public aspects of my duties I felt as if the work was within my capabilities.
As briefly mentioned earlier, the City of Burlingame is attempting to forecast its budget for the upcoming years amid a time of financial turmoil. The Finance Director is compiling historical information from within the organization and without. The historical data for the City of Burlingame is already collected and retained within the department and needs to only be organized into the appropriate format. This, however, was not the task set before me. I was assigned the duty of collecting local, state, regional, and national information regarding increases in such items as: salaries, medical benefits, workers’ compensation, and retirement/savings. This is where my research skills were put to the test. Given only a couple of starting points for local organizations of cities and governments, I began my work. In the past, the most research I had done for an employer was internal database searches and information compilation. Now, I was being asked to find the information wherever it may be, so long as it was credible. Thanks to the research skills, along with many comprehension skills, gained during my time at USF I was not only able to find the information which was required, but I was able to interpret it as well. As it turns out, the information which was needed was collected by relatively few organizations, though many report on their findings. Thankfully, organizations such as the Department of Labor and the Kaiser Family Foundation collect and archive volumes of data both related and unrelated to my assignment. My research skills allowed me to separate out the useful information from the rest.
Once the information was collected, compiled, and organized into the proper format, the next step was to combine my research with the internal research being done by others within the Finance Department. As all of this information is brought together, it will provide a way to compare how the City of Burlingame measures up against the local area, the state, and the nation in terms of several different employee cost factors. As my internship continues, this project will become the basis for determining future budgets for the City of Burlingame.
Storm Drain Research
The City of Burlingame is currently facing substantial issues regarding its storm drain systems. Originally installed over 70 years, the storm drains have served out their usefulness and are in need of repairs, improvements, and replacement. The system did not degrade ahead of schedule, but that does not change the fact that it needs to be improved. Because of the aging system, street floods have occurred on a number of main streets and have even impaired the movement of crucial services, such as police and fire, throughout the city. The City of Burlingame previously passed a bond measure to cover the costs but due to the financial crisis and increasing costs, the City faces a lack of sufficient funds for the project. As a result, the Finance Department is looking for ways to close the funding gap. This involves adapting previous methods to the current situation. It was my responsibility to find information on these previous methods, including both requests for proposals (RFP’s) and citizen surveys.
In today’s world of digital research, I was surprised to find that these previous documents only existed as hard copies. The file from the recent storm drain project consisted of many folders and individual files contained within. The challenge of searching through numerous, partially-sorted files was apparent when I first sat the piles of paper in front of me. With patience and attention to detail I was able to locate the required information from the file. Admittedly, it was invigorating to be relying only upon my abilities and not the abilities of a search engine or index of files. Once the pertinent information is pulled from the older files, the information will be used to determine a strategy for closing the financial gap in the storm drain issue.
As I passed the midpoint of my internship with the City of Burlingame, I was surprised to note how quickly I became accustomed to the daily routines of the public organization. Even though I am only in the office two-and-a-half days per week, I already feel accustomed to the environment, which was my biggest concern heading into this internship. Knowing how much office environments can vary from organization to organization I was not sure how long it would take for me to adapt, if at all. However, those worries were swayed by the friendly and professional conduct of those within the organization. I look forward to completing my internship in the coming month and appreciate all that I have learned from the experience.
- Scott M. Blake
November 9, 2010