Conference Costs To Taxpayers Questioned

by Valerie Garner

Looking at the $12,691 cost for city staff to attend the Government Finance Officer Association’s 2012-2013 annual business conference and the benefit derived might create some angst among city taxpayers. City Manager Chris Morrill and seven other staff members attended the Chicago conference with Morrill and others bringing their families at their own expense.

Besides Morrill, Finance Director Ann Shawver, City Treasurer Evelyn Powers, Director of Management and Budget Amelia Merchant, Andrea Trent Assistant Finance Director, Mike Shockley Budget Administrator, Susan Lower Real Estate Assessment Director and Kathy Cox Assistant Director of technology attended the conference. Susan Lower did not attend on city business according to Shawver.

It was a prestigious moment for Roanoke’s city manager who was named president of the GFOA. In his GFOA speech Morrill expressed his thanks to the mayor and city council for recognizing the value that his association with the GFOA brings back to Roanoke.

Former City Manager Darlene Burcham was not a member of GFOA but was “very active in other professional organizations such as the International City Managers Association, Alliance for Innovations, and National League of Cities,” said Shawver.

Shawver also said, “Roanoke was very fortunate to be featured in two sessions at the conference. It is wonderful for our community to be recognized for best practices in budgeting and retirement benefits.” Shawver serves on one of GFOA’s national standing committees.

With the city just completing its FY2013 budget pinching exercise it may irk some residents that $12,000 was spent on a conference. “The GFOA is essentially the premiere organization for government finance so we are very lucky we can be as involved as we are and bring back great ideas to Roanoke,” said Shawver.

Mayor Bowers read a resolution recognizing Morrill’s distinction at the June council meeting. “We support you – we’re watching your back to make sure you are  successful as President of the GFOA and as city manager of Roanoke,” said Bowers.

To learn more about GFOA go to their website at gfoa.org.