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Bob Kittle

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Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal

Budget Planning at the Height of Uncertainty

Scenarios are Critical When You Can’t Predict the Future

[This article also appears in American City & County Magazine.]

For many working in the public sector, budgeting for an upcoming fiscal year is well underway. Has there ever been a more challenging time to account for future unknowns than the current crisis we find ourselves working to overcome?

Budget planning during a “normal” fiscal year is difficult enough, as unknowns and what-ifs are a part of the budgeting process. Past experiences and fairly settled patterns on which we can generally rely help us predict many of our budget assumptions. But forecasting and projecting an annual plan at a time when “facts on the ground” are changing so fast makes the plans we craft today seem like a fool’s errand.

School administrators and municipal managers should be forgiven for feeling ill-at-ease during their fiscal year-end planning and next-year budget planning sessions: Even the “experts” are getting projections wrong. Their models were off. New data emerged. We failed to account for this or that.

But the numbers will soon be due, and telling. There’s no sense in denying reality. The good news is that there are measures we can take today that won’t necessarily eliminate unpredictability in the future; but can at least account for it…and maybe even prepare for it.

Dynamic Events Demand Dynamic Scenario Building

A school superintendent friend of mine made a profound statement the other day, suggesting that, “Every district better have three budgets in their pocket when they start the 2021 school year!” Great advice!  But how?

One of the best ways to hedge against uncertainty is to create various and disparate scenarios, then calculate the outcomes to provide a range of projections for what the future might look like. The problem many budget builders are having right now is that inputs are seemingly infinite: What if income tax receipts drop 10%? Or 15%? What will our parking revenue be? Not knowing when our retail businesses will be back up to full stride, how much sales tax will they generate? How many children will  show back up for school when it reopens? How will we bus them? How will cafeterias function? With so many jobless claims, how “off” will our income tax revenue be? What if our expenses rise tenfold? With so many unforeseen investments suddenly necessary and urgent, such as PPE being sold at prices four to ten times higher than normal, new cleaning supplies and systems, increased investment in remote technology, ambulances that are wearing down quicker, with longer wait times for replacements, etc.? What if? What if, What if? 

We can’t reliably predict the relevant time horizons to inject any sort of end-date confidence into these projections. Yet, we don’t have the luxury of time to wait for a return to any semblance of “normal,” when projections and forecasts can be more reliably made. So now what?

NOW is the time to act – even if the budget isn’t due for a couple months or more. If we wait too long, too much will have changed, so much new information will have to be accounted for, and we’ll find ourselves scrambling to make best guesses and insert relatively random estimates in the interest of urgency. That’s a recipe for error, and even greater uncertainty. A perfect budget isn’t a reasonable expectation. Budgets are a plan, and plans are subject to change. 

Our advice is to look at the big picture…many of them, in fact. Whereas financial professionals have the natural gift, inclination and patience to make calculations in a very granular manner, the current moment demands that we take a step back and look at broader trends, larger impacts, and to be inclusive of line items we’ve never accounted for in the past. If we don’t, our granular and exacting attention to detail will be swept away with the tide of this rushing wave of new information.

In short, these are dynamic times, to be sure. Events, facts and data change hourly. Your budgeting needs to be equally dynamic and nimble to adapt right along with them.

Start with Three; Adjust as Needed.

With so few knowns and so many questions, we recommend that budgeters start by bracketing uncertainty to limit the range of unpredictability. From there, we can hone in. Start with three budget scenarios, after you’ve made your best-case analysis (likely an educated guess) where you are in the current budget cycle (be conservative) and use a top-down approach (i.e., you can’t spend more than you have), and start with revenues.

  • Best-Case Scenario: What is the most optimistic—but realistic—vision for future revenues and expenditures? Don’t be overly bullish…rather, very cautiously optimistic. This exercise will inject greater calm and confidence, and help you prepare for the future absent negativity, emotion or panic. Just as the coronavirus models themselves improved as behaviors changed, it is possible to emerge from this challenge better off than we’d originally feared. Be sure to have a plan for that eventuality.

  • Worst-Case Scenario: The counter exercise will allow your mind, your team and your planning process to put a bracket around your worst fears. Documenting those not only allows you to start planning now for the worst possible outcomes, it can have the effect of actually easing anxiety, as your budgeting should demonstrate your entity’s ability to withstand the coming storm, if you start accounting for the tough road ahead sooner.

  • Realistic Middle Ground: Only after going through the prior two exercises will your brain and your budget be able to wrap itself around the most likely scenario, factoring in both the negative and positive possible versions of the future. Clarity should emerge. You will get to a point where your focus is on some version of a reasonable forecast, from which you can tinker and tweak to account for deviations in inputs as actual data becomes available.

From there, you’ll want the ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust variables, including revenue and expenditure parameters, once unknowns become likelihoods, and eventually, knowns. It is absolutely critical, though, to build that framework now, so you can continue to make adjustments along the way, rather than build something new from scratch 20 times between now and the budget’s due date.

Of course, standard, off-the-shelf spreadsheet software will make this onerous and rigid. If there was ever a time to make an investment in a nimble, predictive and agile technology to create, envision and modify budget plans, it’s now. The minute you have a scenario settled, the facts will change. And even accounting for numerous and varied scenarios, you can be assured that once you find yourself presenting that budget to a room full of decision makers, someone at the table will inevitably ask, “Have you ever considered what this will look like if X happens, and not Y?”…presenting yet another scenario to consider! 

You’ll want to have that answer in minutes…not weeks or months. For all its utility, Excel will not be up to that challenge. Being able to adjust assumptions on the fly is critical.

Three scenarios may not even be enough. You’ll want a tool that can overlay five or more, and demonstrate side-by-side comparisons, so that informed decisions can be made easily, confidently, collaboratively and quickly.

In the Meantime, Cash is King!

Now is not the time to rest on our laurels and wait for the dust to settle. Apart from working hard on budgeting for an unknown future, we can and must take actions in the more certain present to mitigate future hardship, if at all possible. 

Consider pausing collision insurance on fleet assets, like school busses or dormant DPS vehicles. Before you do, fill the entire fleet up with historically inexpensive fuel, and even try to buy future fuel contracts. Adjust your HVAC controls. Turn off ISPs and cable TV access for buildings not in use. Renegotiate payment terms with vendors, including discounts for early payment terms. Nothing should be off the table. It’s time to re-evaluate everything!

In our experience, chaos breeds opportunities, and there is no time like the present to start addressing an uncertain and ever-changing future.

Need help or ideas? Contact us! Always happy to have conversations and explore scenarios! I can be reached personally using bob@munetrix.com, or leave a message at (248) 499-8355.

Education, K-12, Municipal, Opinion

The Problem with Buzzwords

Is the use of jargon actually standing in the way of progress?

“Transparency.”

“Smart cities.”

“Big data.”

Our world is littered with them. Call them “buzzwords,” call it “jargon,” call it “government speak.” Whatever you call them, it’s clear that people are using words and expressions they don’t fully understand, can’t reliably define, and, what’s worse, won’t even recognize when they actually see them executed properly.

Heck, even the word “data” has become something of an overused, catch-all moniker being applied to virtually anything containing a fact or figure. Is a printout of a spreadsheet, tucked away in the desk drawer of a retired clerk, “data?” Is a crumpled-up, out-of-date map “data?” Is an artifact dug from an archeological site considered to be “data?”

And what makes data “big,” for that matter?

Or consider the concept of “smart cities.” What makes a city “smart?” Sure, there are definitions out there…but can you recite one? Most people can’t—even those clamoring for them (or even part of the conversation, in many instances).

Which brings us to “transparency.” Transparency is a word I’ve been hearing since the 1980s , first in the automotive world, later in the political arena , and now virtually everywhere you turn—including routine business matters with municipalities and school districts. But ask 100 people to define transparency and you’ll get 100 different answers. (I know…I’ve done it!) 

Even our old friend Noah Webster has a difficult time defining transparency: “the quality or state of being transparent.” (Not joking…look it up.) The definition of transparent per Webster is no joy either, the best of eight options being “readily understood.”  So the answer is: “the quality or state of being readily understood?” See the problem?

If we can’t even agree on definitions, how can we come to consensus as to whether we’ve achieved the outcomes we all profess to desire, such as government transparency, smart cities and the public’s understanding of available community data?

The Problem with Jargon

It’s not that they aren’t admirable and worthwhile pursuits, these commitments to transparency, the continued progress toward smarter cities, and providing universal community access to public data. They are. The problem arises when people use buzzwords as a shield from scrutiny or evaluation.

If nobody truly understands the meaning of a noble-sounding aspiration, it becomes easy to pay lip service to abstractions and hide behind actual results. Claims of transparency and “smart-ness” become easier to tout, as an unwitting public is becoming increasingly immune to their effects: We hear the words, we vaguely understand the actions people are making toward the objectives these buzzwords describe, and we assume progress is being made. It’s comforting, in a way.

But what if it’s not?

What if we end up with  the illusion of transparency, but, in reality, too few are actually achieving the intended goals of informing our public, community employees and elected officials?

Consider a hypothetical: An entity commissions a study and produces a 500-page report, then posts a PDF of that report somewhere buried deep within its website. Is this transparency? Is the PDF even data? At 500 pages, it certainly is big…but big data, it is not.

The ultimate danger that the proliferation of over-used and misapplied terminology poses to our communities is that we hear the lip service, we see activity and proposals, we witness claims of accomplishments, and we fall complacent to actually achieving measurable results and meaningful progress toward the vital ends our communities need to achieve—fiscally, scholastically, and politically.

Less Talk, More Walk

As an industry—and as a community—we can do better. As someone who works in the “data” business, I see the opportunities firsthand. We need to better educate our citizens about important initiatives we pursue on their behalf…and clearly report on the progress (or lack thereof) being made. 

Free of jargon. Free of buzzwords. Overflowing with clarity.

Let’s understand what types of information our community is truly interested in seeing, and let’s package those facts and figures in a way that is accessible and relevant to their interests. Let’s hold “Citizen 101” town halls to better educate our friends and neighbors about what they can know about, what they can care about…and what they should stay educated about…and let them tell us what “transparency” truly means to them.

It’s not that the technology isn’t there. We have all the data we need…big and small! And we look at ours daily. The types of information that people most readily click on and download just might surprise those who might be too close to the data to fully appreciate. People, school districts, and government entities may assume they’re offering data that complies with government-issued transparency mandates, and they may assume that that’s enough. But are they truly giving the people what they really care about in their everyday lives? Often not, I suspect.

There’s a standard for this already, to which I reference (and adhere to) often: the Government Accounting Standards Board’s (GASB) litmus test for the quality of data being shared. The six qualitative characteristics, as set forth in GASB’s Concepts Statement No. 1, Objectives of Financial Reporting are:

  • Relevant
  • Reliable
  • Understandable
  • Timely
  • Consistent
  • Comparable

Most of all, let’s make it simple. Let’s resolve—as an industry, as municipalities, as school districts, and as councils of government—to make it easy for elected officials and citizens alike to understand the terminology we use and the solutions we are trying to provide to achieve things like transparency and smart cities. 

An informed public is a powerful public. Let’s leave the buzzwords behind…and move our communities forward.

[To learn the one acceptable buzzword here at Munetrix, please click here.]

Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal

The Transparency Illusion

By Bob Kittle

The demand for government transparency is more fervent than ever. While, in the past, inquiring about the use of tax dollars required time, filling out forms or even a trip to City Hall, today the public expects almost instant gratification to their questions — or not even have to ask questions because they want to find it on their own with internet searches, even from their mobile device. More often than not, they are disappointed with the results they find.

The problem isn’t that local governments aren’t posting budgets and financial information online. It’s that they are doing so in a manner that pretty much renders them useless to anyone who doesn’t have a background in municipal finance, public administration or data science. When it comes to transparency, more isn’t always better, and dozens of 100-page PDF documents are not synonymous with the intent of Transparency.

People want to know what projects and programs their tax dollars are funding; answers to questions like where the money for those new signs came from, why potholes on their street aren’t fixed, or any other information that’s relevant to their home value, safety and/or quality of life in the neighborhood.

Citizens want timely, helpful data that they can understand. When local governments post loads of data ad nauseam, the public is left with the task of sorting through it and trying to understand what it all means and how it relates to their query. For many, the process isn’t just exasperating, it results in having less trust in their government. A telling bumper sticker I once saw said, “I love my country, but I don’t trust all its governments.” Touché.

This type of transparency is like wearing someone else’s prescription glasses; you might be able to see some blurred images but not the details that really matter.

Publishing reams of data isn’t transparency, It’s the illusion of transparency.

Understanding what information to share, when to share it and the level of transparency people expect:

  • helps local governments provide insightful and relevant information;
  • reduces the risk of publishing private information;
  • improves community public relations; and
  • encourages trust in the electorate and area stakeholders.

This consistency also provides stakeholders the ability to know exactly where information is, when it was put there and how to retrieve it. It should also stay in the same location for consistency purposes.

While someone should be tasked with managing and monitoring transparency within the organization, it doesn’t require a new hire or expansive workload. The use of performance management software (like the Munetrix dashboard), makes the process easy, efficient and relatively timeless and provides municipalities and school districts with the ability to share, monitor and understand the data they publish with little more than a click of a mouse.

We recommend being fully transparent, so you’ll never be accused of the “Illusion of Transparency” when it comes to accessing your open data and documents. 

News

As Michigan’s K-12 enrollment declines, count day grows in importance; first count day of the school year is Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Auburn Hills, Mich. –August 27,  2019 – The term, “count day” which is Wednesday October 2, 2019, is a familiar one to both Michigan educators and the parents who want their child counted, according to Buzz Brown, co-founder and Vice President of Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts. Brown says the familiar term is taking on increased significance as Michigan’s K-12 population declines.

“Students in Michigan school districts and charter schools are counted many other dates besides the first official count day in October,” Brown said. ‘There are actually four official count days each school year, but the October date is the standout because it’s first. From a percentage perspective 90% of district students are accounted for in October and 10% are accounted for in January.”

Most schools only count on count day because of the extra paperwork and reporting requirements for counting students after that date – but that can be a costly mistake, Brown cautions. That’s because declining enrollment and the competitive race to attract children to neighboring school districts, charter schools and private schools are collectively slicing into a shrinking pie.

“One of the few growing districts in SE Michigan lost $1M in state funding last year when 120 children failed to be counted for unknown reasons, yet given their growth rates, this district was able to absorb the cost more easily than others – but it still hurt,” Brown said.  “Most Michigan districts are contracting and fewer students mean fewer dollars.”

For those who miss count day, there is some leniency. Schools have 10 days after count day to count a child that has an unexcused absence, 30 days if the absence is excused and 45 days if the student is suspended. The challenge to the districts, regardless of the number counted, is that they always start the school year in Michigan before the state budget is decided, leaving some schools to borrow money until state aid is released.

“The timeframe of the state budget for education is a hot topic each fall. Compared to that, getting students to be counted on count day is a much easier task,” Brown said. “As some school districts will attest. a pizza party and other incentives to lure students to school that day also helps.”

Additional information on  school count day and funding can be found at the State of Michigan website.

News

And then there were none…cities and schools must prepare for silver tsunami of public sector retirements as next gen college students select other careers

Auburn Hills, Mich. –September X, 2019 –A silver tsunami of retirements is anticipated in schools and municipalities over the next several years; yet, as college students head back to college this month, only an estimated 5% are considering a career in the public sector. Further, a 2019 survey found the number of students graduating with a master’s degree in public policy and entering careers in federal, state and local government dropped 15% from 2011 to 2017. These statistics should have local government unit leaders on edge, according to Bob Kittle, president of Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts.

“Finance directors, assessors and administrators are just an example of positions already in short supply. Think of where we’ll be when those who understand complex water and sewer systems leave,” Kittle said. “And those technical positions lean more toward skilled trades rather than traditional four-year college grads, and the shortage of skilled trades has already been well established.”

A 2016 report from Pew noted that 50% of state and 52% of local government employees were between the ages of 45 and 64 in 2013; but Kittle says administrators at the local level can be reticent to share information on their own local unit’s expected retirement wave.

“I’m regularly on the speaker’s circuit discussing data driven decision making and succession planning.  When I ask for a show of hands as to how many in the audience will be retiring in the next five years, typically # hands go up,” Kittle said. “This supports the data we have in our platform that tracks employees by age range in cities and schools, but when we ask our customers outright for data on planned staff retirements over the next five years, there is definitely a reluctance to provide the information.”

Kittle says the hesitation can be that certain districts or cities don’t run reports on the data or track it well enough. That’s why Munetrix has a tool with its platform that makes tracking easier.

“We are really heading toward a crisis situation in the public sector in terms of talent and seniority,” Kittle said. “The Munetrix app is a tool to help support succession planning and institutional knowledge preservation, and to increase the portability of key jobs within the local unit, but we still need to raise awareness of the option for career changers and young adults to pursue public sector opportunities.”

For their part, the company established Munetrix University in 2013 to provide paid internships in data science to college students. The company has had 26 interns since it began the program in 2013.  Additionally, Munetrix announced this month a new scholarship program through the Michigan Government Finance Officials Association and (name of school association) that it would offer five  $1,000 scholarships to college students who plan to pursue a career in local government. Students may apply for the scholarship through (add website links.)

Education, Municipal, News, Opinion

Cheers to a successful millage passage!

By: Bob Kittle

It was announced at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference in May 2019 that a coalition of education advocates is aiming for a Wayne County millage to support after-school programs. If supported, the county-wide proposal would be on the Wayne County ballot in 2020. While this effort may be worthwhile, it is certain to be a challenge, first because it’s a county-wide vote, but also because gaining support for any millage proposal can be difficult – as almost any city or school district can attest. Having accurate and timely data can help build a strong case for millage requests and lessen the handwringing for anxious policymakers at the same time.

Munetrix understands the importance of data in community decision making. Increased demands for transparency make it clear that constituents want confidence that every penny is spent wisely. When current dollars aren’t enough to support operations or a new community initiative, a strong case can be made for additional funding by comparing how similar communities pay for equivalent services. You can also respond to naysayers with data reflecting that proposed millage rates aren’t unprecedented or out of line using relevant comparable analysis.

Citizens expect data to be accessible and will use it to better understand their community’s use of taxpayer funds. While preparing for your next city or school (or, in the case of Wayne County, after-school) millage, use data in your favor.  

Munetrix makes government data easy. If you need assistance with your next millage proposal, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Municipal, News, Opinion

Don’t believe everything you read. But believe this. Many Municipalities are Starving.

By: Bob Kittle

The headline of this March 21, 2019 post, Property Taxes Up $638 Million In 2018, by Michigan Capitol Confidential is eye-catching—and surely stoked the fire of those who believe they pay too much in property taxes—but let’s not let the facts get in the way.

While Michigan property tax collections may be up for the sixth consecutive year, it must be considered that the drop from 2008–2012 was so severe that the increases still haven’t caught up to pre-recession levels. That’s an important piece of information missing from the article, and is caused by the limitations of 1978’s Headlee Tax Amendment to the State’s Constitution, then followed up by 1994’s Proposal A.

To make this easier to understand, I will use an analogy with our retirement savings plans and homes. During the recession, most of us saw a 40–50% drop in the value of our retirement savings, only to see it storm back and exceed where we were initially—if we were patient. Same with housing values. Property owners saw their home values cut in half, and subsequently watched as they stormed back from 2012 to today. In most cases, our property is now worth more than it was worth pre-recession.

But local units of government in Michigan don’t see that appreciation because they are limited to a taxable value increase of CPI or 5% per year, whichever is lower. CPI didn’t exceed 2% until 2017 – so while our 401Ks and home values were rebounding at compounding double digit rates, municipalities had to watch as everybody else got well, but they were (are) handcuffed. In Auburn Hills, where I am a councilperson, our Total Taxable Value is still down $1B from its 2007 level, meaning we must operate on nearly $1M less in property tax revenue when it comes to paying our police and fire personnel, fixing roads and generally running the government.

On top of that, the State fixed their budget by pulling much needed sales tax revenue from local governments to fix their structural deficit. The last straw is that IF a community sees tax increases on certain properties exceed the constitutional limits, the rest of the city’s properties must be reduced by the corresponding value to make sure, on a city-wide basis, the total taxable value doesn’t exceed the allowable limit. The laws never considered a market crash!

Look, Munetrix is in the municipal data business, so we understand the role of data, especially in communicating to constituents. What we don’t like is half-truths, and appreciate when journalists provide balanced stories.

At the end of the day, many communities are cash-strapped and starving, but mostly not by their own actions.

News

Munetrix contribution to Dark Store Legislation Defense Fund reflects solidarity with the local units of government it serves

Auburn Hills, Mich. – March 21, 2019 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, showed its support for Escanaba and Michigan’s so-called Dark Store legislation, with a recent donation of $4,100.

The donation follows Munetrix September 2018 pledge to donate 10% of its subscription service price for each new Michigan city, village, township or county customer in the month of September to the Dark Store Legislation Defense Fund. Donations per governmental unit ranged from $500 to $1,500 depending on the subscription category. 

A vexing national issue for local governments and school districts, SB 1025 and HB 6049 were introduced in Michigan in May 2018 in response to Michigan Tax Tribunal’s application of a tax loophole that assessed the value of fully functioning big box stores as if they were empty (“dark”).  Both bills were re-introduced with bi-partisan support in January 2019 and are awaiting action

The loophole was first applied to a Menards store in Escanaba in 2014, but grew to national pharmacies, chain stores and fast food restaurants as retailers used it as a precedent to reduce their own property tax bills. The cumulative result has been a significant reduction in local tax revenues, which creates a challenge nationally for already struggling communities striving to deliver quality services in an affordable manner. 

The money donated by Munetrix and others, including municipalities and individuals, is helping defray the legal costs incurred by the City of Escanaba as it awaits a re-trial before the Michigan Tax Tribunal beginning May 13.

“Serving more than 300 Michigan municipalities and school districts, Munetrix gets in the trenches with our customers to help build and support fiscally healthy governmental units throughout Michigan. This donation falls right in line with that type of support and shows our commitment to their mission,” Munetrix President Bob Kittle said.

News

Munetrix contribution to Dark Store Legislation Defense Fund reflects solidarity with the local units of government it serves

Auburn Hills, Mich. – March 20, 2019 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, showed its support for Escanaba and Michigan’s so-called Dark Store legislation, with a recent donation of $4,100. 

The donation follows Munetrix September 2018 pledge to donate 10% of its subscription service price for each new Michigan city, village, township or county customer in the month of September to the Dark Store Legislation Defense Fund. Donations per governmental unit ranged from $500 to $1,500 depending on the subscription category. 

A vexing national issue for local governments and school districts, SB 1025 and HB 6049 were introduced in Michigan in May 2018 in response to Michigan Tax Tribunal’s application of a tax loophole that assessed the value of fully functioning big box stores as if they were empty (“dark”). Both bills were re-introduced with bi-partisan support in January 2019 and are awaiting action. 

The loophole was first applied to a Menards store in Escanaba in 2014, but grew to national pharmacies, chain stores and fast food restaurants as retailers used it as a precedent to reduce their own property tax bills. The cumulative result has been a significant reduction in local tax revenues, which creates a challenge nationally for already struggling communities striving to deliver quality services in an affordable manner. 

The money donated by Munetrix and others, including municipalities and individuals, is helping defray the legal costs incurred by the City of Escanaba as it awaits a re-trial before the Michigan Tax Tribunal beginning May 13. 

“Serving more than 300 Michigan municipalities and school districts, Munetrix gets in the trenches with our customers to help build and support fiscally healthy governmental units throughout Michigan. This donation falls right in line with that type of support and shows our commitment to their mission,” Munetrix President Bob Kittle said. 

Municipal, Opinion

If your local unit of government is planning to make some big purchases in 2019, you might want to read this first.

Government Procurement PracticesPeople in the private sector like to opine that government should operate like a business, but that’s just not practical. The goal of the public sector is to provide the best possible services at the lowest possible cost, with a focus on the health, safety and welfare of the community. The goal of the private sector is to make a profit. These competing interests make it impossible for governments to run like a business; plus, there are some poorly run businesses no one should ever emulate.

But that’s not to say local units of government (LUGs) can’t learn a thing or two from the private sector. There are elements of successful businesses that can be incorporated into the business of government; particularly, certain procurement practices.

LUGs with decentralized or no formal procurement practice can benefit more than others, especially those that look at purchasing goods and services as only a task. The sooner the “done” box can be checked, the sooner they can get to the next issue du-jour.

LUGs often use bid networks and place orders with the, “lowest qualified bidder” no matter how many bidders participate. They also see over-specified bigger ticket items, many times prepared with the help of a vendor who then becomes the only person capable of meeting the requirements. Other potential providers can usually read between the lines in these cases and don’t bother submitting a bid.

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