Norfolk County Commission Completes Best Practice Review

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Norfolk County Commission Completes Best Practice Review

Delivers on Its Promise to Revitalize County Government.

DEDHAM, MA – After an almost yearlong process, the Norfolk County Commission announced with pride today the completion of their first of its kind Financial Management and Operations Analysis Best Practices Review. This landmark effort prioritized the County’s long-term sustainability, addressed longstanding fiscal issues, and explored ways to enhance the value of services provided to Norfolk County residents and communities.

“This study lays out the foundation and vision for 21st Century County Government which is efficient, responsive, fiscally sound, and data driven,” said Norfolk County Commission Chair Joseph P. Shea, of Quincy. “This effort exemplifies our commitment to providing the cities and towns of Norfolk County with a dynamic partner in regional government.

The analysis, a priority for the County’s Commissioners, Finance Committee and Advisory Board in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21), comes as part of a broader effort to restructure County finances to better-align with financial best practices used by similar-suited counties, municipalities and governmental agencies in the Commonwealth. Norfolk County, with an approximate $32 million combined operating budget, includes the Norfolk County Agricultural High School, six (6) County-owned Court facilities, a Registry of Deeds, an Engineering Department, the Wollaston Recreational Facility (Presidents Golf Course), and performs various other statutory, programmatic and regional service-oriented responsibilities.

 “If we are to thrive we must evolve” said longtime County Commissioner Peter Collins of Milton. “We owe it to the people of Norfolk County to perennially ask ‘how can we serve you better? How can we best steward your tax dollars? This report, the first undertaken in the history of our Commonwealth, asks the questions some are afraid to examine, and our County is better and stronger for it.”

Norfolk County’s newest Commissioner Richard Staiti of Canton said “This effort is a promise kept to the people of Norfolk County. The work undertaken should create a strong footing for success in many areas as we undertake new challenges such as the distribution of millions of Federal dollars through our ARPA program”.

After a competitive procurement process, the County Commission retained The Abrahams Group, a widely respected consulting firm that specializes in improving efficiency and effectiveness in local governments to conduct analysis. Deliverables as part of this effort included the establishment of financial policies, budget forecasting and the establishment of a long-term capital improvement plan to help guide the County’s spending in future years.

“As public servants we must have the courage to say, the status quo is no longer acceptable.” Said Commission Chair Shea. “We move beyond the false sense of security doing things ‘as we always have done’ gives us. Just because we have organized ourselves in a certain way for decades does not mean that is the best thing for our constituent communities or our County. Today we step forward into the 21st century.”

Specifically, the Scope of the Best Practices Review, Financial Management and Operations Analysis included the following:

  • Multi-Year Financial Forecasting – Based on comprehensive study of Norfolk County revenues, expenditures and employee benefits, including those of the Norfolk County Agricultural High School, which assesses the short- and long-term sustainability of said revenues, expenditures and benefits, including how they relate to applicable county funding statutes and formulas established by state statutes.
  • Financial Management Best Practices Review and Financial Policies – After a thorough analysis and review of the recent Financial Statements and Management Letters from the County’s independent auditor related to documented financial policies and procedures, decentralized bank accounts, tracking of compensated absences and associated liabilities, and the utilization of the County’s financial accounting and reporting software the County is receipt of comprehensive policy document to guide best financial practices going forward. These include the centralization of all County bank accounts under the County Treasurer and the full utilization of electronic budget software already owned by the County.
  • Operations and Staffing Analysis – A County staffing analysis by department, with recommendations based on an assessment of the efficiency and sustainability of current County staffing levels based on revenue and expenditure trends and forecasts. This will include comparisons with similar-situated counties, municipalities, regional government entities, and agricultural high schools. Recommendations included the full utilization of human resource software, as well as the consolidation of Norfolk Agricultural High Schools custodial department within Norfolk County Maintenance Department and Consolidation of County and Registry od Deeds Information Tecnology Departments into one integrated collaborative and dynamic department.
  • Capital Planning Processes and Procedures – Mimicking the process utilized by cities and towns the County has created a capital improvement budget and plan which pulled capital expenditures out of its operating budget and set up a transparent and streamlined process to aggressively and equitably address the capital needs of Norfolk County’s government.
  • Regional Services Review – A two tiered survey of every Norfolk County Community was undertaken with extensive stakeholder interviews and visioning sessions to direct new collaborative regional County initiatives to build upon Norfolk County’s successful Engineering, Veterans and Reserve Senior Volunteer Departments.

Norfolk County’s Best Practices Review, Financial Management and Operations Analysis is available in the news section of Norfolk County’s website NorfolkCounty.org.

https://www.norfolkcounty.org/news/the-abrahams-group-delivers-phase-1-report-489

https://www.norfolkcounty.org/news/abrahams-group-completes-phase-ii-of-best-practice-review-506

 

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About Norfolk County

The County of Norfolk, organized and incorporated in 1793, is one six (6) county governments in the Commonwealth. Norfolk County lies primarily in southeastern Massachusetts and is compromised of the City of Quincy and the twenty-seven towns of Avon, Bellingham, Braintree, Brookline, Canton, Cohasset, Dedham, Dover, Foxborough, Franklin, Holbrook, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Milton, Needham, Norfolk, Norwood, Plainville, Randolph, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole, Wellesley, Westwood, Weymouth, and Wrentham.

Norfolk County, with an approximate $32 million combined operating budget, provides and maintains an agricultural high school, six (6) County-owned Court facilities, a Registry of Deeds, an Engineering Department, the Wollaston Recreational Facility (Presidents Golf Course), and performs various other statutory, programmatic and regional service-oriented responsibilities.

The County is governed by a board of three County Commissioners as its executive, who are elected by the voters in the County for staggered four (4)-year terms, with an appointed County Director by the Commissioners who is responsible for overseeing the departments under their jurisdiction, including county-wide purchasing, personnel management and administration and accounting efforts. Its 28-member Advisory Board, which includes one (1) appointed representative from each Norfolk County city/town, is responsible for the review and approval of County budgets and appropriations as proposed by the Commissioners in accordance with Section 28B of Chapter 35 of the Massachusetts General Laws. The County’s Treasurer and Register of Deeds are elected by voters for six (6)-year terms.

The County’s governance structure also includes the Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole, one of three such schools in Massachusetts charged with promoting agriscience and agribusiness opportunities. The School’s seven (7)-member Board of Trustees is comprised of four members appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth with staggered four (4)-year terms and the three currently sitting County Commissioners.