Norfolk County launches financial management, operations and best-practices review

Commissioners select The Abrahams Group to help chart County’s path forward

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DEDHAM, MA – As part of efforts to prioritize the County’s long-term sustainability, address longstanding fiscal issues, and enhance the value of services provided to Norfolk County residents and communities, the Norfolk County Commissioners today announced the launch of a Best Practices Review, Financial Management and Operations Analysis aimed moving County governance further into the future.

“Norfolk County is proud to continue modernizing our management and operations for the residents and communities we serve,” said County Commissioner Joseph P. Shea, of Quincy. “This effort is the latest example of our commitment to ensuring good government practices to ensure that the County provides a real value to all we represent.”

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.

After a competitive procurement process, the County Commissioners selected The Abrahams Group, led by Framingham’s Mark Abrahams, to conduct the $75,000 analysis. The Abrahams Group, a widely respected consulting firm that specializes in improving efficiency and effectiveness in local governments, kicked-off its efforts last month.

“The analysis is a major step forward for the County and all Norfolk County communities,” said Dr. Elizabeth Childs, of Brookline, Clerk of the Norfolk County Advisory Board, who served as a member of the Review Committee that recommended the selection of The Abrahams Group to the County Commissioners. "The Norfolk County Advisory Board understands the important responsibility we have to make sure the County’s budget is responsive and accountable to the needs of Norfolk County’s 28 communities. This timely effort will go a long way to ensure that Norfolk County’s budget is built on sound and prudent principles.”

The Best Practices Review, Financial Management and Operations Analysis calls for assessing the efficiency, efficacy, and the long-term sustainability of Norfolk County’s government based on current operating budgets, staffing levels, and existing revenue streams, including those specified state funding formulas and statutes. It will compare Norfolk County with similar-situated counties, municipalities, and agricultural high schools. It will also assess Norfolk County’s efforts to grow regional-shared services and identify opportunities for enhanced municipal partnerships between the County and its 28 constituent communities.

Deliverables as part of this effort include the establishment of financial policies, budget forecasting and a long-term capital improvement plan to help guide the County forward.

“Government can often get mired in the status quo,” added Joseph Reardon, of Milton, Finance Committee Chair of the Norfolk County Advisory Board. “This honest assessment of county operations is indicative of the Commissioners’ commitment to the innovation, fiscal responsibility and operational excellence that the residents of Norfolk County deserve.”

Specifically, the Scope of the Best Practices Review, Financial Management and Operations Analysis includes 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 Establishment of Financial Policies – Based on an 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • Capital Planning Processes and Procedures – An examination of the County’s capital improvement needs and recommendations to create processes to plan for current and future capital expenditures in both the County and at the Norfolk County Agricultural High School.

 

  • Regional Services Review – An assessment of the County’s current regional services efforts and recommendations relative to the County’s goals to enhance the delivery of regional services to its constituent communities (assessment is expected to be informed by feedback from Norfolk County town administrators/managers, Select Board and Advisory Board members).

 

Norfolk County’s Best Practices Review, Financial Management and Operations Analysis is expected to be completed in May 2021. County officials expect many aspects of the analysis to help inform development of the Fiscal Year 2022 Operating Budget.

 

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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.