Viewpoints

Your bond measure passed - now what?

We’re about two months removed from Election Day. For many municipalities and government agencies, this meant the passage of much needed bond measures to fund programs for a wide range of initiatives. There was a lot of effort that went into getting the voters to approve the ballot propositions, but the real work is just beginning.

For starters, agencies that are in charge of managing initiatives approved via a bond measure will have far more eyes on their project than on similar ones of years past. Elected and appointed officials will require more reports and assuredness that the allocated funds are being spent as expected. The oversight effort has increased several fold, and it won’t subside anytime soon.

Those in charge of implementing these programs under such auspices will need to think just a little differently about their duties. Bond management will be an increasingly time consuming tasks. Here are three new things to consider moving forward:

Bond allocations are less than before

In California, a lot of attention was placed on the $7.5 billion water bond measures that passed. For the educational programs, though, we saw allocations that smaller; none over $500 million and only two over $400 million. This is far lower than what we’ve seen in recent years and a testament to a new era where agencies are hard pressed to ask voters for what is really needed. The goals of each initiative will remain as lofty, so the only choice will be to minimize overhead (but not oversight) on the program as well as plan for efficient use of contractors. In other words, everyone has to work smarter and with greater effect on the project’s success.

The need for transparency in reporting has never been greater.

This isn’t just by those in charge of independently overseeing the program, but also by those managing the day-to-day activities. These individuals have to oversee multiple projects within the portfolio and need to make good decisions faster and with greater efficacy than ever before as they try to deliver equitable outcomes with a smaller budget than desired. Doing so will involve a revaluation of all business processes as well as the use of technology to speed up decision making time. Furthermore, submitting timely information to the appropriate elected and appointment officials will need to be done with greater automation, keeping staff time where it needs to be - on implementing the project.

The public is watching

The advent of social media and the 24/7 news cycle means reporters are constantly looking for investigative pieces. The Fifth Estate - and by extension the public - will be all over any perception of wrongdoing in bond measure programs. Paying a close eye on timeliness, transparency and accuracy in project reporting will be paramount to its success. Demonstrating efficient management of the program not only ensures public confidence of the work being done, but will lay the groundwork for acceptance of repeat bonds at lower cost.

It’s an old, but still very relevant, adage for sure - municipalities and agencies must continue to do more with less. With bond measures, though, it’s hit an apex. The focus portfolio managers must place on appropriate oversight amidst tighter budgets has never been greater. The key will be to implement proven technology and business processes to manage these programs and hence ensure that they are completed on time, within budget and well within the public’s and oversight authority’s expectations.

John Turner is the vice president of marketing at Gafcon, a program management firm specializing in the program management of large scale education, government and commercial construction projects. He can be reached at jturner@gafcon.com.

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What's Viewpoints?

It features the Editor's Viewpoints and contributed commentaries.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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