We are in the midst of challenging times, and yet I feel thankful for so many things. The School received tough news on the budget front this year—but the cuts for Carolina and the School were not nearly as deep as for most public universities in other states. The numbers coming out of California are scary, but many other states experienced cuts that were nearly as deep. Not only did Carolina fare better than most of our peers nationally, but the School was treated fairly by the University in how those cuts were allocated. In a dark time for so many, including many in North Carolina, we have been fortunate and I am grateful.
The main thing I’m grateful for is the commitment, hard work, and positive spirit of everyone at the School. The response coming out of the budget roundtables last summer was so positive, and that’s because you focused constructively on how to help us get through this tough time. I had to make some difficult budget choices that were especially hard on a small number of our colleagues. We also reduced expenses that have made it harder for many of you. Everyone has continued to focus on meeting the needs of North Carolina public officials, and the needs of our MPA students. Notwithstanding fewer resources, we continue to provide virtually the same set of services—we also are offering some new services and offering existing services in new ways. That is remarkable given how much state funding we have lost in recent years. Thank you.
I definitely am thankful for the membership dues. The money to cover our operating expenses is more important than ever, but the most important thing—even this year—is what their payment symbolizes about the strength of our partnership with local governments. That comes directly back to you, and I mean everyone in the organization. Local governments are paying their dues because they value the services you provide and how you provide them. The same is true for the court system. In meeting with John Smith, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), it is clear that he is a huge supporter based on our contributions to judicial officials over the years. I believe that he is doing everything he can to support our work within the constraints of a very challenging budget for the AOC.
Think about just a few of the good things that are happening. We finally succeeded in creating a planning process and agreed on a set of strategic priorities, and now we are about to implement them. Hallelujah! We are developing more innovative and responsive ways to meet the needs of public officials—our blogs and webinars have been extremely well received. The Training for Tough Times Committee will be helping local governments meet the challenges caused by the recession (more in a future post). This year we made major changes to Municipal and County Administration, and the course is better and more popular than ever. Our materials look better and more consistent than ever before and we are doing a much better job of getting the word out about our services. This partial listing only touches the surface.
This will be my last blog post until after Thanksgiving. Enjoy turkey, tofu, or whatever you do. Please know that I am thankful for all of the good things that you do for the School.