Government Entity Sustainability - dummies

By Erica Olsen

During the past several years, due to the economy, government entities have been forced to rethink what it means to be sustainable. Organizational sustainability isn’t an end, but rather a business process that understands the resources needed and emphasizes balance between the present and the future in a dynamic and constantly changing world in order to fulfill the organization’s mission.

Washoe County, located in northern Nevada, recently conducted a thorough sustainability analysis due to the widespread and continued economic decline of the region, creating instability in county government’s ability to provide core services.

One result from the analysis was the development of six financial sustainability metrics with minimum and maximum thresholds of allowability, or ranges of what’s acceptable, based on 25 years of historical data. For example, the sustainable range of the percent of general funds budget used for salaries and benefits is between 65 and 75 percent.

If the budget percentage stays within that range, a short-term stability and capacity to respond exist if changes in revenue or expenses without service disruption occur. If not, there’s instability. This dashboard provides the Board of County Commissioners and senior staff with a real-time management tool to make decisions for the long-term sustainability of the organization.