Calling All School Districts! Apply Now for Funds to Improve Student Mental Health Care

Calling All School Districts! Apply Now for Funds to Improve Student Mental Health Care

Declining mental health in children, teens, and adolescents.

If your district is looking for funding to improve mental health care for students, now’s your chance – apply for grants of up to $500,000 annually from New York State (NYS). The state is allocating up to $10 million each year over five years for eligible school districts to improve access to mental health care and supporting students who have experienced trauma that impacts their educational experience. The NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) invites all eligible districts to apply by 3 PM EST on May 25.

Why Are These Grants Important?

Providing aid to economically disadvantaged students.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is waning, the impact on children’s and teens’ mental health, education and lives will likely last for years. As reported by Pew Charitable Trusts, “The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared that the pandemic-related decline in child and adolescent mental health has become a national emergency.”

Statistics supporting this assertion are staggering:

  • A Journal of the American Medical Association for Pediatrics study found children and adolescents were more likely than adults to be completely isolated from others their age.
  • 18% to 60% had strong distress and showed symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Child protection referrals dropped between 27% and 40% suggesting signs of abuse or neglect were unnoticed due to the limited contact with educators.
  • More than 140,000 students lost a primary or secondary caretaker to the pandemic.
  • Nearly 40% of high school students reported poor mental health during the first half of 2021. More than 44% students reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless within the past year, with nearly 20% saying they’d seriously considered attempting suicide and 9% attempting suicide in that period.

(Sources: EdWeek, Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, CDC)

School districts, teachers and parents need assistance to help the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society – our children. Grants available through NYS can help.

Who’s Eligible?

the weak and vulnerable members of our society

A district is eligible to apply if its 2019-2020 economically disadvantaged student rate was above 55.6%. Each eligible school district (or Geographic School District in New York City) may submit one application addressing a single or multiple schools. Find a list of eligible school districts on the NYS Grants Gateway.

What Can Grants Be Used For?

Increasing access to mental health services for students

Grants focus on driving progress around three primary objectives: enhance student access to mental health services, implement integrated mental health supports, and strengthen partnerships with existing supports within the mental health system and the larger child-serving system. The Request for Proposal (RFP) identifies options to achieve each objective; applicants must choose one option to implement for each objective. More information is available in the RFP on the OMH website.

When Do Milestones Have to Be Completed?

May 18 is the deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent. (E-mail Carol Swiderski at carol.swiderski@omh.ny.gov and put Letter of Intent in the subject line).

May 25 at 3 PM EST is the deadline for submitting a proposal.

It’s anticipated that award notifications will occur June 22 and contract dates will start July 1.

Where Does My District Apply?

Apply using the NYS Grants Gateway System (GGS). (If you are not currently registered, you can find required forms at https://grantsmanagement.ny.gov/register-your-organization.) Submit proposals via the GGS by the May 25 (3 PM EST) deadline.  Late proposals will not be accepted.

To apply:

  • Log into the Grants Gateway
  • Click on the View Opportunities button under View Available Opportunities
  • In the Search Criteria, enter “Student Mental Health Support Grants to School Districts”
  • Select the Office of Mental Health as the Funding Agency and click Search
  • Click “Student Mental Health Support Grants to School Districts” and then click on the “APPLY FOR GRANT OPPORTUNITY” at the bottom left of the Main page of the Grant Opportunity.

For additional information, refer to the Vendor User Guide and these webinars and videos.

How Will Awards Be Determined?

Each proposal will be evaluated for each of the following:

  • Enhance access to Mental Health services — 20 points
  • Implement integrated supports – 20 points
  • Strengthen Partnerships – 20 points
  • Reporting – 15 points
  • Financial accountability – 20 points
  • Gun violence focal school districts – 5 points

Proposals will be scored, and awards will be made to the highest scoring applications until funds are exhausted or until there are no fundable applications remaining.

RBT CPAs are available to take care of all all your accounting and financial planning needs. Give us a call so (if eligible) you are freed up to focus on something more important to your district and students – applying for grants to support mental health.

The Benefits of Offering a 457 Plan to Government Employees

The Benefits of Offering a 457 Plan to Government Employees

Still feeling the affects of the Great Resignation?

With employers still feeling the effects of the Great Resignation, it’s a job seeker’s market and folks who are looking for work can afford to be picky about which employment offer to accept. Even employees who weren’t previously looking for another job are being poached by employers seeking to fill their own talent pools. How are government and nonprofit organizations supposed to compete for talent? One valuable tool that can strengthen employment job offer packages, engage employees, and benefits as a retention tool is a 457 (b) retirement savings plan.

A 457 (b) plan is comparable to the private sector’s 401(k) plan or the non-profit sector’s 403(b) plan,  which offers employees a tax-deferred way to save for retirement, along with a few additional perks.

  • Typically, state, and local government employees like public safety (i.e., firefighters), law enforcement (i.e., police officers), and other civil servants are eligible to participate in a 457 (b) plan – if one is available. Employees at certain hospitals, charities, and unions may also be eligible.
  • Employees can elect to contribute pre-tax pay (up to annual limits — $20,500 in 2022 or 100% of pay, whichever is less). This helps reduce their taxable income today, while helping them save for the future. Some plans even include a Roth feature, which allows employees to contribute after-tax pay, so they don’t have to pay taxes on future distributions (if certain conditions are met).
  • Employees age 50 and over have the option to make additional contributions – called catch up contributions – up to an annual limit ($6,500 in 2022). These are designed to help them catch up on building savings for retirement. For employees three years from retirement, catch up contribution limits are even higher.
  • Employees who have access to a 457(b) and another plan like a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, can contribute the maximum to both plans, significantly increasing savings for retirement.
  • Employers can make contributions (such as a match), but many do not.
  • To help funds grow, employees may have a choice of investment options.
  • 457 (b) plan participants who have left their employer can withdraw funds before age 59 ½ without any penalty – a 10% penalty applies under 401(k) and 403(b) plans.
  • Employees pay taxes on contributions and earnings when they receive distributions from the plan (since that’s typically during retirement when their income levels – and tax range – are lower, they’ll pay less taxes than would have been required had they still been working).
  • Employees may have several different payment options, depending on what’s offered through their plan.
  • At age 72, employees are required to take a minimum annual distribution (unless they still work for the employer that offers the 457 (b) plan).

Features and Benefits.

The features and benefits of offering a 457 (b) plan are even more attractive when you consider Pew research findings on the top reasons employees left their jobs in 2021. They included low pay, poor advancement opportunities, lack of respect, childcare issues, lack of flexibility, poor benefits, and more.

Offering a tax-deferred retirement savings plan like a 457 (b) is one way to show employees your organization cares about their financial well-being, helps make up for lower pay, and increases perception of the value of your benefits package. That doesn’t even get into fulfilling what many may perceive to be a civic duty – taking care of our elderly in retirement (many of whom are likely community members).

If your organization wants more information on a 457(b) plan, visit the NYS Deferred Compensation Board website. RBT CPAs representatives can also answer your questions and help you make informed choices about offering valuable retirement savings vehicles to your employees.

Is Your Manufacturing Operation Cyber Secure?

Is Your Manufacturing Operation Cyber Secure?

Why cybersecurity risk is growing in construction.

The war in Ukraine is closer than you think.

Recently, the  White House warned malicious attacks could be just a few keystrokes away, making it critical for local governments and businesses to close their digital doors, put their shields up, and protect people, data, and infrastructure from the disruption a cyberattack can cause.

Cybersecurity managing risk in the information age

By 2027, investments in manufacturing cybersecurity are projected to reach almost $30 billion to protect and ensure the safety of plants, machines, and organizations.

In fact, the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) – a component under Department of Homeland Security control – has identified several manufacturing industries “crucial to the economic prosperity and continuity of the United States,” including manufacturing of primary metals; machinery; electrical equipment, appliances and components; and transportation equipment. A cyber attack in any of these could cause disruption at a national level and across other industries.

According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturing, no person or organization is immune to cyber security threats in manufacturing and everyone is responsible for helping prevent them.  2022 cybersecurity risks include some of the more well-known tactics like ransomware (a malicious software that locks and encrypts computer files until a ransom is paid) and phishing (enticing a reader to click a link, download an attachment, or reveal personal information).

Just as technology has become more sophisticated, so have cyberattacks.

Digital technologies in smart factory initiatives are facilitating more complex cyber threats. In a study of manufacturing industry cybersecurity, Deloitte and the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) uncovered numerous operational, financial, and strategic risks related to Operational Technologies (OT) like logic controllers, distributed control systems, embedded systems, and industrial IoT devices. Manufacturers aren’t prepared for potential cyber threats and need an enterprise program designed to identify, protect against, respond to, and recover from attacks.

Cybersecurity risk aware manufacturers use industrial control systems (ICS) to monitor and control machinery, production lines and other physical processes. To enhance business processes, capabilities, and ability to compete, today’s manufacturers are connecting their operational technology (OT) systems with their information technology (IT) systems to boost productivity and operate more efficiently. While offering many positives, they also attract cyber criminals expert in exploiting vulnerabilities to compromise ICS integrity and data.

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technologies National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoe) just released a new Cybersecurity Practice Guide, entitled, Protecting Information and System Integrity in Industrial Control System Environments: Cybersecurity for the Manufacturing Sector (Special Publication 1800-10) to help organizations detect and prevent unauthorized software installation; protect ICS networks from harmful applications; detect unauthorized use of systems; monitor network traffic; leverage malware tools; and more.

Stay in the know and help shape the conversation and solutions by joining the NCCoe’s Manufacturing community of interest, where business professionals and advisors meet monthly via teleconference to share insights, technical expertise, challenges, and more. To express your interest in joining, email manufacturing_nccoe@nist.gov.  For additional insights and information about cyber threats, see Why You Need to Update Your Cybersecurity Now.

While you’re focusing on cybersecurity, let RBT CPAs give you peace of mind that your taxes, auditing, and accounting are covered. Give us a call; we’ll do the rest.

Do’s and Don’ts for Fund Balance

Do’s and Don’ts for Fund Balance

Creating a strong fund balance and reserve policy that has the support of the local community takes work. Following are some do’s and don’ts municipal leaders should keep in mind as they make plans to create, maintain, and use a fund balance. This article will focus on the fund balance in the General Fund, but many points can be applicable to fund balance in other funds.

At its simplest, a fund balance is the difference between assets and liabilities. It can help ensure a municipality has enough money so essential public services don’t need to be cut or taxes raised due to unexpected expenses or events.

When managed strategically and effectively, using fund balance to balance municipal budget can help a community mitigate risk and weather economic downturns; ensure consistent delivery of essential services; respond to and rebound from the effects of a natural disaster; fund capital improvements; build a strong credit rating and benefit from lower debt costs; and more.

To maximize the potential advantages of a fund balance:

  • Establish a written policy to specify the scope and purpose of the fund; set an appropriate minimum and maximum balance level; define how funds can be used and replenished; reveal what happens when the balance drops below defined levels; and related time frames.
  • Communication in local government with the community about the general fund balance guidelines, especially when there are large changes, so you can manage expectations and minimize the type of speculation that can hurt trust in local government.
  • Identify minimum fund levels through fund balance accounting to ensure uninterrupted service delivery and financial stability for the first two to three months while property taxes are collected. (A municipality primarily dependent on property taxes should have a larger fund balance than one with other revenue sources.) Focus on the general fund, although “financial resources available in other funds should also be considered in assessing the adequacy of unrestricted fund balance in the general fund.” (Source: GFOA Fund Balance Guidelines for the General Fund)
  • Think ahead. Consider public entity risks to which the municipality may be exposed that are outside your insurance coverage. Not only will a strong fund balance help minimize risks, but it can also help fund future capital outlays. While reducing associated borrowing and interest for new infrastructure and equipment, it can also improve the municipality’s credit rating (for example, a fund balance between 15% and 30% earns an “Aa” rating from Moody’s).

To avoid negative public scrutiny and potential loss of community support and trust, do not just use your fund balance as a place to store extra money. Also, don’t use fund balance for recurring expenditures. Funding recurring expenditures means revenues are not covering every day expenditures; your fund balance will quickly be depleted and the municipality may be forced to raise taxes significantly. Finally, don’t minimize risks that should be addressed by the fund. “Research cited by GFOA has found that human judgment alone typically underestimates risks by about 50%.”

For additional information on managing fund balance, refer to these resources:

For tax, auditing, and consulting services related to your General Fund, contact RBT CPAs.

Connect Construction with Digital Solutions to Propel Growth in 2022 and Beyond

Connect Construction with Digital Solutions to Propel Growth in 2022 and Beyond

Optimism is high about construction industry prospects thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

There are going to be more jobs, opportunities, and investments. Before partaking in the coming construction boom, businesses must prepare to navigate some storms; digitalization of the construction industry can help.

On one front, supply chain issues and the resulting impact on prices – and profit margins – are continuing (although price increases feel more like riding a rollercoaster than a rocket, as was the case in 2021).

On a second front, there’s talent – or the lack of it. With the great resignation and silver tsunami underway, there are more jobs than people to fill them. One source says there are currently over 345,000 open construction jobs nationwide. No doubt, that’s driving competition and the pay and benefit packages employers need to win and retain talent.

On a third front, there’s the geo-political climate which is filled with uncertainties and unrest, and will no doubt exacerbate supply chain issues and operating costs (due to things like rising oil and gas prices, for example).

Combined, these forces impact everything from profitability and productivity to competitiveness.

Although construction is one of the biggest industries in the U.S., it is also the least digitalized.

Digitalization – which is the process of integrating digital technology into all facets of a business and its operations – may act as a compass to help construction firms navigate choppy waters and get into position to maximize productivity, profitability, and future growth.

Digital construction solutions are commonly used for project planning, management, and documentation. To maximize impact and potential, digital solutions can modernize construction with:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and enhance building designs (extending longevity).
  • Building information modeling (BIM) tools to review projects in real-time; improve collaboration between engineers, architects, and construction staff; and streamline planning.
  • Cloud technology to manage and store data; integrate suppliers and contractors; and address data gaps.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) so smart equipment can self-maintain and operate, while sensors and monitoring systems reduce waste and carbon footprints.
  • Machine learning for monitoring progress and identifying issues.
  • Software to promote project management and data analytics.
  • Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for simulations, planning, and risk reduction.

Construction digitalization can deliver a myriad of benefits to construction firms, engineering partners, employees, vendors, and clients.

Firms can use digital construction solutions to optimize operations; identify and mitigate safety risks; manage projects, procurement, and supply chain; provide real-time updates; collaborate, get approvals, and make decisions or problem-solve in real-time; reduce waste; minimize errors; increase productivity, agility, and profitability; align with clients’ systems and processes; identify and rectify issues before they escalate; improve workflow and document tracking; reduce costs to increase bid competitiveness; and promote growth readiness.

Consulting firm McKinsey found firms with digital procurement, supply chain, and on-site operation solutions increased productivity by 50% as compared to firms with analog solutions. It also found digital transformation reduced costs by 4 to 6 percent and increased productivity by 14 to 15 percent.

What are the current issues facing the construction industry in 2022?

According to Dodge Data and Analytics, 95% of employees are willing to use digital tools and 84% of field employees indicate these solutions already impact the way they work. As reported by ConstructionDive.com, 92% of construction business owners and 96% of contractors have digital transformation strategies. So the issue isn’t getting employees on board.

When it comes to technology infrastructure, a JBKnowledge survey shows, 22% of companies surveyed use six or more apps for daily operations; 92% of construction workers use smartphones, 83% use laptops, and 65% use tablets at work; and nearly 50% of firms have dedicated IT departments or resources. So, the issue isn’t a fear of technology or building a technology infrastructure.

Issues appear to rest in the piecemeal nature of using multiple solutions that don’t integrate or share data; are not accessible by all who may need information; and aren’t being maximized. A new thought process is emerging that indicates the answer may lay in simplifying by adopting connected construction strategies and technologies.

Engineering firms, contractors, construction firms, and others involved in the value chain can use connected emerging platforms to bring people, processes, job sites, and assets together to work efficiently and effectively. By connecting, automating, and integrating everything into one platform, people work smarter, operations are more efficient, and businesses are poised to maximize success.

RBT CPAs Named One of the Best Places to Work in New York

RBT CPAs Named One of the Best Places to Work in New York

For the 6th consecutive year, RBT CPAs has been named one of the Best Places to Work by the New York State Society for Human Resources Management (NYS-SHRM) and Best Companies Group.

Businesses compete for a spot on the list based on a review of its business policies, practices, work environment, demographics, and the results of an employee engagement survey. RBT CPAs – a leading accounting, auditing, consulting, and tax firm in the Hudson Valley – ranked 11th in the medium employer category, moving up one spot from last year. The company adds the award to a growing list of recognition, including the 2021 Forbes Best Tax Firms in America List; Reader’s Choice Best of the Best 2021 List; and others for best regional accounting firm and employer.

“We are thrilled to once again make the Best Places to Work in New York list,” says Managing Partner Mike Turturro. “We really do work hard to create a professional culture that fosters learning and growth. Every single RBT CPA employee makes an impact at work every single day, while being part of an organization that takes tremendous pride in being a valuable contributing member of the Hudson Valley community. We foster an open-door environment, where titles don’t matter. Instead, we focus our energies on working together to deliver excellence and exceed client expectations with every engagement.”

Winning a coveted spot on the list couldn’t occur at a better time, as RBT CPAs continues its annual recruitment process looking for future team members who will have the growth opportunity to become future partners. “We are growing across all fields and looking to expand our team with new talent looking to use their skills to contribute to RBT CPA’s and our clients’ success.” To learn about its workplace, culture, rewards, and job opportunities, visit RBT CPAs’ careers pages.

About RBT CPAs RBT CPAs LLP is one of the Hudson Valley’s largest CPA firm. The company services clients in construction, education, employee benefits, government, health care, manufacturing, and more. The dedicated professional RBT team is committed to providing outstanding service and prompt communication with clients. Learn more about its diverse offerings and award-winning service at RBTCPAs.com.

Healthcare CFOs Take on More Than Finance

Healthcare CFOs Take on More Than Finance

Geopolitical unrest, inflation, the COVID aftermath, skyrocketing gas and oil prices, supply chain challenges, the Great Resignation, and more hallmarks of living in 2022 are disrupting most industries, including healthcare. Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are playing pivotal roles to help ensure short- and long-term success in the changing economic landscape.  Here’s how…

A McKinsey & Company 2021 survey shows over the last five years CFO responsibilities have dramatically expanded to include investor relations, post-merger integration, board engagement, procurement, and digital activities. CFOs in healthcare face additional, unique challenges that are further shaping their roles.

Healthcare CFOs are facing a burnt-out workforce and critical labor shortages (we’re talking nurses, medical assistants, and lab technicians); cannibalization of primary care services thanks to major retail chains’ entry into the market; supply chain disruptions impacting operations (not something you want when it comes to healthcare); and complete realignment of healthcare delivery due to explosive growth in telehealth. That’s in addition to handling and accounting for stimulus money, while managing compliance.

To navigate these challenges, the role of CFO is evolving beyond finance. According to the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) CFO of the Future survey, respondents indicate they will spend almost 25% of their time on strategy in the next three years to include a variety of actions like:

  • Filling gaps and complimenting existing resources by expanding healthcare systems regionally via satellite operations.
  • Promoting wellness and addressing the whole person.
  • Enhancing the patient experience.
  • Evaluating and refining capital investment strategy to ensure investments are in the right business lines, care, and products.
  • Enhancing or creating an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy.
  • Automating and creating data warehouses to facilitate faster decision-making; eliminate non-value-added work; and upskill the existing workforce to do more strategic work.
  • Identifying opportunities for new revenue sources.
  • Focusing on cost structure to understand the cost of each step in the care process and increasing profitability through strategic cost reduction.
  • Better managing and measuring labor costs and productivity.
  • Playing a larger role in shaping recruiting, retention, and rewards strategies and programs (to address the Great Resignation and its aftermath and influence the people side of the business).
  • Outsourcing revenue cycle activities to reduce the cost of care and improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Renewing focus on contract negotiations and value-based contracts.
  • Completing transactions like reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, carve-outs or divestitures, and Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs).

According to the 2022 BDO Healthcare CFO Outlook Survey, the healthcare industry is “boldly investing in the future, even in a time of uncertainty,” with nearly 70% of organizations expecting to increase profitability. To achieve goals, 59% of respondents say leadership will be the most critical CFO competency for success in the coming years.

If your business is looking for a partner to handle or advise on finances, tax, or auditing matters so your finance people and operations are freed up to focus on more strategic demands, give RBT CPAs a call. We have extensive experience partnering with healthcare organizations in the Hudson Valley and beyond.

Check, Please! College Student Covid Relief Update

Check, Please! College Student Covid Relief Update

In January, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced it was distributing $198 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support colleges, universities and students in 2022. Much of the funding (50% to 100%) must be used for Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEERF) grants for students.

Community and rural colleges with at least 50% of students being Pell Grant recipients and at least a 4.5% enrollment decline year over year; institutions where at least 90% of the student body consists of graduate students; and institutions that didn’t receive previous HEERF disbursements due to application errors will receive priority for funds.

Thousands of U.S. colleges and universities have received HEERF funds. They have broad discretion to distribute the student aid portion pretty much as they see fit. In general, they award grants to students ranging from an average of a couple of hundred dollars to $3,000 (with some colleges offering even more); they are intended to help students cover ongoing expenses like tuition, housing, food, and healthcare (including mental healthcare).

Funds cannot be applied to students’ outstanding account balances without permission or reduce financial aid. They are not considered income, so no taxes apply, and they have no impact on FAFSA filings.

The process for distributing funds varies. Many colleges automate allocations based on financial need using FAFSA information. Some also offer discretionary grants that require students to complete an application process.

Colleges and universities who received HEERF funds are required to provide detailed reporting on the use of funds and timing of distributions. Data about how a school is distributing funds, how many students received grants, how much money has been distributed, and more must be posted on a school’s website by predetermined deadlines. For complete details, refer to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) HEERF Reporting Guidelines.

In early April, ED extended the performance period for all open HEERF grants to June 30, 2023.

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Education website which includes revised FAQs from the IRS and auditing requirements.  Also visit the NASFAA website.

In related news, on April 6, the ED extended the student loan payment pause through August 31.  What’s more, any student debt forgiven after December 31, 2020, or through January 1, 2026, is no longer considered taxable (which can translate into big savings for student loan borrowers).

There’s likely more changes, clarifications, and information to come – keep an eye out for future RBT CPA Thought Leadership articles designed to keep you in-the-know. In the meantime, if you have any questions about taxes or audits related to ARPA funding, give your RBT CPA contact a call.

Why You Need to Update Your Cybersecurity Now

Why You Need to Update Your Cybersecurity Now

The war in Ukraine is closer than you think. Recently, the  White House warned malicious attacks could be just a few keystrokes away, making it critical for local governments to close their digital doors, put their shields up, and protect people, data, and infrastructure from the disruption a cyberattack can cause. What’s even more worrisome is that Russia is just one part of a much larger problem – the U.S. saw a 917% increase in ransomware attacks of government operations between 2020 and 2021, and last year over 2,300 local governments, schools, and healthcare providers were victims of ransomware attacks.

While it may seem like cyber criminals would be more likely to target banks or global companies over local school districts or government offices, these soft targets are attractive because they haven’t had the funding or resources to build up their defenses. What’s more, financial gain isn’t the main goal of cyberattacks – disruption is. (Imagine the chaos that can be caused by something as simple as blocking access to emergency contact information for students at a public school?)

Cyberattacks can impact everything from emergency services (including 911 call centers) to tax collections, building permits, clean water, waste disposal, and more. Going after local governments is attractive to cyber criminals because of the low hanging fruit available, like Social Security Numbers and voter and tax payment information.

Recently, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) – a component of the Department of Homeland Security – issued advisories indicating government, election, energy, water, and a few other organizations are likely targets. All organizations – small and large – are urged to step up security and be prepared to respond to and mitigate the impact of potential cyberattacks.  That includes training employees to help prevent attacks and conducting drills to make sure everyone knows what to do if an attack should occur.

With the approval of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) there’s over $1 billion for improving state, local and tribal cybersecurity. Planning for and managing those funds will happen at the state level, where Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced a proposed budget of $62 million to build up cybersecurity. So, it’s important to stay in the know about what New York’s Chief Information Officer, Chief Information Security Officer, and NYS Joint Security Operations Center are up to.

In the meantime, it’s easy to agree that more needs to be done to stand up to cyberattacks. The tough questions are “What?” and “How?” Recently, the Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress kicked off a series of cybersecurity live virtual events to answer those questions and included a review of free resources available to support local governments, including:

To free you up to focus on cybersecurity, RBT CPAs is available to handle all of your tax and accounting needs. We work with local governments and school districts throughout the Hudson Valley. Give us a call today.

Measuring Success

Measuring Success

After decades of working with leaders across many industries, one best practice that stands out from all others in driving business success: setting, monitoring and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs).

A KPI measures activity that is critical to successfully compete in the marketplace. A company may have its own KPIs and require business functions, departments, and individual employees to set KPIs as well. This way, all efforts are aligned to drive common goals.

A company may have three or four KPIs; the same holds true for departments and employees. In addition to evaluating critical activity, a KPI must:

  • Be realistic – a KPI to eliminate downtime is not realistic. An effective KPI would be “to reduce downtime by 5% through scheduled maintenance days.”
  • Be specific to meet goals: “delivered on time” is not specific. A better KPI is “to complete delivery within three days of receiving the customer’s order.”
  • Be quantifiable, such as tracking the rate of returned product.
  • Highlight areas where increased efficiency/decrease in use of resources can be achieved.
  • Illustrate the progress toward attaining a goal by presenting data in a chart or graph.

Implementing and tracking KPIs provides management with reliable data to streamline decision-making, encourages teamwork by promoting inter-departmental cooperation, and offers clarity for workers in terms of performance expectations. (As an added bonus, they can also help identify seasonal trends.)

Setting a KPI is just the start – the real value comes from regularly checking in to see if progress is being made and having a clear course of action once the results of the KPI are known.

So, lets say a company has a goal to provide superior customer service through quick delivery. Here’s what a related KPI and measurement may look like:

KPI: Lead time (the length of time it takes from the beginning of the manufacturing process to the time the final product is delivered to the customer).

How it will be measured: Tracking the customer waiting time, which is the length of time between when a customer places an order and the customer receives the product.

Target: To reduce lead time by 2 percent.

Implementing KPIs can increase the entire organization’s efficiency and production capability. An added benefit, KPIs can generate a positive attitude among team members by letting individuals know how they contribute to a company’s overall success. Setting, monitoring and measuring KPIs regularly can reenergize your team and ensure all departments are synchronized in their daily, monthly, and quarterly objectives.