No, I am not talking about the apocalypse or the band Primal Fear’s 2016 hit song. I am writing this quarter’s Memo following the NASBA July Board of Directors’ meeting and the fiscal year’s end is near. I don’t think there has ever been a time when I was so looking forward to the end of a fiscal year. The unanticipated challenges we have all experienced since late February were truly unprecedented and I, for one, am looking forward to a new beginning.
Obviously, I am not the only one writing about these challenges. In March the Washington Post stated: “Coronavirus might feel like the End Times…but the apocalypse is not here, doomsday prophesiers say.” Good to hear! As I stated in the Spring 2020 Memo, I am an optimist and a “glass half full” kind of guy. So I will repeat what I reported to the NASBA Board members: How we are ending the fiscal year is truly remarkable. With cost savings and help from investments, we essentially accomplished a breakeven year financially, while spending a record amount on regulatory-related mission spending in support of State Boards.
We were able to quickly transition to remote working and maintain all core business functions and services to Boards, including administration of the Uniform CPA Examination. While unhappy that we were not able to be together, we saw the Regional Directors and support staff do an amazing job in pulling off successful NASBA Regional Meetings. Most importantly, as of this writing we have only had a few NASBA employees who tested positive for COVID-19 and none have had serious symptoms or required hospitalization. To keep the number down, I was disappointed to announce that this year’s Annual Meeting would also have to be virtual, as the safety and wellbeing of our staff and volunteers remains my highest priority.
Having reached the end of this fiscal year, we now begin a new year that will undoubtedly continue to present significant challenges. I reported to the NASBA Board some startling news regarding declines in state revenue projections for 2021. Nearly half of the states are forecasting revenue declines of more than 10 percent with several forecasting a greater than 20 percent drop. This will undoubtedly impact state governments’ budgets and ability to maintain their current level of services. Of course, our concern is the impact on Boards of Accountancy. History has shown us that State Boards have seen reductions of staffing, travel budgets and scholarships. Often there is an attempt to take money from regulatory boards’ reserves and funds. We all should be planning for cuts now.
NASBA is committed to helping State Boards weather these challenges. Our NASBA Regional Directors will be communicating with you regarding your needs, as will our relations with member Boards’ staff, and we will be prepared to ensure that you are able to continue to provide public protection to your state. Similarly, our legislative staff will be prepared to provide you with assistance if you are faced with potentially harmful legislation or attempts to scrape back your funds.
I think all of us have discovered that we have capabilities and capacities that we did not know existed. While remote working is not unusual in the accounting profession, for most regulators this is a new experience. At NASBA we continue to evolve in training, technology, performance measurement and effective communication. We know from our communication with Board Executives and staff that State Boards have handled this transition well.
We know that we still have a ways to go. NASBA continues to ramp up our acquisition of the equipment and software our staff needs to augment their capabilities. Improving communication is critical. We are working to reduce the response time to emails, and we are investing in “soft phone” technology to take us to a new normal in timely and effective communication with you, your candidates and licensees. I want to express my appreciation for the patience and support we have received from State Boards, but also from examination candidates and other stakeholders.
I think we all know that the disruptions we have been facing are not over. It’s not just the pandemic. Social unrest, demonstrations and economic hardships are still in front of us. I am a lover of history. Almost all generations have faced what probably seemed like unsurmountable challenges from pandemics, economic depressions and world wars. Most of us have been truly blessed to have not endured those experiences until now. Like those previous generations, I know that we too will make it through better, stronger and more prepared for the future. The end is near and we are ready for the new beginning. NASBA will be there to help!
Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).
— Ken L. Bishop
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