County Employee Leads Colleagues to Better Financial Literacy

NEWS // December 2, 2015

County Employee Leads Colleagues to Better Financial Literacy

If you’ve ever spent time with County of San Diego employees, you may have noticed that many of them speak with great interest and passion about what they do. Some employees are passionate about supporting children and families, others about providing services in parks, and still others about protecting the region to help everyone live safely.  And employees passionate about accountability, transparency, and performance manage the County’s finances that support these services.  One such employee, who strives to improve financial literacy amongst his colleagues, is Brian Hagerty.

Hagerty started with the County of San Diego in 2003 in the Office of Financial Planning bringing with him a strong background in government finance.  He previously worked for the City of Fort Worth, Texas as a Budget Analyst, helping to build their budget software system.  While in Texas, he received a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He now works as the Group Finance Officer for the Community Services Group.  In this role, he supports the County’s goal of improving the financial literacy of all County employees so they can better understand the budget and government financial process. The two financial education courses he helped develop -  Finance Academy and Financial Literacy – help employees manage finances with greater ease.

“Back in 2007, when I was still working at the Office of Financial Planning,” explained Hagerty, “I was asked to work on a new project to ‘elevate’ the level of financial literacy among County employees working on finances in their departments.  A team of us brainstormed what that would look like and developed a curriculum of about 8-10 different courses covering different government finance topics.  That curriculum became Finance Academy.”

The goal of Finance Academy is to provide learning opportunities that will enhance an employee’s ability to perform in their current financial job responsibilities as well as encourage and promote the development of key County financial skills and concepts.  Topics include a review of the County’s General Management System, Operational Budget, Financial Planning, Debt and Performance Management, Accounting, and Financial Communication.  Discussions on each topic are led by County Directors and Managers.

“When we developed the Finance Academy,” explained Hagerty, “We wanted to tap into the knowledge of the people that have been with the County for a long time. We brought together Group Finance Directors, Accountants, and Financial Planners as subject matter experts, so they could best explain how things are done and how potential problems get resolved.”

Finance Academy is for County employees that play a strong role in managing their departmental budget.  As such, an employee must be nominated by their department in order to attend. 

“Finance Academy is for people who are really going to put this information into action in their department, because we really go deep into some of these subjects,” said Hagerty. “This program is successful because all of the information is concentrated into a short period of time so they don’t have to learn on the job over the next two years. They learn it in Finance Academy over four Fridays and put it directly to good use on the job.” 

It is also important for non-finance employees to understand the County’s budget and financial processes.  In order to improve financial literacy in all levels of the organization, Hagerty had a hand in developing a training course for non-finance employees called Financial Literacy. The class, offered quarterly through the Human Resources Department, was so popular that the course always filled up quickly. 

“Due to popular demand, we are currently in the process of creating a Learning Management System (LMS) course based on the classroom course that goes over the basics of the County’s financial system, including policies, basic terminology, budgets, and how the money moves, where the money goes,” said Hagerty. “We hope to have the LMS course rolled out by the end of December 2015.”

LMS is an online learning tool that provides trainings about various topics to help support employee learning.  Additional courses for County employees related to finance can also be found using the LMS tool.

“We have a culture here of being careful with our money, thinking about long term fiscal impact,” said Hagerty. “Students at Finance Academy and Financial Literacy really want this information -  it matters a lot to them, they take notes, ask questions, and have really good input about things we can do to make it better.  Our employees know that attending these courses not only benefits them in their career but it also benefits the County as an entire organization.”

As Group Finance Director, Hagerty oversees the budgets for six departments.  He helps each department build and maintain their budgets, ensuring they have the funds they need and projecting how they are doing over the course of the year.  It’s a big responsibility, but Hagerty is motivated to do his job as best as possible.

“I work with a very passionate group of award-winning department directors who are deeply embedded in the County’s mission,” said Hagerty.  “That’s what brings me into work every day.  I feel like we are all getting something done that’s important.”