Published: March 25, 2020
Local governments are navigating many new areas while managing operations in response to coronavirus. Here is some information and links to resources. Thanks go to the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) for its timely guidance provided in several important areas of this guidance.
Guidance from SAO on accounting-related matters
How should I be tracking coronavirus expenditures? Is there a BARS code? At this time, local governments should continue to use BARS coding based on the existing chart of accounts and related requirements. However, we recommend tracking coronavirus-related revenues or expenditures internally. If we make changes to BARS requirements, we’ll be sure to communicate those to you. For now, do your best to be diligent and keep good records of any expenditures you incur.
Has the State of Washington approved a change in local government deposit frequency? No. The Washington State Treasurer issued a written waiver to the daily deposit requirement that applies only to state commissions, and state colleges and universities, and should not be used by local governments. Any change to your deposit frequency will have to be approved by the treasurer of your local government, in accordance with RCW 43.09.240.
Guidance from MRSC and Attorney General
Emergency proclamations and procurement
Do you want to know what emergency powers you have? Or maybe you have other questions such as who has authority to close a government or prohibit evictions?
- For answers to these and other MRSC frequently asked questions, see: mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Public-Safety/Emergency-Services/Public-Health-Emergencies/Coronavirus-COVID-19-FAQs.aspx
- For additional MRSC guidance on this topic, including procurement advice, also see: mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Public-Safety/Emergency-Services/Public-Health-Emergencies/Coronavirus-Emergency-Declarations.aspx.
Remote meetings and the Open Public Meetings Act
It’s probably common for the occasional elected official to call into a meeting, but have you operated an entire public meeting remotely? Do you need a policy? What about the requirements that the public be allowed to attend? Taking this next step can raise a lot of questions. Consider these resources to help you:
- MRSC guidance: mrsc.org/Home/Stay-Informed/MRSC-Insight/February-2020/Remote-Meeting-Attendance-guidelines.aspx
- 2017 Attorney General opinion: www.atg.wa.gov/ago-opinions/legislative-authority-combine-commission-salaries-elected-officials-another-agency-and
- The Governor’s proclamation temporarily suspends some provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act and the Public Records Act: www.governor.wa.gov/office-governor/official-actions/proclamations
Operations and personnel issues
You might be wondering about adjusting your personnel policies, whether for telecommuting, compensation, or leave practices. Or maybe you have questions about whether decisions you are considering could be considered gifts of public funds? These resources might help you:
- MRSC guidance for operations and personnel issues: mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Public-Safety/Emergency-Services/Public-Health-Emergencies/Coronavirus-Operations-and-Personnel-Issues.aspx
- MRSC guidance on fiscal issues: mrsc.org/Home/Stay-Informed/MRSC-Insight/March-2020/Fiscal-Issues-During-Coronavirus-Outbreak.aspx
- Attorney General guidance on gifting of public funds during the coronavirus pandemic: mrsc.org/getmedia/37fa7cc7-fb7f-4dc4-88d4-4ad6a8887318/w3agcoronagopf.pdf.aspx
- Attorney General guidance on whether/how to pay employees during a closure mandated by a public official: mrsc.org/getmedia/d3b3c5c9-fada-4339-94b1-8d279d7ab8bc/w3ag080206.aspx
In case you missed MRSC’s March 16 free webinar on managing the effects of coronavirus on your agency, you can still view it at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwoFn6Y4xsw
MRSC also is holding a webinar on March 26 covering topics related to preparing for the fiscal implications of the coronavirus outbreak. Registration is full, but you will be able to view the archived webinar afterward on MRSC’s website.
We hope you find this information helpful in managing your operations during these challenging times. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns, at Center@sao.wa.gov.