The "Whitley Penn Talks" podcast covers a variety of topics involving accounting and business services as a whole.
In the middle of 2019, Whitley Penn pursued a new endeavor with the goal of reaching people on their morning commutes. People spend significant amounts of time in the car and in an effort to connect with them, Whitley Penn Talks was born. Whitley Penn Talks is a podcast channel that spotlights professionals who are knowledgeable on a topic or a series of topics that allows them to have a space to share their knowledge with the world.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, suddenly no one was in their car, no one was commuting, and we had to begin to determine where these podcast episodes made the most sense. Six months into a thriving channel, we saw a significant shift and had to pivot accordingly. The channel began to morph into a tool that was aiming to help others. It aimed to spotlight individuals more than sell services. This shift made the channel even stronger. Whitley Penn Talks has covered topics for the public sector, energy, and nonprofit industries, current events, tax updates, and wealth management related tips.
One series of episodes that proves to be particularly beneficial to school districts are the episodes titled “Major Fundcast”. The hosts of this series are Celina Cereceres and Lupe Garcia, who are both Public Sector Audit Partners at Whitley Penn. They break down the items to note within the public sector industry, the changes that are occurring, and how our clients and friends can best prepare.
Here is a brief breakdown of the “Major Fundcast” episodes thus far:
Major Fundcast Episode #1 – Celina Cereceres and Lupe Garcia introduce the series and discuss items that will be featured on future episodes.
The two begin by giving an overview of the impact that the public sector has, since the public sector industry “exists all around us” and the “local governments are some of the largest employers state-wide”. For example, “Fort Bend ISD employs 10,000 people and Katy ISD about the same” stated Lupe, as he discussed the impact of the public sector on our day-to-day lives. To build on this idea, there are more than 5.4 million students receiving breakfast and lunch everyday in Texas alone, making school cafeterias one of the largest “restaurant chains” to exist.
The episode continues by outlining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public sector, and how the industry has had to shift throughout the last 1.5 years to optimize on their abilities and personnel during this time. To listen to the full podcast, click here.
Major Fundcast Episode #2 – Celina and Lupe are joined by local attorney and good friend, Sarah Langlois of KBS Law Group. Sarah is an education lawyer who focuses her practice on representing school districts, charter schools, and junior colleges in governance, policy development, employment, open government, students, contracts, procurement, and facilities and construction matters. In this episode, they discuss what it has been like to parent during the pandemic, as well as how to continue leading their clients and guide them through changes in legislation. They also discuss the ongoing question of how we can conserve tax dollars while supporting the students.
At the time of the recording it was the summer of 2020, so many school business officials were asking Sarah questions on how resources were looking heading into the coming school year. Many were asking her “what do we need and how can we procure that?” or “can we provide food remotely?” and “can we use child nutrition funds to deliver food to children?”.
The rest of the episode focuses on breaking down the implications of each of the events and how to give the students the best possible experience through it all. Listen here.
Major Fundcast Episode #3 – In this episode, Celina and Lupe sit down with guest David Webb of Stifel Nicholaus, who formerly served as Chief Financial Officer of a prominent school district in the Houston area. His current role focuses on the bond market and he underwrites bonds on behalf of his clients. The three discuss upcoming bond elections, David's career thus far, and the differences between what auditors see in contrast to underwriters.
In this episode, David describes bond underwriting as an art. It takes skill and precision to ensure that debt is issued to cover the lifetime of what you are buying and not more. It is like that of mortgaging a house for individual people, but for school districts and the public sector, issuing debt in the form of bonds is how infrastructure is produced and constructed.
The episode continues to discuss the bond markets, what David anticipates in the future, and how districts can be best equipped to take on these changes. Listen here.
Major Fundcast Episode #4 - In this episode, Lupe and Celina are back with special guests Doug Janowski, Director of Business Development at CBIZ Valuation Group, and Carleen Patterson, First Vice President at Alliant Insurance Services, to talk all things insurance as it relates to the industry and how to plan for the unknown. The four of them discuss the current state of insurance amid the pandemic and how premiums have been affected as a result.
Carleen and Doug break down the changes in the global insurance market and why it is becoming more difficult to isolate a single client for a good rate. Rates are intertwined and the unexpected is happening increasingly often, which is forcing rates to increase across the board. For school districts, this can be tricky because they are needing policies that now cover events that we never even considered before, such as a global pandemic. Listen here.
Major Fundcast Episode #5 - In this episode, Celina Cereceres and Lupe Garcia are joined again with David Webb of Stifel Nicolas to discuss David's presentation "Leadership | 10 Tips of Being an Effective Team Member". David is often asked to present on this topic and has noticed many connections between the qualities required of a great team member and leader. These universal tips can apply to those in various industries and at different stages of careers.
David’s first tip was labeled “You get what you give” which he explained meant if you would like to receive respect in the workplace, then you must give respect, and vice versa. All of David’s tips were challenging but all encompassing to create a team player who is ready to tackle anything.
Listen to this episode to hear David’s other nine tips and how you can strive to be the most effective team member.
What started as a platform to share information related to audit, tax and consulting services, quickly evolved into a platform to spotlight our people and those with whom we work. I hope that you will listen to any of these episodes that you find interesting by clicking this link. Please reach out to us with questions along the way.
About Celina Cereceres
Celina Cereceres oversees audits and other attestation engagements for school districts, universities and colleges, other large governments, and non-profit organizations; entities that receive large amounts of federal assistance ranging from $750K to $250 million. As such, Celina has extensive knowledge with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements under the Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200) and the State of Texas Uniform Grant Management Standards. Celina has earned the AICPA’s Single Audit Advanced Certificate. In addition to her financial statement and state and federal single audit experience, Celina has significant experience performing procedures over her public sector client’s construction manager at-risk construction projects. The size of the construction projects range from $15 million to over $100 million. These procedures include analyzing the general contractor’s detail accounting records and recalculating and testing the components of the Guaranteed Maximum Price to ensure that the general contractor adhered to the provisions of the construction contract.
About Lupe Garcia
Lupe Garcia has experience providing audit services to various governmental entities, including counties, cities, school districts, universities, community colleges and other special-purpose governments. He is responsible for all aspects of the assurance process including planning, internal control evaluation, risk assessment, fieldwork, and report issuance and engagement closure.
About Whitley Penn, LLP
Whitley Penn has consistently been recognized as “One the Top 100 Firms in the U.S.” and “Best of the Best” by INSIDE Public Accounting and other industry publications. For more information on Whitley Penn, please visit www.whitleypenn.com.