How Modern Budgeting Saves Time and Money

Ravalli County, Montana cut their budget preparation time by +30% and saved $70k annually

ARTICLE | Aug 28, 2018
by Janice Kim, Senior Director of Marketing, OpenGov

The budget is the most important document a government produces. As public sector budgeting has become more strategic over the last several decades, the budget itself has increasingly become a combination of a policy, operational prescription, and communication tool. The budget reflects a government’s policies and civic priorities and indicates how a government anticipates raising revenues, spending, investing, and encapsulating fiscal and programmatic policy decisions.

When done right, a modern budget process will reflect the government’s commitment to contemporary citizen engagement, inclusiveness, transparency, integration with other departments, digital transformation, and overall effectiveness. It incorporates a long-term perspective, links to broad operational goals, focuses on results and outcomes, and harnesses effective communication.

Cloud-based budgeting software shifts practices from manual information gathering and spreadsheets to automated systems that serve as a single repository for budget data and the creation of the budget book. With the adoption of cloud-based budgeting software, governments shift their focus from the tedious process of creating the budget to focusing on the core strategic issues underlying the budget and the priorities that matter to citizens and governmental operations.

The nature of cloud platforms creates greater transparency for citizens and lawmakers. Online access to the budget and historical budget data gives everyone equal opportunity to view budget information and be more informed on how the government is allocating money and its consequent results.

But what does this look like in real life?

The County of Ravalli, Montana has recently modernized their budget process with cloud-based software. Ravalli is unique in that 73 percent of the land is owned by the United States government. With a budget of $35 million, Ravalli faces a limited resource base and is the third largest county in the state where PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) is paid by the government for federally-owned acres.

In 2010, Ravalli County cut their workforce by 14 percent. The finance team had just three employees and was challenged by the manual, cumbersome budget process. Without resources to hire additional full-time employees, they needed to innovate and do more with less.

Ravalli County Chief Financial Officer, Klarryse Murphy, moved confidently towards modernizing the budget process with cloud-based software to reduce their manual workload and streamline the process. To do so, she first networked with other counties and cities to find out how cloud-based software could transform her budget process and what to look for in a vendor. She then chose OpenGov because of its transparency and the fact that it would end up saving them the equivalent of one full time employee per year – a $70, 000 value.

After an easy implementation period and staff training that took less than 30 minutes, Murphy and her staff began to see immediate benefits as they used the software to drive more efficiency in their budget process. Accustomed to the traditional spreadsheet method, Murphy’s team noticed that cloud-based software reduced the errors so often made in manual data entry. Automated calculations and updates that require minimal data input, ensured that numbers are updated across the budget and historic changes are tracked. No more spending countless hours tracking for mistakes in Excel spreadsheets!

With a modern budgeting approach, Murphy’s team cut the budget completion time by more than 30 percent – from six months down to four months. Before, they had a manual, time-consuming, error-prone process that produced static 20-page reports. Now it’s easy and automated, and only requires two pages to convey the same information.

 

One of the other benefits of cloud-based software is that it produces dashboards and reports that can be accessed via any device connected to the internet. This self-service reporting cut down on an abundance of reporting requests that Murphy and her two staff often struggled to fulfill. Now county staff, elected officials, as well as the public, can easily access the budget data they need – and everyone can see how key county priorities are being funded and how that funding is serving citizens.

The department heads in Ravalli County have also realized the benefits of using cloud-based budgeting software. Their public safety, environmental health, treasurer, clerk & recorder, clerk of court, and information technology directors enjoy the time savings and the fact that once the budget is passed, they do not have to remember the data. It’s readily available in the OpenGov platform. Murphy no longer needs to field calls from directors asking for budget data.

Ravalli County is continuing its modernization initiative with decisions to film all commissioner meetings and upgrading processes from end to end. They view OpenGov as a strategic partner to help them in this process and work closely with OpenGov advisors on best practices for leveraging cloud-based platforms in local government.

Overall, a modern budgeting process should be:

  • Collaborative
    • Multiple users can work together and see work in process in real-time
  • Open and Transparent:
    • Users can access the data they need when they need it
    • A single source of truth ensures all stakeholders are working with the same data
  • Efficient
    • Eliminates boring clerical work -- no “cutting and pasting”
    • Ensures accuracy in the calculations and eliminates the need for extensive rework when things break
    • Provides management with insight into the process and status of work
  • Inclusive
    • Is easy to use so that people close to the work can contribute
    • Is easy to access so that people can access it anywhere, anytime via the internet
  • Timely
    • Is up to the date
    • Provides quick turnaround on the impact of changes
    • Supports near real-time reporting so users are working with the most current information

Modern budgeting drives a more effective, accountable process that includes greater inclusiveness, clear communication, collaboration, and reduced labor to create the budget book. Through harnessing the power of cloud-based modern budgeting processes, governments leverage the power of digital transformation and improve outcomes.

About OpenGov

OpenGov is solely focused on helping governments be more effective and accountable. The OpenGov budgeting and performance solution helps 1900+ agencies meet their strategic goals with modern, easy-to-use cloud technology. We believe the best way to work with our government partners is to meet them where they are — our timely strategies are designed to empower agencies now and into the future.

By streamlining processes and empowering every level of government worker with the information they need to make progress, OpenGov has proven to be a trusted and effective partner to the public sector.

To learn more about what we can do to help build your capacity to increase enterprise productivity and free your workers for a laser-focused attention to mission-critical challenges, visit our website here or email info@opengov.com.

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