3 Tips from Leaders Adapting to The ‘New Normal’ for Government Budgeting

Introduction

In a normal year, budget leaders typically approach forecasting by reviewing revenue trends from years past. But seeing as 2020 has so far proven to be anything but normal, what’s the best path forward for accurate scenario-based re-planning efforts?

Last month, we sat down with three budgeting visionaries from Anoka County, MN and Harford County, CT to find out not only how their teams approached the re-planning process in the short-term, but also how they were leveraging this unpredictable time as a catalyst for future-proofing their budgeting practices for good.

Speakers
Christen Sullivan, Senior Budget Analyst – Harford County, MD
Cory Kampf, Finance & Central Services Division Manager – Anoka County, MN
Yvonne Kirkeide, Accounting Manager – Anoka County, MN
#1: There Is No ‘Right’ Place To Start Re-Planning

 

#1: There Is No ‘Right’ Place To Start Re-Planning

As a direct result of the health pandemic, many government leaders are asking where they should begin making revisions to their original budget plans in order to reduce presumed deficits.

Revenues? People? Operations? Capital? All of the above?

We asked webinar participants the same question. See how they answered (20:17) —>

It turns out, there’s no ‘right’ answer to this question, as every community will take a slightly different approach. Anoka County, MN, for example, is operating under a wait-and-see model.

“We haven’t done anything with our current budget,” explains Cory Kampf, Finance & Central Services Division Manager at Anoka County, MN, “but we are monitoring it.” Meanwhile, Harford County, CT utilized OpenGov’s collaborative budgeting tools to run through multiple scenarios in a proactive attempt to avoid additional budget cuts later in the year.

 

“We ran through many different scenarios at the last-minute…we knew cash might not be flowing like we thought it would.”
Christen Sullivan, Senior Budget Analyst, Harford County, MD

 

Christen Sullivan, Senior Budget Analyst at Harford County, MD, and her five-person team reviewed the likely reductions in consumer-generated revenue, such as the hotel tax, as well as state capital funding, and adjusted revenue projects as needed. They also re-examined employee wage packages to decide what to keep and what the fiscal implications would look like as a result.

 

#2: Virtual Collaboration and Flexibility Will Be Key to Budget Planning in the Future

One of the most notable differences many budgeting leaders are finding in this 2020 re-planning effort lies in operating remotely for the very first time. Luckily, for both Anoka and Harford County, they had enabled their teams with necessary work-from-home equipment in advance as part of an ongoing initiative to shift to web-based budget planning that enabled virtual collaboration.

“We had outfitted our team two years ago with laptops—and it wasn’t because we were expecting a pandemic,” shares Kampf.

The primary reason they made the switch was to facilitate greater mobility for their team to directly interact with the 50 departments they serve during the course of their budgeting process.

In Harford County, MD Sullivan explains that while certain employees were ready for remote work, there is still room for improvement in distributed workforce capabilities moving forward. “I know for our IT department, setting more departments up with laptops—that was definitely something they didn’t expect to do immediately, and without any notice,” explains Sullivan.

 

 

“That’s been a learning curve for everyone and probably an opportunity to look down the road at how we can make it easier for more people to work remotely and maybe change our mindset around the telework conversation.”

 

#3: Modern Cloud Budgeting Software Is Key to Adapting to Evolving Scenarios

Technological hardware wasn’t the only driver of Anoka and Harfound’s ability to successfully re-evaluate their 2020 budgets. Their teams both relied on OpenGov’s web-based, collaborative budgeting and planning software to easily create effective visual breakdowns, reports, and narratives to help colleagues internally understand how and why certain budgeting decisions were made.

 

“This has been a great tool, and it’s helped a lot.”
Yvonne Kirkeide, Accounting Manager, Anoka County, MN

 

Sullivan agrees that having OpenGov “was absolutely crucial.” Her team had finalized their budget finalized five days before it was due to council, just as it was announced they would have to go remote and start re-planning from home as a result of Covid-19.

 

“Without having the web-based platform, we would have been in a lot of trouble. I can’t imagine not having that after this year.”
Christen Sullivan, Senior Budget Analyst, Harford County, MD

 

Having everyone able to work at the same time, see the same reports, and conduct virtual training when certain staff members wanted to level-up in their platform usage were all critical.

For more insights on how these communities are preparing for the next budget cycle and incorporating grant and CARES Act funding into their plans, access the complete webinar recording.

 

Watch Webinar

 

 

Category: Government Finance

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