4 Ways Your Printed Budget Book Falls Short

“Printed budget books.” Just hearing the phrase makes us shudder.

Today’s typical printed budget book tends to be the output of hundreds of hours of work over several weeks and results from a cross-departmental endeavor assembling disparate data and graphs from dozens of Excel spreadsheets which are cut and pasted into a Word document with written content that is wrangled into a readable piece then converted to pdf and finally printed. Whew! What a mouthful. And what is worse is that if you need to make a last-minute change, ensuring that these changes are reflected throughout is onerous. This labyrinthine and delicate dance is further complicated by the fact that it also serves as the output of a long and often painful budgeting process.

Additionally, breaking down the GFOA’s evaluation criteria for its Distinguished Budget Award, four pillars of what makes a good published budget stick out. But, a printed budget books fall short as a year-long resource in all of these important categories, making it an ineffective tool to drive strategic planning and reporting in your government, as well as making it harder to achieve that coveted Distinguished Budget Award. Read on to learn more about the four pillars and why printed budget books fall short.


4 Ways Printed Budget Books Miss the Mark

1. As a policy document

Policies change, federal funding guidelines, and political situations can be fluid. While an approved budget is a legally binding document, amendments do happen. With a printed budget, the reader may not know if what they are reading is up-to-date.

2. As a financial plan

Financial data is fluid, not static. A printed budget shows the legally adopted revenue and expenditure plan, but would not reflect subsequent amendments, nor would it show actuals throughout the year.

3. As an operations guide

The printed budget book is the final operating plan for the year, and as such it does its job. Departments then use live reporting to track the budget to actuals so they can see what is actually happening as it happens but none of this information, which could be very interesting to readers, will ever show up in a printed budget book. So while it does its initial job, the printed budget leaves much to be desired throughout the rest of the year.

4. As a communications device

A printed budget communicates the government’s priorities, revenue forecast, and spending plans for the year. It is a necessary document, and the legal financial plan, but it is not always the most useful as a tool for communications with internal and external stakeholders. The printed budget does a good job of showing exactly how much is budgeted for a specific use, but most of the information in there is too dense and not useful to a general audience.


Make the Move to an Online Budget Book

Considering the limitations of a static budget book, let’s contrast that approach with a modern interactive online publication. The online budget book is:

  • A centralized platform for budgeting, reporting, and communications
  • An evolving, up-to-date financial plan and policy document
  • An effective communication device with interactive and useful data/reports

Learn more about our OpenGov Budget Book solution here or check out these real life examples of online budget books transforming a government’s budgeting process.
How Tampa is Transforming for Tomorrow
A ‘Get it Done’ City Transforms Local Government Budgeting with OpenGov
How Ashland, OR Saved $110K Annually and Produced the First-Ever Interactive Budget Book


Last Updated on February 3, 2022 by Stephanie Beer

Category: Government Finance

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