Introducing Budget Milestones: A Budgeting Communications Tool that Simplifies the Budget Process
January 24, 2015 – Mike McCann
We are pleased to introduce Budget Milestones. This budgeting communications tool makes the complex process of budgeting easier by enabling governments to visualize, share and reconcile iterations of the proposed budget. This report was developed hand-in-hand with governments from Nobles County, Minnesota to Williams Lake, British Columbia and seamlessly integrates with other reports offered on OpenGov’s powerful financial management platform.
The Budget Milestones report reconciles complicated budget data and conveys it in easily-understood graphs, tables and charts. Each Budget Milestones report can be customized according to the intricacies of a city, town, county, or educational institution’s unique budget process and chart of accounts. Budget Milestones is a powerful tool for managing the budget among internal stakeholders, sharing information with line departments and communicating with the public.
Challenges in Budget Planning
Planning for the annual budget process is an important part of any municipal finance director’s job. Six months into the current fiscal year, time and attention turns to developing the numbers and the document that will guide all policy, operations, and spending for the following year.
But the budgeting process, which takes the average local government 4-6 months, is mired with potential administrative pitfalls. Soliciting and incorporating feedback from departments requires decentralizing budget information, but it is also the finance team’s responsibility to keep the bottom line in check. The finance team needs to inform line departments about how their respective budgets change at each stage of the review process, while also responding to regular questions from administrators, council and the public.
Budget Milestones Helps to Simplify Budget Development
Budget Milestones makes a finance team’s life a little easier. According to Margaret Stewart, Director of Finance of Williams Lake, and one of the early adopters of this report:
The Budget Milestones report is an invaluable tool for budget planning. The ability to compare across different version of the budget using intuitive graphs and charts helps me and my staff get the numbers right, and it helps departments know where they stand in the process. I’m also excited to use the Budget Milestones report to communicate the proposed budget with the public, since it is a great communications tool for showing the relevant policy decisions and trade-offs that are made throughout the budget process.
The Budget Milestones report provides a collaborative solution to common pain points for government administrators in the following ways:
- It helps finance teams get the numbers right. The ability to visualize budget data helps to reduce errors and present data in a clean, organized and interactive format. One finance officer we worked with, for example, caught a sizeable error in a matter of seconds (that had gone unnoticed for weeks in a flat excel file) when he uploaded data to the platform.
- It facilitates collaboration across departments. Finance directors can simultaneously give departments access to their respective revenue and expense totals, while also keeping an eye on the big picture and the bottom line. As the budget evolves through each round of review, department heads can see how their numbers are changing, and plan for their operations accordingly.
- It aids policy decision-making. All versions of the budget (from proposed to adopted) can be shared with stakeholders, including Council and the public, and answer questions on-the-spot during budget hearings. Finance directors can also upload data reflecting hypothetical scenarios, such as a proposed tax increase or a reorganization.
Perhaps most importantly, this report can help municipal leaders facilitate a more substantive conversation about budget policy decisions.
Getting Started with Budget Milestones
Are you an existing customer? Please contact your Account Manager to get started.
New to OpenGov? Simply complete a Demo Request and we’ll walk you through what Budget Milestones can do for your agency.
Category: OpenGov Updates