Boulder City, NV Embraces a Nimble Approach to Budgeting
POPULATION: 15,550 | AGENCY TYPE: City | ANNUAL BUDGET: $60 Million
Facing growth restrictions, Boulder City undertakes strategic long-term planning. (Photo: iStock)
However, when learning that OpenGov had recently announced a public sector budgeting solution, he saw a greater opportunity to integrate an impactful technology into his team’s budgeting workflow. The solution, OpenGov’s Budget Builder™, offered Boulder City an opportunity to improve its budgeting process immediately and for the future. Kim called Budget Builder “a game-changer, in the sense that it really saves tangible time for staff and allows for more transparency for the elected body and the public.” Kim used Budget Builder to navigate a tight timeline and increase his confidence in the budget data’s integrity amid ongoing changes.
Initially, Kim effectively utilized Budget Builder as time-saving tool while he was learning to use the city’s more involved Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Because Budget Builder leveraged the City’s existing Chart of Accounts, he was able to leverage both systems without the experience feeling fragmented and duplicative. “The fact that I could build a budget outside of my ERP by pulling out a simple chart of accounts saved tangible time for me,” he explained.
Confidence Amid Constant Changes
However, OpenGov’s budgeting solution also provided an effective solution for budgeting in the middle of contract negotiations. “We have seven bargaining groups and were in the middle of negotiating contracts while budgeting,” he said. “As I got a sense of where negotiations were headed, I updated the budget accordingly. If I just had a static Excel spreadsheet, I’d have to update it for every bargaining unit every time I got wind of a different direction. I don’t have to do that now. I can make changes in Budget Builder on the fly based on what I’m seeing.”
Kim’s team also benefitted from the ability to change the budget document in a centralized location as needs arose. “We had a key team member retire, so we had to modify that department’s salary package. With a static system, we’d have to modify multiple spreadsheets and go back and forth over e-mail. With OpenGov, the process is dynamic, and everyone can make changes on the fly.”
As a recreational destination, Boulder City works to deliver effective services to residents and visitors. (Photo: Interbike International Bicycle Expo / Flickr)
Future Sustainability Through Innovation
In a post-recession environment of uncertainty, many municipal governments have increasingly expanded services in the face of decreased federal and state aid. “In Southern Nevada,” explained Kim, “the biggest challenge is that most communities are funded through sales or property taxes. Budgets are predicated on having growing populations to pay for infrastructure projects, etc. In my opinion, that growth trajectory is not sustainable. The challenge comes when budgets are predicated on continual growth, and then the actual growth starts to slow down.”
Indeed, budgeting with short-term growth expectations and real long-term resource constraints is the tension at the core of fiscal sustainability. One approach to achieving fiscal sustainability likely lies at the intersection of technology and the people powering public administration. “Creating fiscal sustainability requires city leaders to look at problems with the concepts of efficiencies and innovations,” said Kim. “It’s already happening, and OpenGov is a great example of that.”
As a source of cost savings, Kim also found value in adopting a cloud-based online system that facilitates collaboration and evolves over time without requiring expensive, time-consuming updates. He pointed to the public sector’s reliance on e-mail for so many tasks as an illustration of how old organizational paradigms are shifting toward the need for lighter technologies built to achieve outcomes. “Town staffs live and die by their e-mail,” he noted. “And most cities have an IT department staffed by folks helping people work through redundant, legacy systems.”
For Kim and his team, solutions like OpenGov’s Smart Government Platform™ make it more effective to plan given the reality of uncertainty, both because the software facilitates effective planning and because the technology is more cost effective for resource restrained governments. “Those legacy systems were great yesterday, but going forward we are seeing cloud-based possibilities that manage back-end infrastructure and storage for pennies on the dollar for what we’re spending on in-house IT departments,” he said.