From farmlands to mountaintops and every food truck in between, Boulder County, CO, is a trendy place to live. The popularity of the County’s four cities and six towns raises the stakes for the budget team to meet the growing needs of its municipalities with the right investments.
In 2022, the county faced significant setbacks in planned initiatives due to a worldwide cybersecurity attack on its payroll provider. The County found innovative solutions to pay its employees without a payroll system for several months, but the efforts were costly. Once the dust settled, the county took action across the board to get back on track and ensure a more sustainable future.
“We are always on the cutting edge,” said Ramona Farineau, Chief Financial Officer at Boulder County. “Our elected populace and dedicated staff are always looking to find new and innovative ways to help our community. For me, it’s not just coming to work to oversee accounting and budgeting needs, it’s coming to work to contribute toward really great initiatives.”
On a mission to reignite urgency, efficiency, and productivity across departments, Farineau decided to start with what was close to home: the budget process.
Time Saved on Budget Creation
Improved Data Accuracy
Improved Cross-Departmental Collaboration & Trust
From Static to Streamlined
Prior to OpenGov, Farineau describes the budget process as tedious, complicated, and “just not fun anymore.” Building a budget in Excel means lots of manual work, especially for a county like Boulder which receives many amendments from various departments throughout the process.
Speaking of manual work, actual expenditures did not flow back into the County’s budget module from the County’s ERP system. So, Ramona’s staff had to export financial data and input each number manually into Excel spreadsheets. The system didn’t balance the budget automatically, causing even more clerical work for the budget team.
“You could tell the system was not written by people in government,” said Farineau.
While Farineau’s staff was “savvy,” they were forced to make frequent calls to outside professionals as the system was not user-friendly. Any kind of change in the budget had to flow through the IT department, and sometimes, even the IT department had to bring in (and pay for) outside consultants.
These time-consuming, static processes kept County staff from doing the strategic and analytical work they enjoyed and also put the County months behind on creating its FY22 Budget. “Our analysts had no time to be analysts, they had to become IT professionals,” said Farineau.
Farineau made the decision to replace Excel and static processes with OpenGov Budgeting & Planning. After a speedy implementation of less than a year, the County recently adopted its FY’23 budget, which was entirely built in OpenGov.
“This implementation was the fastest implementation I have ever been involved in in my 30 years,” said Farineau.
With a system specifically created for government budgeting, Farineau no longer stresses about looking for errors and balancing the budget. This is all done automatically. Integration with the County’s ERP system also allows financial data to flow seamlessly into the budget, so staff spend a lot less time inputting and exporting data. data. “OpenGov allows us to create a budget scenarios and analytics for our board in a timely manner rather than always be doing IT-ish things,” said Farineau.
And it’s not just the budget team that is reaping the benefits: “Our IT staff is thankful too. Now they don’t have to help the budget team every single day,” said Farineau.
A Better Design in Less Time
Next on Farineau’s plate is finalizing the Online Budget Book, which she plans to have completed six months earlier than last year’s. The County’s old budget book was created in Microsoft Word and was a timely, “dreadful” process. Farineau’s staff spent months formatting and designing the book, keeping them from their analytical work.
This year, Farineau’s team has “nothing but great things” to say about building out their Online Budget Book in OpenGov: “[The budget team] says they’ve never been so excited to work on an implementation because they knew the end project was going to make their career so much easier and so much better,” said Farineau.
“We highly value that [OpenGov is] ex-government employees because we don’t have to explain what we need, [OpenGov] knows what we need… we feel like [OpenGov] is part of our team.”
– Ramona Farineau, Chief Financial Officer, Boulder County, CO
What’s next for Boulder County?
To increase transparency and resident engagement, Farienau’s next goal is to move the County’s monthly financials to its website using OpenGov.
The County gets Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests all the time, says Farineau. A lot of the requests have to do with how much money the County is spending and what they are spending it on. Currently, County staff have to dig into numbers that are only shared internally, find the answer, then go back into the COLA portal to answer the request.
Using OpenGov, Farineau plans on directing residents to a new online portal that will display accurate, up-to-date data in a digestible and interactive format. “Getting that transparency on our web with drill-down capabilities will allow residents to find the numbers they need… it’s going to help us get our work done,” said Farineau.
But to Farineau, it’s not just about increasing internal efficiency but also fostering public trust: “That’s the main thing: building that credibility back to our governments… I know we are very conscientious about our spending but how do you get that back to the community? I think the OpenGov transparency module is the best way to do it.”
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