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Five days before the Harford County, MD budget was due to Council, Covid-19 began to spread in the U.S. with surprising speed and the County began to prepare for a shutdown.
Before leaving the office to operate remotely full time, Chief of Budget and Efficiency Kim Spence and her team sat down to forecast the potential revenue shortfall from a crisis that was still unfolding and re-plan their original budget proposal.
Under the cloud of a pandemic, Harford County’s ordinarily tidy budget planning process was thrown off course.
“We were finishing up what our budget would be and what our revenues would be,” explains Christen Sullivan, Senior Budget Analyst. “At the same time, things were escalating with Covid-19.”
The harried weeks that followed affirmed the team’s decision to adopt OpenGov’s cloud-based Budgeting & Planning suite and brought about a change in mindset about how the budget is delivered.
In just five days, the budget team used OpenGov to forecast multiple pandemic-related scenarios to proactively amend the draft budget and forestall more painful mid-year cuts.
The team analyzed the potential impact on income and property taxes — which make up 86% of the County’s revenue. While running their own analyses, the state of Maryland announced it anticipated a $2.8 billion reduction in revenue as a result of the pandemic, underscoring the need for early action.
“We realized early on that we needed to make changes, and with OpenGov we had the opportunity to quickly go back to the budget and run scenarios and make needed amendments.”
– Kimberly Spence, Chief of Budget and Efficiency, Harford County, MD
Prior to using OpenGov, recalculating changes to workforce-related costs was a cumbersome task. Running scenarios meant using a multitude of mainframe platforms and reporting mechanisms to generate bottom lines that had to be double-checked repeatedly.
OpenGov makes it easy to make an adjustment with its Workforce Planning solution by enabling automatic recalculations with adjustments cascading automatically through the budget. Harford County saved hours of work and removed the risk of calculation errors from the budget amendment process.
Their proactive approach coupled with a budgeting process powered by a modern cloud-based suite allowed Harford County to submit an accurate amended budget on time.
While Harford County employees had laptops and VPNs, the sudden transition to a work-from-home scenario meant that many of them lost time in the move to virtual work. The team budget stayed on track because of the work they had done implementing a cloud-based solution for collaborative and strategic budgeting.
“Without having OpenGov’s web-based platform that held all of our budget inputs, we could not have generated an accurate budget document.”
-Christen Sullivan, Senior Budget Analyst, Harford County, MD
“We thought we knew the benefits of having a web-based platform, but during the pandemic, we realized how absolutely crucial it is, from report sharing to book building,” Sullivan shares.
Now that Harford County has weathered the initial storm, Chief of Budget and Efficiency Kim Spence sees opportunities for improvement in the future.
One thing that was clear to everyone is that the physical budget book didn’t make as much sense as the budget team and Council moved to a virtual process. With the adoption of a completely digital budget, Harford County showed that some changes were simply due to disruption and others were due for disruption.
“We have to ask: do we really need to print all of these documents?”
– Christen Sullivan, Senior Budget Analyst, Harford County, MD
In addition to the method of delivery, the team is also rethinking the format in which they deliver their budget decisions. Using the reporting feature in OpenGov allows Harford County to consistently deliver information in the same way, with easy graphs and visuals that make sense to the administrators reviewing them.
“We used OpenGov Reporting through the budget process to communicate our scenarios and bottom lines with our administration,” explains Sullivan. “It’s so clear, so easy to demonstrate the impacts of each scenario and the path they will lead us down. We plan to expand on that internally, as well as outwardly highlighting specific aspects of our finalized budget with Stories. ”
Watch this page to see how Harford County will continue to innovate on their budgeting and planning process with OpenGov.
Harford County sits at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay along the Susquehanna River. First viewed by John Smith on his voyage of exploration in the Bay in 1608, the area boasts beautiful natural landscapes. Close to Baltimore and the I-95 corridor, Harford County is home to more than a quarter-million residents.
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