Middletown, Rhode Island Takes Financial Transparency to the Next Level

POPULATION: 16,150 | AGENCY TYPE: Town | ANNUAL BUDGET: $91 Million

GFOA Budget Award-Winner Keeps Improving


Known for its beaches, conserved open spaces, and its proximity to Newport, Rhode Island, picturesque Middletown, Rhode Island is one of the Northeast’s premier sailing destinations. The town — with a year-round population of about 16,000 people — regularly draws a large number of visitors each year. Just as courting visitors is a top priority, so too is keeping Middletown’s budget and finances transparent and accessible to residents and visitors, alike.

Finance Director Lynne Dible worked with her team to win a Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Award in 2014. “We wanted to set something up for the purposes of financial transparency,” Dible explained. “After receiving the award, we still needed something that would take us to the next level – we knew we needed to keep improving.”


Town Explores New Customer Service Approaches


Dible and her five-person team faced two significant challenges: 1) increasing the efficiency of preparing budget documents and 2) how to successfully present the town’s consolidated municipal budget data for all budgeted departments and funds. “For about a year, a team of us had been working on a project through a program called Leadership Matters,” Dible said. “It focused on creating a customer-service initiative for all town employees. We wanted to incorporate this customer-service initiative into some sort of publicly-accessible application that would improve our financial transparency and be operational twenty-four seven. We also wanted to link it with our organizational performance.” Adopting OpenGov’s Smart Government Platform enabled Middletown to overcome those challenges and meet its goals.


Middletown Finds and Adopts OpenGov Platform


“Of course, I went out and looked all over the place, and OpenGov was everywhere, including the bigger cities,” Dible said. “I looked at other products, but I felt that OpenGov was — from the outside looking in — far superior, and I thought it was very well suited for the town and how our data is reported. So we made the call.”

Easy implementation enabled finance team to meet tight budget presentation deadline.

She worked with the OpenGov team to plan and implement Middletown’s program, a process that Dible described as “awesome,” especially given a tight timeframe – the Town Administrator had to present Middletown’s budget to the town council and residents in a matter of weeks. “Our OpenGov contact knew exactly what needed to be done and was always available,” Dible said. “And now, I wouldn’t hesitate to call. I know that someone is there to help.”


Finance Team Saves Significant Time


Since Dible’s finance team implemented the platform in 2015, she has found that their time savings have been substantial. “Of course, the vision was to improve upon the budget documents, so we were able to determine what we needed and load their data into the platform,” she said. “Using OpenGov, we incorporated all kinds of charts and graphs into our budget document to help with the presentation, and that was big. It absolutely saved us time. Otherwise, we would have had to do every single chart and graph manually in Excel. We wouldn’t have been able to develop the product that we did. There are only so many of us. We have a very small staff and not a lot of time.”


Citizens, Council, and School Committee Embrace OpenGov


Once the budget was prepared, Dible prepared media releases and a social media rollout via the town website to notify the public about how the team was leveraging OpenGov. The response was so positive,” Dible noted. “Throughout the budget process, the town council, school committee, and other town board members were pleased with how easy it was to go in and create their own reports on demand….It’s out there, and we are keeping the site up to date and the word out.”

OpenGov significantly enhanced award-winning budget document.

OpenGov also helped Dible and her team provide comparative data on the town’s school district as it related to the overall town budget. “I’ve used the OpenGov platform to analyze comparative items during negotiations and to prepare financial forecasts,” she said. “It provided those reports instantly, and they were very helpful.”

Middletown already led the way in financial transparency and customer service in Rhode Island.

Results

  • Achieved Strategic Transparency Goals.

    Using OpenGov helped Middletown achieve its strategic goals of enhancing its customer service for citizens, which included providing on demand access to town financial information.

  • Increased Community Engagement.

    Middletown’s town council, school committee, and board members now enjoy the ability to create customized reports on demand.

  • Efficiently Produced Award-Winning Budget Document.

    The town’s finance team saves time preparing its budget presentation while strengthening its already award-winning budget document.

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