Ukiah, CA - February 20, 2020 – The City of Ukiah, Calif., the first city in California to publish a fully digital budget, was presented with an Innovation Award at this year’s California State Municipal Finance Officers conference for its work using OpenGov’s interactive budget book to publish the fully digital budget.
“We are proud to be working with our new partner, the City of Ukiah, and look forward to our continued work together to increase transparency and build community trust and engagement,” said OpenGov Vice President Mike Mattson. “Our software has allowed the City to streamline the budgeting process, align budgets to performance outcomes, build trust with constituents and modernize reporting capabilities.”
Since using OpenGov’s Budgeting and Planning software, Ukiah has saved 600 hours and $87,000 on building the budget since implementing the new platform.
Increasing community engagement
OpenGov’s budgeting software has transformed how the City reports and shares its budget with the public and has significantly increased residents’ ability to engage with the data. Community members can now access the budget through a user-friendly online format, where they can view the budget broken down by funds and departments, and even change views using different report and chart styles.
“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to reach out to our community and provide them with information they did not have access to before,” said Daphine Harris, Financial Services Manager, City of Ukiah. “Being transparent helps us build trust with our community and increases community engagement.”
While a traditional budget document is exhaustive, residents and elected officials must typically wade through hundreds of pages of complex data to find what they need. By putting the document online in an interactive and dynamic format, Ukiah has found better engagement and feedback from members of the public who now can easily access and visualize the data most pertinent to their interest.
“This gives our residents the opportunity to go get as much or as little detail as they would like,” said Harris. “Residents no longer have to attend a council meeting to access our budget information. They can view it prior to a council meeting and then decide if they would like to attend the meeting to ask further questions or, if they prefer, view the information online.”
Saving time, energy and resources in budget development and review
“We were able to reduce time spent building the budget by about 600 hours since implementing the new system,” said Harris. “Three years ago the budget I worked on was just over 1,000 pages; we were able to reduce it to about 500 pages and now we have gone completely paperless with an online budget.”
The reduction in hours is due to the software’s integration and automation capability, eliminating the need for manual entry and project updates in multiple systems, while improving the amount of data readily accessible to the community.
Due to the more streamlined process, the City’s cost to produce the budget decreased significantly from $200,000 to about $113,000. Those funds will be reinvested in focusing on more detailed data analysis and daily work that often gets set aside during budget season.
The online budget is also a more sustainable solution for the City.
More than 50 internal users currently track and submit budget information within the City; OpenGov’s user-friendly interface not only allows these staff members to build their budgets quickly and effectively, but it also ties together multiple departments’ budget tracking in one system. Departments are also able to review year-over-year budgets easily without having to access additional spreadsheets.
The software also allows City staff and council members to focus more of their time on budget strategy, rather than gathering and understanding budget reports. As a result, there is a greater understanding of how the budget is allocated across departments.
“Since the city council spends less time gathering data, council meetings are shorter now and council members can spend more time on strategic decision-making,” said Harris.
A visionary leader for finance departments nationwide
The City first started to work with OpenGov in 2015.
“It was a vision that we had, and an opportunity, and we just ran with it,” said Harris. “We needed to do this, this is the next evolution of budgeting.”
Harris initially worked with OpenGov to create a story for their recycled water project. The city council liked the product and gave the go ahead to proceed with using OpenGov to increase levels of transparency and engagement through the online budget. Harris plans to continue expanding the use of the product in Ukiah, with plans to start mapping strategic initiatives to performance measures.
“It was a great decision for the City,” said Harris. “You have to rise up and you have to pursue that vision when you can.”
About the City of Ukiah
Named California’s best small town, and the sixth best in the entire country, Ukiah is a unique community of 16,000, rich with character, arts, vineyards and natural surroundings. Located along the busy Highway 101 corridor, just two hours north of San Francisco, it is the Mendocino County seat and the business, education, and shopping center for a three-county area.
OpenGov is the leader in providing government organizations with modern cloud-based software solutions to help improve transparency and public service. The OpenGov Cloud platform is the only fully-integrated solution designed specifically for the unique needs of the public sector. Over 1,000 public agencies across the U.S. rely on OpenGov to help allocate resources, increase efficiency, improve public engagement and make data and information readily available to staff and the public.