Featured Resources

OpenGov Blog

jackson-budget

OpenGov Budget Builder Goes Live in Jackson County, Georgia

By | Press Releases | No Comments

Counties small and large in Texas, Maryland and Indiana choose OpenGov Budget Builder for a modern and open approach to public finance, company announces 20 other local governments have signed up for new platform  

REDWOOD CITY, Calif – OpenGov, the world’s first integrated cloud solution for public sector budgeting, reporting and open data, announced today that its new OpenGov Budget BuilderTM solution is fully implemented at the Water and Sewerage Authority of Jackson County, Georgia. OpenGov Budget Builder is a first-of-its-kind online product designed to streamline the budgeting process for governments of all sizes, and to replace the legacy of complicated and antiquated Excel spreadsheets. OpenGov also announced today that more than 20 other local governments including Harford County, Maryland; Long Beach, New York; and Culpeper, VA are actively rolling out OpenGov Budget Builder for their upcoming budget cycles.

Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority joins the City of Burnet, Texas, and Greenwood, Indiana as an early adopter of Budget Builder. With populations that range from 6,000 to nearly 250,000 citizens, these agencies demonstrate that Budget Builder can help cities and counties of any size make the budgeting process easier, faster and more collaborative across different departments.

“OpenGov has completely transformed our agency’s budget process,” said Judy Smith, the Finance Director for Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, which serves approximately 8,100 residents. “By seamlessly compiling data from previous years, ensuring collaboration across departments and letting us quickly share key information with stakeholders, Budget Builder has allowed us to focus our time and energy on serving our residents instead of agonizing over the budget.”

Prior to implementing Budget Builder, administrators in both Jackson County and the City of Burnet faced massive technology barriers when they tried to collaborate. Budget teams were forced to spend thousands of hours reconciling dozens of Excel spreadsheets, exchanging email-based proposals, and performing clerical work instead of evaluating proposals and planning proactively.

“Smart budgeting is critical to the efficiency and efficacy of local government,” said OpenGov CEO and Co-Founder Zac Bookman. “As more and more agencies, cities and counties across the country look to implement OpenGov’s Budget Builder and our other tools, it is clear that the public sector is enthusiastically embracing the power of technology. Our offerings provide governments of all sizes with real-time access to accurate financial data to increase transparency, enhance integrity, encourage cooperation and save valuable time and resources.”

“Harford County, Maryland was in search of a product to streamline what is currently a cumbersome and antiquated budget process. We were thrilled when OpenGov introduced their Budget Builder cloud solution,” said Harford County’s Chief of Budget Kim Spence. “We look forward to working with the OpenGov team to modernize our budget preparation process so that we can continue to serve our citizens in the most efficient and comprehensive way possible!”

Budget Builder – which integrates with OpenGov’s suite of other tools – helps these governments dramatically simplify the budgeting process. Agencies access a single online platform to prepare budgets, report on spending against budgets, analyze other performance metrics, and keep elected officials and citizens better informed about how tax dollars are being spent. Budget Builder empowers administrators in Burnet, Texas to plan out the city’s $28.5 million budget, monitor spending and track investments and debts.

“Budget season has always been an ordeal. I worked late every night for months, and came in on weekends,” said Burnet’s Budget Director Connie Maxwell. “OpenGov has changed our entire process, giving me time to focus on the big issues affecting Burnet. Gone are the days of digging around through spreadsheets and enduring lengthy proposal submission cycles.”

Maxwell adds that the tool has allowed her to cut the time spent on the budget’s clerical work in half.  

About OpenGov

OpenGov’s Smart Government Platform is the world’s first integrated cloud solution for public sector budgeting, reporting, and open data. Used by over 1,300 public agencies in the rapidly growing OpenGov Network™, OpenGov’s industry-leading technology streamlines the budget process, improves outcomes, and builds trust with the public. Founded in 2012 with headquarters in Silicon Valley, OpenGov works with leading governments of all sizes including the State Treasurer of Ohio, Minneapolis, MN; Maricopa County, AZ; and Washington, DC. OpenGov is backed by leading investors including Andreessen Horowitz, 8VC, and Thrive Capital.  Learn more at www.opengov.com.

###

shutterstock_208780297

Announcing the Best of OpenGov Award Recipients!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

It’s that time of year. Prepare for an avalanche of awards and trends as people across industries prepare for 2017. The Best of OpenGov Award, however, is unique. It recognizes local governments that have gone above and beyond to innovate and improve government operations. Better government operations produce better outcomes for citizens, which in turn builds public trust.

We are excited to announce the winners:

Internal Reporting

OpenGov for management reporting helps public agencies streamline their operations. From tracking departmental spending against the budget to monitoring 311 requests, governments use OpenGov to execute on key strategic goals. This year, our winners are:

First Place: Capitola, CA

Runner Up: Rosehill, KS

Transparency and Open Data

Citizens expect their governments to provide easy, intuitive access to financial and performance information. These governments have gone above and beyond in their OpenGov portals. From robust Saved Views to active promotion, these agencies show their dedication to open government. We’re proud to work with them:

First Place: Menlo Park City School District, CA

Runner Up: Capitola, CA

Click here to see Menlo Park City School District’s Transparency Portal and click here to see Capitola’s portal.

Unique Use Cases

Many governments go above and beyond with their OpenGov sites. We’re excited to announce the winners for unique OpenGov use cases:

First Place: St. Petersburg, FL

Use Case: Annual Debt Schedules Report- Finance uses the report throughout the year to download the most recent annual debt schedule to perform analysis when issuing new debt, review budget transfer appropriations needed, create ad hoc reports for City Council, and provide auditors with annual debt service schedules.

Runner Up: Edgewood, KY

Use Case: Stealth Speed Survey – This report is used by Police Officers, the City Administrator, elected officials, and citizens. When residents complain about speeding on a street, the city collects this data to determine if the complaint is valid and supported by actual data. Edgewood also uses this data internally to assign extra traffic controls to Police Officers.

capitola_ca

How Capitola Improved Council-Administration Relations With OpenGov

By | Customer Stories, Finance Officer's Desk | No Comments

Mark Welch serves as finance director for the City of Capitola, CA.

The ballots have been tallied. The yard signs have gone. The town halls are over.

2016’s local government election is behind us, but finance officers will feel its effects in the months and years ahead. New and returning members alike will seek to enact policy agendas and fulfill campaign pledges. And because every policy involves a financial investment, finance officers will find themselves responsible for figuring out how to implement the new council’s policies.

Many will be reasonable. Invest in repairing roads. Pay first responders well. Clean the parks. But then there are the inevitable others. Every year, councils propose pledges that do not reflect financial reality:

Repeal a sales tax that funds bloated salaries!

Slash pension expenses!

Cut travel costs!

I do not believe candidates intentionally mislead citizens. These public servants have decided to step up for their communities and their representation is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society. However, like most citizens, council candidates and members may not have the most informed knowledge of local government operations and finance. Financial illiteracy breeds honest mistakes during the campaign. In turn, this breeds conflict with the administration when it comes time to craft and implement policy.

In the City of Capitola, California, we believe good relationships with our governing body lead to better policies and, ultimately, better services for citizens. I want to share how, during the recent election, we took preemptive steps to educate and engage with candidates. I then will explain how we improved relationships with the existing governing body – elevating the quality of public debate and building trust with staff and citizens – and why this will help us engage new elected officials.

Educating Candidates Before the Election

It was important to us to empower candidates to make feasible promises to their constituents. Therefore, we held an orientation for council candidates after the filing deadline passed. Candidates had lacked an easy tool to learn about and explain financial issues to voters, so they often conducted their own analyses.

These ‘self-explorations’ of financial data displayed in PDFs and often spreadsheets often didn’t end well. Because our financials were not presented clearly, candidates accidentally made incorrect claims about budgets, revenues, and finances. Newly elected members would come in with an incomplete or incorrect ideas, and propose policies they would not support if they understood financial realities.

Our elected officials – and citizens – deserved better. That’s why we decided to hold a candidate orientation. However, if we had relied solely on our financial system to prepare the necessary reports, time constraints would have prevented us from giving candidates the insights they needed.

It would have taken almost two full workdays to build the reports that explain issues candidates tend to care about, such as overtime across the entire organization. I would have been forced to download multiple reports from our financial system, combine them, calculate the right subtotals, determine the correct classifications, and prepare the necessary charts and graphs. And this is for every question a candidate might conceivably ask.

Fortunately, Capitola had purchased and implemented OpenGov, a cloud-based reporting and transparency tool. To generate the overtime report we needed in OpenGov, we simply filtered data by expense type, checked the overtime box, and selected all departments. OpenGov automatically generated charts as we went along. Instead of having to drill vertically into our Chart of Accounts, we could mix and match elements across departments and funds. It took just 15 minutes to build the all of the reports we needed.

Candidates loved having this information available both during the orientation and for their own use afterwards. Because OpenGov is interactive, we could answer any follow-up questions in real-time. Candidates also reported back that they were able to learn a lot more on their own – leading to more informed campaign platforms and councilmembers.

Engaging Existing Councilmembers

When the new council is sworn in, OpenGov will help us engage every member. We’ve had great success with the existing council.

Before OpenGov, although we generally enjoyed good relationships with our council, there were moments when trust broke down. For example, councilmembers would sometimes not trust the reports staff gave them. And because it often took over a day to generate a report, councilmembers could not receive immediate answers to follow-up questions if we hadn’t already pulled the report – reducing the information available to a debate and eroding trust between the administration and the council.

Since we implemented OpenGov, I’ve noticed a concrete improvement in our relationship with the city council. Because of OpenGov’s intuitive interface and visualizations, councilmembers use OpenGov to validate the numbers we give them, answer questions on issues such historical and projected future pension contributions, and inform their policy discussions. And they even use the tool to highlight successes to citizens.

Based on this success, I think the new governing body will benefit greatly from OpenGov just as its members did during the election.

Moving Toward Better Policy

During my time in government, I’ve seen dedicated councilmembers and staff unite to make the community a better place to live and work. A functional council-administration relationship – grounded in trust and mutual respect – can really move the needle on critical policy issues.

But, as we’ve seen, building and maintaining these relationships isn’t easy. It requires engagement both during and after the election. This engagement will always depend primarily on people, but OpenGov’s software is proving to be an indispensable ally. With OpenGov, our relationship with elected officials will benefit both sides – and Capitola’s citizens.

This article was originally published in the November 2016 CSMFO Magazine.

Mark Welch serves as finance director for the City of Capitola, CA. Before joining Capitola, Mark was Santa Clara’s Principal Financial Analyst and Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Sierra Vista. Mark holds an MPA from the University of Oregon and a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Case Studies

See what’s behind the OpenGov buzz

Request Demo

OR CALL (650) 336-7167