With the ClearGov platform, you’ve got a powerful tool at your disposal to help prepare for your annual budget review, and really any meeting (either internal or public-facing) in which you’ll be discussing finances, capital projects, or short- and long-term planning. In addition to providing taxpayers with an easy-to-understand, visual overview of your finances, your ClearGov Transparency Center can be a valuable resource for public officials engaged in strategic planning. Here are five ways you can leverage ClearGov to help get everyone on the same page and build valuable consensus.

1. Publish your proposed budget to your ClearGov site

It’s a best practice to ensure that your Fiscal Transparency Center always displays the most current data available. In fact, prior to your budget review meetings, it’s a good idea to publish your proposed budget to your ClearGov site, that way key stakeholders and even residents can follow the process as it progresses. Keep in mind, you control access to your numbers so you decide who sees what when. You can share the proposed budget internally as you prep and then open it up to the public once you’re ready to present. Just be sure to add commentary clearly indicating that the numbers shown are proposed and not yet approved. Your ClearGov client success manager can help you get your most up-to-date information uploaded to the site in a timely manner — just give us 48 hours notice and we’ll make it happen.

2. Quickly generate charts for presentations

Why recreate the wheel in Excel when you can generate compelling charts and graphs right from the ClearGov platform with a simple click? With ClearGov Insights, you have the flexibility to easily export powerful visuals to include in your presentation decks. And, if you’re using ClearGov Budgets, you have access to historical trends, forecasted projections, and additional dynamic charts to help inform both short- and long-term budget impacts. That’s important intelligence you can then share with key stakeholders, so everyone can make better informed budgetary decisions.

3. Provide context through commentary

Numbers only tell part of the story, but just a few lines of supporting text can add valuable missing context — like explain a shortfall or call attention to savings. For example, if revenue looks lower over time because the past three years included non-recurring revenue to fund a project, you can easily annotate that. Or, say you need an investment in technology upgrades, you can use commentary to justify increased expenditures in that particular category. Think of it this way: ClearGov infographics provides the what and when, and your commentary provides the why and how.

4. Use the Projects App to explain capital improvement plans and progress

If you haven’t used ClearGov’s new Projects app yet (it’s free with your Insights subscription), now’s a good time to get your feet wet — especially if you’re looking to fund capital outlays. The easy-to-use application allows you to quickly create and publish detailed project pages to your ClearGov site. These template-driven pages take only minutes to populate and post, and enable you to share proposed timelines, planning documents, budgets, and more in one centralized location. It’s a great way to educate the public and build consensus around proposed capital initiatives like new construction, renovations, and more. And, perhaps best of all, you don’t need to be a webmaster to create a project page. The process is easy and intuitive and you can empower any member of your team to post. Finally, once the page is live, visitors can subscribe to receive automated updates. You can also opt to invite visitors to ask questions or post comments in a moderated forum you control. Want help getting started? Your ClearGov client success manager is happy to show you the ropes.

5. Drive traffic to your Fiscal Transparency Center

You probably already have a link to your Transparency Center on your website (if you don’t, please reach out to your client success manager), but there are other ways you can get the word out to constituents about this valuable resource. Use every available channel, including email communications, newsletters, and social media. In fact, consider pinning a post with a link to your Transparency Center at the top of your Facebook and Twitter pages, especially as it gets closer to the date of your annual budget review. At budget presentation, be sure to include one or more slides that references the Transparency Center URL. It should also appear on any printed materials. The more people (residents, business owners, local press) you can drive to your site, the fewer inquiries you’ll have to field down the road. Plus, the whole idea behind transparency is to better engage and inform your electorate, so try to promote your ClearGov page every  opportunity you get.

We hope you find these tips helpful as you prepare for and navigate your next budget meeting. As always, please reach out if you have questions or concerns. We’re here to help!

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