5 Easy Ways to Prep for Your Annual Budget Reviews Using ClearGov

by Michelle Martineau

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!

Village of Rye Brook Launches First ClearGov Transparency Site in New York State

by Chris Bullock

Village of Rye Brook, NY

The Village of Rye Brook announced today that it has partnered with ClearGov to launch the state’s first infographic-based fiscal transparency center. The new tool provides taxpayers an easy-to-understand, visual breakdown the Village of Rye Brook’s budget and financial history from 2011-2017, including insights into the village’s demographics. The site also informs visitors on how each budget item compares to neighboring municipalities for the period 2011-2014.

The Village of Rye Brook is the first municipality in New York to leverage the new ClearGov platform, which also showcases basic profiles of every municipality in the state. The Village has added detailed revenues and expenditures breakdowns of its General Fund, as well as the Capital Projects Fund.

“In todays society the public interest in seeking information online has increased dramatically. The Village wanted to get ahead of the curve by not only making our budget more accessible, but also to present it in a way that makes it easier for residents to get information about the Village’s finances,” said Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg. “It was also important for the village to provide context to this information by sharing how our finances stack up to other similar villages, towns and cities in the area,” he continued.

Rye Brook Village Administrator Chris Bradbury adds “Rye Brook is pleased to be at the forefront of a growing number of municipalities that are seeking to build public trust in local governments by increasing transparency and using data analytics in a way that supports budgetary and policy decisions.”

ClearGov sources publicly available financial data on municipalities to create easy-to-understand transparency websites for over 20,000 municipalities across the United States, which are made available to the public for free.  Municipalities can choose to upgrade and enhance their publicly available transparency site with more robust information and provide context through commentary on the figures.

“We are excited to partner with the Village of Rye Brook to bring enhanced transparency to New York,” said Chris Bullock, CEO of ClearGov.  “Residents should be proud of the leadership position Rye Brook has taken with this project and technology.”

ClearGov Partners with City of Decatur to Launch Georgia Transparency Initiative

by Chris Bullock

 

Boston, MA (August 29, 2016)  – ClearGov announced today that it has partnered with the City of Decatur to launch a first of its kind fiscal transparency website in Georgia.  The new site will enable taxpayers to clearly see how Decatur is funded and how this funding is allocated to provide services to its residents.

In conjunction with the launch of Decatur’s transparency website, ClearGov announced today the addition all municipalities in the State of Georgia, including 535 cities and towns, to its platform.

“Having an engaged community has always been important to Decatur as we believe an informed community is an engaged partner with government,” said Peggy Merriss, City Manager of Decatur.  “Providing open access to financial information is critical to building and keeping the public trust, encourages accountability, and improves the understanding of how tax money is spent within the City,” she continued.

ClearGov sources publicly available financial data on municipalities to create easy-to-understand transparency websites for thousands of municipalities across the United States, which are made available to the public for free.  Municipalities can choose to upgrade and enhance their publicly available transparency site with more robust information and provide context through commentary on the figures.

Decatur is the first municipality in Georgia to upgrade its ClearGov page to offer more timely and detailed information to its residents.  The platform is not only designed to provide the public access to historical financials and forward-looking budgets, but also provide a centralized source of financial data and benchmarking analytics to city officials to make more informed policy and budgetary decisions.

“We are excited to partner with the City of Decatur to support their efforts towards increasing transparency and, most importantly, fostering a deeper understanding of how their government works” said Chris Bullock, CEO of ClearGov.  “We hope that other communities in Georgia recognize this new bar that Decatur has set and join Decatur in ClearGov’s growing community of forward-thinking municipalities.”

To visit Decatur’s ClearGov page visit:

http://www.cleargov.com/georgia/dekalb/city/decatur/2015

 

About Decatur, GA

Decatur is a city in, and county seat of, DeKalb County, Georgia, and has a population of approximately 21,000 people. Founded in 1822, the city has a traditional small-town atmosphere–and the sophistication and excitement of a college town–along with all the benefits of living in a major metropolitan area.  The city is minutes east of downtown Atlanta, minutes west of Stone Mountain, and is easily accessible via the MARTA rail station.

About ClearGov

ClearGov transforms city and town financial statements into accessible, easy-to-understand infographics to help citizens better understand how their tax dollars are being put to use.  Local governments leverage ClearGov to more clearly communicate their financial performance in an effort to build citizen trust and participation through transparency. ClearGov also provides valuable municipal benchmarking intelligence to help government leaders make more informed and data-driven policy and budgetary decisions while opening the door wider to sharing best practices between municipalities.

ClearGov Launches Colorado Municipal Transparency Initiative

by Chris Bullock

Pueblo West to Showcase ClearGov’s Enhanced Transparency Solutions

Hopkinton, MA (July 18, 2016)  – ClearGov, a leading municipal transparency and benchmarking platform, announced today that is has launched fiscal transparency sites for 353 municipalities in the State of Colorado, including 73 cities, 196 towns and 84 metropolitan districts.  The new tool will enable taxpayers to clearly see how their city, town or district is funded and how this funding is allocated to provide services to residents.  The tool also provides visitors additional context to the revenues and expenditures by benchmarking statistically similar communities.

ClearGov sources publicly available financial data on municipalities to create easy-to-understand transparency websites for thousands of municipalities across the United States, which are made available to the public for free.  Municipalities can choose to enhance their publicly available transparency site with more robust information by upgrading to the ClearGov Plus+ service.  Pueblo West Metropolitan district is the first municipality in Colorado to upgrade its ClearGov page to offer more timely and detailed information to its residents.

“We believe government at all levels has a responsibility to be open and transparent,” said Darrin Tangeman, District Manager.  “ClearGov helps us promote transparency in a way that the average citizen can understand,” he continued.  Pueblo West will integrate ClearGov into a newly revised website to be launched on July 25th.

In addition to transparency tools, ClearGov equips municipalities with back-office benchmarking software to help government officials make more informed and data-driven budgetary and policy decisions.

“Coloradans are known for their innovative government, so we are excited to find a forward-thinking partner in Pueblo West to introduce the ClearGov platform to Colorado,” said Chris Bullock, CEO of ClearGov.  “It is our hope that increased transparency will help drive citizen trust and engagement across Colorado by providing easier access to the inner workings of government.”

 

To explore Colorado municipalities on ClearGov visit:

http://www.cleargov.com/colorado

 

To visit Pueblo West’s ClearGov page visit:

http://www.cleargov.com/colorado/pueblo/metropolitan-district/pueblo-west/2015