5 Reasons Your County Government Should Move To A Digital Budget Book
The world of county budgets has traditionally been print-first, with a PDF uploaded to the county's website to make it technically 'digital.' But PDFs are cumbersome to navigate. A better alternative is to go truly digital with a website-based budget book.
If you've been on the fence about going digital with your budget book, here are the top five reasons to take a look at ClearGov's Digital Budget Book – a NYSAC recommended solution that helps your county budget better.
#1 Digital Budget Books Are Always Up-To-Date
Making changes is one of the most tedious aspects of manually building a budget book in Word or Excel. If your budget data changes while creating your budget book, you then have to make changes in multiple places. Once the PDF is created, especially if it is printed, it becomes a static document that will be outdated the minute changes occur.
A website-based budget book with ClearGov is populated directly by your budget data. If that data changes, every instance of the figure in your budget book is automatically updated, ensuring that your document is always up-to-date.
#2 Digital Budget Books Are User-Friendly And Interactive
PDFs and printed budget books are difficult to navigate. Scrolling or flipping through several hundred pages is frustrating, especially if a resident is looking for a specific capital project or department page.
A digital budget book is easy to navigate. Residents can quickly click to any page in the primary navigation categories, such as fund summaries, departments, capital improvement, or debt. From there, they see expenditures and funds at a glance in chart format and can drill down to detailed line items in spreadsheets below the images.
The charts and tables in a Digital Budget Book are automatically generated based on your budget data, and users simply toggle between chart types to see the data in a visual format that makes the most sense to them.
Check Out These New York County Digital Budget Book Examples:
#3 - Digital Budget Books Are Template-Based To Save Time
Manually creating a budget book from the ground up is time-consuming. By the time you configure spreadsheets to fit the page and create custom graphics, it's no surprise that some counties skip the 'nice to have' information like key performance indicators, strategic goals, and narrative to help residents understand how expenditures are prioritized.
With ClearGov's Digital Budget Book, the fund summary, department, capital project, and debt pages are template-based and automatically pre-populated from your budget data to save time and create a consistent look across the entire site. Pages can then be customized with images, narrative for context, and any other information you want to share. The pre-built categories also make organizing child pages under parent pages easy for a more intuitive navigation experience.
When you start with templated, pre-populated pages and automatically generated graphics, you can focus on telling the story around the data.
"Our old budget book process involved many Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and financial system reports. It was a long, cumbersome process that required a lot of manual manipulation. With our new Digital Budget Book not only are we saving time, but our County Legislature loves the automated, interactive charts and the website-based presentation." Deborah Slesinski, Budget Director for Orange County
#4 Digital Budget Books Are ADA Optimized
There's an extensive checklist of guidelines in order to make printed and digital documents accessible for people with disabilities. Many PDFs and printed budget books don't meet all ADA guidelines. While this is risky as it could lead to legal action, the bigger issue is that some people in the community may be excluded from the budget data because of their disabilities.
ClearGov's Digital Budget Book was developed to automatically meet ADA guidelines so that your budget book is accessible to all. Even those without disabilities will appreciate the increased visibility and readability from the colors, font, spacing, and other design elements that went into creating the ADA-optimized templated pages.
#5 Digital Budget Books Are Eco-Friendly & Affordable
Paper, ink, and copy machines are expensive!
Going digital shows your community that you are environmentally-conscious and a good steward of their tax dollars.
However, if you do need to print a copy of your budget book, ClearGov's print-on-demand option lets you export a perfectly formatted, print-ready PDF in seconds. This also gives constituents the ability to only print specific pages they're interested in to further reduce wasted paper and ink.
"St. Lawrence County has made the very first Digital Budget Book available online with ClearGov. This new website-based budget is transparent and interactive. While the budget process to build the Digital Budget Book is not yet in real time, we look forward to a seamless budget preparation process in the near future. The Digital Budget Book is an effective tool for the County and it achieves the goal of promoting open communication with the Public.” Ruth A. Doyle, County Administrator for St. Lawrence County
Ready To Go Digital?
ClearGov's Digital Budget Book solution is the industry's first website-based solution that automates most of the budget book creation process using templates and data-driven charts and tables. By eliminating manual processes and saving time and money, many ClearGov county clients have used the opportunity to enhance their budget book and turn it into a more meaningful communication tool. In addition to sharing the data, you can add strategic goals and performance measures, and share how capital projects are prioritized. With a robust, easy-to-understand website-based budget book that residents actually engage with, you can demonstrate your commitment to transparency, foster open lines of communication, and build trust with your community.
If you're interested in learning more about NYSAC's strategic partner ClearGov and how the Digital Budget Book can help your team budget better then please click here.