A "Clear" Solution to The Budgeting Challenges Facing New Hampshire Governments
The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA’s legal services or your municipal attorney.
As local government agencies across New Hampshire gear up to start planning their 2024 budgets, it's a good time to reflect on the processes you have in place. What works well? What's painful? What would you change if you could?
Here are some of the main challenges New Hampshire governments face during the budgeting process. If any of these hit a little too close to home, read on to discover a solution that's easy to implement, use, and afford for governments of any size.
Top Budgeting Challenges New Hampshire Governments Face:
· Limited Time
The number one challenge we hear from governments is the amount of time spent on the budget every year. This problem has recently become even more apparent due to shrinking revenue and smaller staff.
· Decreasing Revenue
Since 2020, governments nationwide have been hit with shrinking revenues and higher unemployment levels, forcing them to scrutinize every tax dollar spent. The continued uncertainty means previously approved personnel or capital budgets often need to be reviewed and revised. At the same time, governments understand the need to retain valuable employees, provide services, and complete capital projects that matter most to their community.
· Evolving Technology
Career finance directors that remember doing their budget pre-Internet have seen the evolution of technology firsthand. Email, spreadsheets, shared network drives, and word-processing tools have long been the foundation of a government's collaborative budget process. While these tools still get the job done, they have obvious limitations. Manual data entry, consolidation, and reconciliation are time-consuming and error-prone, as is building a 300-page budget book in Word. Thankfully, technology continued to evolve and there are now far more effective and affordable options.
· Involving The Community
Getting your community's feedback on what matters the most to them is more important than ever. What services and projects do they want their tax dollars spent on? The roadblock many governments face is how to get residents involved. Diverse demographics mean some residents still appreciate in-person town hall meetings. In contrast, others want to submit feedback quickly and anonymously via surveys or participate online in social media groups.
· Financial Transparency
Naturally, citizens want to know where their tax dollars are spent, and most governments want to be transparent and held accountable for their fiduciary responsibility. The obstacle many governments face in this area is how to best communicate the budget. Yes, posting a PDF budget book to the website and sharing it via email and social media technically checks the transparency box. But the majority of citizens A) won't take the time to read a cumbersome budget book, and B) won't be able to make sense of a lot of the complex financial data it contains. Communicating the budget in a clear way that residents can understand is the true cornerstone of transparency.
JOIN US: Embracing Technology to Overcome Common Budgeting Challenges Webinar
12:00 noon – 1:00 pm, Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Join your fellow NHMA members on May 3rd from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM for an informative live webinar exploring the challenges governments face in the digital age and how technology helps leaders work more effectively. Learn how fellow agencies are leveraging powerful budgeting technologies to create accurate and detailed budgets in less time and hear from guest speakers who will share their experience switching to modern tools. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from experts in the field and network with your peers.
Speakers: Nick Iacobucci, New Hampshire Market Development Executive - ClearGov and Shannon Martinez, Town Manager - Town of Sunapee, NH
ClearGov’s mission is to help every local government operate more effectively and efficiently. Local governments across New Hampshire currently use ClearGov’s modern cloud-based solutions to save time and better serve residents. From capital planning to personnel budgeting; from dog licenses to building permits; from budget books to strategic plans, ClearGov is a platform for positive change.
· Internal Collaboration
Effective internal collaboration and communication are essential during budgeting, especially with shrinking resources. Departments can no longer afford to remain siloed when submitting budget requests. In fact, many governments have found cost savings and efficiencies by pooling contracts and sharing resources. But those opportunities are easy to miss without collaboration and shared visibility into the budget.
· Long-Range Planning
Long-range capital and personnel planning requires building out many "what if" scenarios. Multi-year, multi-scenario plans help governments identify the optimal use of funds. But building those scenarios in a spreadsheet is a huge undertaking. Moreover, non-financial folks may have difficulty making sense of each scenario and how it impacts other parts of the budget.
If any of these challenges sound familiar and you're ready to modernize your budgeting process, it's time to take a look at ClearGov. ClearGov is the leading provider of cloud-based Budget Cycle Management software that helps small to medium size governments save time and work more efficiently. Our tools streamline and automate much of the budgeting process, eliminating tedious and error-prone manual work, facilitating collaboration and accountability, fostering civic engagement, and supporting financial transparency. Find out how ClearGov can help your New Hampshire agency budget better. Watch a short demo today to get started: https://cleargov.com/lp/demo
Sarah Sanders is Manager, Demand Generation for ClearGov. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her cell at 919-951-4129.