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5 Reasons Your Local Government Should Move To A Digital Budget Book

5 Reasons Your Local Government Should Move To A Digital Budget Book

The world of local government budget books has traditionally been print-first, with a PDF uploaded to the community’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 solution to help your local government budget better in 2023.

#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 Adobe. 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 Once the PDF is created, especially if it is printed, it becomes a static document that will be outdated the minute changes occur.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, the figures in your budget book are automatically updated, reducing the risk of manual errors and ensuring that your document is always up-to-date. 

#2 Digital Budget Books Are User-Friendly And Interactive

A Digital Budget Book is easy to navigate and provides the best of all worlds to present your budget book —  website, mobile, and PDF formats — to exceed public expectations for optimal viewing.

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. And, users looking for a PDF version can generate a professional PDF to share or print in just one click!

The Digital Budget Book looks great! In fact, a co-worker and I were looking through some other budget documents to gather data, and we noticed immediately how much more interactive and user-friendly ours was.

Lora Howell
Deputy Finance Director of Cocoa, Florida

#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 local governments skip the ‘nice to have’ information like key performance indicators, strategic goals, and narrative to help residents understand how expenditures are prioritized.

ClearGov’s Digital Budget Book features template-based pages with auto-generated content that makes it easy to get started. The fund summary, department, and funding source pages are 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.

Digital Budget Book is like Wikipedia. While no one is going to read every article, everything is there in one place. Citizens can easily navigate the budget book site to find what they’re interested in, and the data is in an easy to understand, predictable format across all departments. Citizens have more fun playing around with the website and engaging with the charts and graphs, versus reading a 150 page PDF of the budget like a book.

John Haggard,
Finance Director for Alabaster, Alabama

#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 is ADA-optimized by design and meets many requirements automatically, while also providing users with built-in features to further optimize the book as custom content is added — making it easier to create a budget book that’s 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 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.

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. We make it so simple to create your budget book that, dare we say, you might even enjoy it!

By eliminating manual processes and saving time and money, many ClearGov customers 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.

The city of Cocoa, Florida does an outstanding job using Digital Budget Book to do just that! Check out one of their department pages as an example.  

To see how ClearGov can help you budget better, watch a quick demo of Digital Budget Book or contact us to learn more.

February 1, 2023

Matt Benati

Matt Benati is Vice President of Marketing for ClearGov®, the leading provider of Budget Cycle Management software for local governments. Matt is passionate about helping organizations modernize their annual budgeting process by automating workflow, increasing collaboration, and improving transparency between governments and citizens.