Chautauqua County, NY
To replace the county’s clunky, Excel-based capital budgeting process with a cloud-based solution to save time, eliminate repetitive work from year to year, and help departments submit stronger capital requests.
Like many other counties, Chautauqua County, New York historically had a very manual capital budgeting process using a series of Excel workbooks. Departments had to recreate and submit requests every year, while the finance and budget team was responsible for manually consolidating the requests and data into a new budget every year.
According to Budget Director Kathleen Dennison, “Our approach to capital budgeting in Excel was a clunky process with the result that it worked…but, it wasn’t very attractive. It was kind of old-fashioned.”
Fueled by grumbling department heads about the redundant work every year, the county decided to look into modernizing their capital process with a cloud-based software solution.
The county submitted a request for proposal from government budgeting software companies. The most affordable one wasn’t much of a step up from the existing Excel process. The most expensive one, while promising, didn’t have enough value to justify the high price tag.
ClearGov had the most features for the money, and the price-value relationship made ClearGov the best choice.
The first year using ClearGov was focused on creating the county’s custom request forms and learning the system. But even in that initial ramping-up year, everyone had a very favorable response to the new system. Department heads appreciate that they can attach photos, bids, and all supporting documentation to a request to be accessible in one central location in ClearGov. Likewise, all communication occurs in ClearGov’s ‘chat’ feature, which keeps discussions connected to the request.
Everything is in one place — no back-and-forth emails!
The planning board, responsible for reviewing and approving requests, also appreciates having everything in one place. Compared to reviewing the budget in Excel and having supporting documentation for requests in disparate formats, ClearGov helps the project ‘come alive’ so the planning board has a better understanding of everything involved. This helps them make more informed, data-driven decisions.
The county recently launched a capital transparency website to help constituents and the planning board stay apprised of the status of approved projects. This will eliminate the planning board requesting status updates, and anyone can check the progress on capital projects — anywhere, anytime.
While the window for capital requests for the 2024 budget season is just coming to a close, Dennison said that the requests they’ve seen so far prove that ClearGov is helping departments create stronger requests. With the option to attach photos and bids and the ability to show how a project will impact their future operating costs or savings, departments can better prioritize and create the basis for a request.
This will ultimately help the planning board choose the best projects that optimize fund usage and provide the most value to constituents in terms of needed services and infrastructure.
For Dennison and the finance team, they’re looking forward to the tremendous time savings they’ll realize from moving out of Excel and ditching their manual processes.