Flowery Branch, GACounty of Hall
★ GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award Winner ★
Organize the disjointed spreadsheet-based budgeting and strategic planning process using software that streamlined tasks and positioned the city for growth while eliminating the need to hire additional staff.
As the only city in the United States named Flowery Branch and home to the Atlanta Falcons’ training facility, this desirable city of close to 10,000 residents in northeast Georgia was feeling some growing pains. Like many local governments, Flowery Branch’s finance team historically created their annual budget using a manual, disjointed spreadsheet-based process. It was time-consuming and inefficient, and with the city’s rapid growth, they really needed to hire additional staff to help with the work — but it wasn’t in the budget.
While the process was tedious, it didn’t lessen the city’s commitment to budgeting excellence. The city is a GFOA budget award winner, and they plan to continue submitting their budget book for award consideration each year. But like the budget creation process, building the budget book was manual using Microsoft Publisher, Word, and Excel, and pulling everything together in a big PDF.
The city also strongly focuses on strategic planning to develop initiatives that will help the organization meet its long-term vision and goals. But they needed a better way to collaborate with multiple departments to produce a cohesive plan. They also needed an easier way to communicate goals and progress with council members and the community.
As the staff’s motto is “Work smarter, not harder,” they knew there had to be a better way to streamline all of these processes around the annual budget while supporting the challenges of the city’s growth.
Flowery Branch adopted ClearGov’s Operational Budgeting, Capital Budgeting, Digital Budget Book, and Transparency solutions. The city also signed up for the beta program of ClearGov’s newest solution, ClearPlans, a tool that helps organizations create, execute, and track the progress of any action plan.
ClearGov’s budgeting solutions improved collaboration between departments “tremendously,” according to the city’s budget and purchasing manager, Krystle Hightower. Now, department heads can see what finance really does, dive into their data, and understand the reasoning behind requests. Instead of receiving requests for disjointed data and reports, departments collaborate directly within ClearGov and can see the big picture of how all departments are connected and affect the budget.
Krystle joined the city shortly after the ClearGov implementation and was able to “hit the ground running” with some training and tutorials. This was her first year creating the budget book and submitting it to the GFOA, and she appreciated how ClearGov’s built-in checklist ensured nothing was missed. She liked how everything had a consistent look and feel, and how ClearGov produced a more professional-looking budget book that wasn’t piecemealed together by various programs and people.
The Capital Budgeting tool has also been beneficial in seeing where funding goes, what products or projects are being funded, and where they are in the process. Progress can be easily shared with internal stakeholders and residents who want to stay apprised of the projects that are important to them.
Krystle’s team is in its second year of using ClearGov, and the software continues to save staff time and make their jobs easier at every turn. Automating and streamlining many budgeting tasks means the city no longer feels crunched to hire additional staff.
The city appreciates how receptive ClearGov has been to feedback and the company’s constant improvement of features and functionality. They have so much trust in ClearGov’s products that the city didn’t hesitate to sign up for the new ClearPlans beta program.
Since the city recognizes the importance of having everyone on the same page and working toward the same vision and goals, the new strategic planning solution was an obvious addition to the city’s ClearGov toolkit.
Krystle advises other governments looking to modernize and get rid of spreadsheets to “take the leap. There’s nowhere to go but up away from Excel spreadsheets.” She encourages other governments to talk to cities currently using ClearGov and to schedule a demo to see how the software can make their budgeting and planning processes more efficient.