Is Your New Year’s Resolution a Budgeting Revolution?
City Of

Malden, Massachusetts

Malden, Massachusetts

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE

Replace outdated budgeting tools with innovative solutions that are easy for department heads to learn, introduce a new level of collaboration and time-savings through technology, and help Malden win its first GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation award.

I’d advise any community that is really looking to modernize their approach to budgeting, to planning, to project management, to give ClearGov a good look. Reach out to communities that are using it, real folks that have implemented the tool and can share what an impact that’s had in the community. The City of Malden is an unabashed fan of the products, and we’d advise anybody to give the products a long look because from our perspective, it’s the best in class.

Ron Hogan,
Chief Strategy Officer

CHALLENGE

Malden’s Chief Strategy Officer, Ron Hogan, identified the need for more sophisticated and user-friendly budgeting tools to build their budget efficiently and create a budget book to engage the public. The existing systems were based heavily on Excel and manual inputs and were not suitable for a City of Malden’s size and complexity.

Like other governments, the city experiences turnover, so it was important to choose a product that was easy to learn and master in a short period of time. For staff that only work on the budget once a year, it was important not to have a huge learning curve.

The goal was to find solutions that were not only easy to use but also helped them earn their first Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) budget award and guide them through the award criteria.

Knowing that as we’re changing one set of figures within Operational Budgeting, that the Budget Book is building itself behind the scenes as we do that, and that we can literally make changes up until the very last minute that we finalize a budget because there isn’t a whole set of production steps that you have to take once that’s done — that’s been huge for the City of Malden

SOLUTION

After researching what budgeting solutions surrounding cities used, Malden chose ClearGov for its ease of use and simple presentation of complex data.

ClearGov enabled the City of Malden to create a comprehensive, easy-to-understand, and award-winning budget book. As it was the city’s first time applying for a GFOA award, ClearGov’s built-in checklist and automatic content creation were invaluable in guiding them through the process, and they earned the award their first year applying! And, after learning that strategic planning was such an important part of the GFOA award, Malden also adopted ClearGov’s ClearPlans product to enable the city to create, document, and present its long-term strategic plan in a user-friendly and visually appealing format.

While the city’s initial focus was on the end product — their budget book — they were thrilled by the way Digital Budget Book tied into the Operational Budgeting platform. Updates to the operating budget were automatically reflected in the budget book, which reduced manual work and potential errors.

In the second and third years, the city spent only about 25% of the time they initially did on creating the budget and budget book. Despite this reduced time investment, the end product remained just as polished. They attribute the time savings and efficiency largely to ClearGov’s design and the integration between their products – Operational Budgeting and Digital Budget Book – which seamlessly carries over information year after year. It provides a solid foundation that the city can then tailor to the specific needs of the current fiscal year.

One of the highlights of implementing ClearGov Operational Budgeting was the enhanced collaboration. Whereas previously there were a lot of meetings and one-off conversations with department heads to get their feedback on the budget for that particular year, they’re now able to utilize the platform to collect requests, attach documentation to justify requests, and even have chat sessions. Best of all, communication lives in ClearGov in perpetuity so that in future years, when they’re trying to remember how they arrived at a particular figure for a particular department, they’re able to quickly see past documentation.

The ClearGov Transparency center also played a crucial role in engaging the public, especially in showcasing the allocation of the $47 million federal funds the city received from the American Rescue Plan. Now, anybody can see how the City of Malden has utilized that money at a great level of detail. In the past, they tried to add capital projects to the city’s website, but it was a challenge to keep the status of the projects updated as they relied on a web person. With the projects on the city’s transparency portal, anyone can easily make updates and citizens can subscribe and follow along to projects in real-time.

In the past, access to our budget was a copy of an Excel spreadsheet posted on our website. Now when residents go to the City of Malden’s website, they’re going to have access to our Transparency center, to the full budget, and pretty soon to our long-term strategic plan through ClearPlans. From that perspective, it’s really a complete transformation of how we engage the public in everything going on from budgeting, to projects, to planning for the future. It is truly a rewrite of how we did almost everything substantial from a financial perspective within the city.

Ron Hogan,
Chief Strategy Officer
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November 28, 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.