The Town of Shrewsbury had a strong overall financial record but felt it needed to increase the efficiency of its financial operations.
Shrewsbury, MA is a town of 37,000 residents just outside the city of Worcester in central Massachusetts. The town’s population has increased dramatically over the last several decades, thanks to low taxation and a top-notch school system. The town’s population has greatly diversified in recent decades as well.
Shrewsbury’s town government is strong, led by a highly-engaged, long-tenured board of selectmen. The town has always had a record of accomplishing a lot with a tight budget. In fact, it’s one of the top pension-funding towns in Massachusetts, despite having never passed a budget override until 2010. But, while the town believes that strong financial management has long been one of the secrets to its success — the town has a AAA bond rating — Shrewsbury entered 2018 with concerns about inefficiencies in its financial processes, especially regarding accurate forecasting, collaborative budgeting, and effective budget communications.
What’s more, like many rapidly-growing communities trying to do a lot with a little, Shrewsbury realized that it could be more effective with increased community trust and support.
In late 2018, Shrewsbury along with Shrewsbury Public Schools, turned to ClearGov for help. Using ClearGov’s Operational Budgeting solution for collaborative online budgeting, forecasting, and benchmarking, both Shrewsbury organizations were able to create a simple, collaborative budgeting process for all departments, one that’s easy for all contributors to comply with. Having had success with Operational Budgeting, Shrewsbury then decided to make use of ClearGov Transparency, our suite of financial communications and community engagement tools, to help build higher levels of community support and trust.
As with a lot of local governments, Shrewsbury initially faced internal resistance to increasing its level of transparency. Now, though, with ClearGov Transparency fully implemented, that resistance has disappeared. In fact, Snowdon reports strong committee enthusiasm for Shrewsbury’s transparency efforts.
Calls from residents with budget concerns have dropped dramatically, and the town has received strongly positive feedback on its transparency efforts from the community. The best thing about Shrewsbury’s Transparency center, says Snowdon, is that it’s “easy for residents to look at and digest, without feeling like they’re reading a tome from the 18th century.”
Overall, Shrewsbury has benefited greatly from its use of both ClearGov Operational Budgeting and ClearGov Transparency, and for that, the town’s leadership is grateful. ClearGov, says Snowdon, “helps us tell our story.”