Sweet Home, OR
Brandon Neish, the Finance Director for the City of Sweet Home, needed to modernize the finance department, take away the manual burden of the budgeting process, and provide insight, visibility, and clarity to the public via an easy to use communication tool.
Neish had a three-part challenge on his hands. First, their entire budgeting process was manual with email, Excel, and even pencils and graph paper for some portions. Second, the city had previously gone through a significant budget transparency headache when they didn’t communicate a budget change well to their constituents. While all of the information was technically in the city’s budget book, citizens weren’t reading it or asking questions — leaving city officials to face a wave of misinformation on social media. Third, the budget book production process was painstakingly tedious, and as Neish acknowledged, “Nobody likes a 135-page document. They’re not going to read it.”
Bottom line, Neish said, “We needed to modernize our finance department and take away the manual burden on me. The goal was to find software and modernization options, not to feel like I was drinking from a firehose every day.”
Neish wanted a budgeting software solution that was easy to use and compiled all financial data in one place. He wanted a transparency portal and a budget book that were easy to navigate, easy to understand, and provided citizens an easy way to see where their taxpayer dollars were going.
In 2019, the city bought ClearGov’s Operational Budgeting and Transparency solutions. When the Digital Budget Book solution was launched in 2020, Neish was one of the first in line to buy it. Recently, the city also added Personnel Budgeting and Capital Budgeting to their suite of solutions.
While the city looked at other government budget software options, they ultimately went with ClearGov because of the quick onboarding and affordable price point. As a small city with a $23 million budget, they needed a solution that comfortably fit within their budget. ClearGov was an all around ‘just right’ solution.
The Digital Budget Book solution eliminated the manual process of using Excel to create static charts and graphs. Digital Budget Book was easy to navigate, straightforward, and intuitive. Citizens are quickly able to find the information they’re looking for, and the interactive format makes the city’s financial data accessible and easy to comprehend for all.
ClearGov’s Transparency product allows citizens to look for information themselves and to ask informed questions. Neish said that beyond budgeting, their transparency page became a critical communication tool; it’s a “home base” for citizens to go and find out what’s happening.
Neish has also been using ClearGov’s Capital Budgeting and Personnel Budgeting products to forecast projects several years out, enable more robust management of salaries and benefits, and deliver greater transparency to citizens. As he puts it, “People want to know where money is being allocated long-term and see projects in the pipeline.”
For Personnel Budgeting, Neish said that the scenario planning feature is almost more helpful than the actual budgeting tool because of its ability to show them how small changes impact the budget today, and tomorrow. This was particularly helpful during their bargaining sessions with the police department.
Additionally, for Capital Budgeting, it was nice to go from no uniformity to requests, to standardized forms tailored to the specific information needed from each department. Feedback from department heads has been nothing but positive, and everyone agrees that the process is much easier with ClearGov.