CITY OF

Sweet Home, OR

LINN COUNTY
Sweet Home, Oregon Seal
Sweet-Home-OR

Primary Objective

Eliminate risky, error-prone spreadsheets, centralize data in one location, and find a scenario planning tool that would make personnel bargaining sessions and budgeting more productive.

Challenge

Sweet Home Finance Director Brandon Neish traditionally used spreadsheets when budgeting personnel costs  — huge, wide, cumbersome spreadsheets that made it difficult to visualize complex financial data. Neish had to budget for about 60 employees, all with various benefit types, taxes and other withholdings, plus different calculation methods based on unions and non-represented employees. The result was a massive spreadsheet with more than 30 columns. While it got the job done, Neish disliked the risks associated with spreadsheets. One accidental error, broken formula, or cell out of place could throw a wrench in the whole budget.

Additionally, Neish wanted an easier way to do scenario planning. Historically, when the city manager asked ‘what if,’ it would take a while to get back to her. And when they were in bargaining sessions with union representatives, there was no quick and easy way to see how one party’s request would impact the personnel budget. There would have to be follow-up meetings, calls, or emails, which could dampen the urgency of coming to an agreement.

When doing our personnel budget, we could make our spreadsheets very robust – and they got the job done. But the process was prone to accidental error, and there were just too many risks associated with spreadsheets. If a formula is off a little, it throws the whole thing out of whack. With ClearGov, we toss everything into the system and let it do the work for us.

Brandon Neish,
Finance Director

Solution

Sweet Home was already using ClearGov Operational Budgeting, Digital Budget Book, and Transparency for several years. When Personnel Budgeting launched, Neish was quick to add it along with Capital Budgeting to their budget cycle management suite of tools.

During their first budget cycle using Personnel Budgeting, Neish was impressed with how efficient the software was. He appreciated the built-in automations, and that after uploading all their data, the system simply ‘does its magic.’ For example, when doing workers comp calculations, each employee is different depending on the type of work they do. With ClearGov, Neish created a ‘benefit’ for various safe codes. Now when they enter an employee and designate their role (i.e. highway worker), the system automatically associates the correct safe code with the employee. In spreadsheets, they would have to look up the code each time.

Scenario planning was another major benefit of Personnel Budgeting for the city, because with spreadsheets they struggled with a loss of data continuity and a lack of visualization. With ClearGov, Neish created multiple ‘what if’ scenarios to assist with union negotiations. While bargaining with the police department, they were able to input a party’s request (i.e. if the union was negotiating for a 4% raise versus 3%), and immediately see how it would impact the overall budget — both numerically and visually with the charts and graphs automatically created by the system.

Like their other ClearGov products, onboarding and uploading personnel data to the system was a breeze. When they have personnel changes throughout the year, Neish updates the system so that the changes are automatically incorporated into next year’s budget. Next year, he is excited to roll the system out to department heads so that they can submit their requests and make changes right in the system themselves. He’s anticipating an even greater time savings in the years to come!

As anyone knows, it’s very difficult to create multiple scenarios in spreadsheets, and it’s even more difficult to actually visualize the data and how it impacts the overall budget. This is especially true when data is tied to various tables and you have to toggle back and forth between parts of the budget. ClearGov lets you create unlimited scenarios, automatically updates data when you make changes, and generates helpful visuals to answer all of the ‘what ifs’.

Brandon Neish,
Finance Director
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August 8, 2022

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.

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