City of Knoxville
- Rachel Raymond
- Success Stories
- minute(s)City of Knoxville Reduces Budget Book Workload by 50% Project: Budget Book Automation Organization: City of Knoxville Population: 192,648 (2021) Solution: Workiva The Scenario & Solution The finance team at the City of Knoxville, Tennessee was spreadsheet-weary. They wanted a collaborative tool and a streamlined approach for creating their annual budget book. So, they engaged Workiva and FHB to automate the process. The Outcome Kittrin Smith, Deputy Director of Finance for the city, said she and her team were “very happy” with the project’s implementation and outcome. She estimates that the new solution has eliminated, “… at least 50 percent of our work on the production of the book." She added, “... that was always a heavy lift that multiple analysts had to work on. So, I definitely feel it was worth the time and money that we spent. [It’s a] very valuable asset … that we will continue to use every year.” “I feel like we’ve come out of the dark ages.” –Kittrin Smith, Deputy Director of Finance, City of Knoxville Since Workiva is cloud-based, many users can now work on the city’s budget simultaneously. And it’s database-driven, so instead of the staff spending countless hours manipulating data in multiple spreadsheets, the data flows in and is mapped all the way up to the budget book. “The ability to get more real-time data without having to start from ground zero again,” has made the team’s lift significantly lighter. In addition, Workiva’s advanced publishing capabilities make formatting easy, eliminating the need to manually modify the table of contents, page numbers, margins, fonts, and the like. "So, the software was a great help, it was a success. Everyone here on our side, all the way through the administration [and] mayor liked it.” What's Next? Kittrin will work with FHB support to continually refine and enhance the solution. She is considering expanding its use to prepare mid-year and other reports. “We already have a few things that we want to tweak going forward.” Throughout the budget book project’s implementation, the city was short-staffed, relying on an outside consultant to lead the process. Kittrin is hopeful that they will soon be able to hire a dedicated staff member to manage future projects. “I’m really looking forward to the time when we have a staff member, who … takes the lead with the software and how we use it. That's really going to enable us to expand the use of it,” she said. With the city’s new documented and repeatable processes in place, any new team members will be able to step in and get up to speed more quickly. Since the Knoxville team had such a positive experience with FHB’s Director, Solutions Design and Architecture Darryl Parker, CPA, CMA, who led the project, they hope to partner with him for the next stages of implementation. “Darryl is very knowledgeable, very helpful. It would be nice to be able to work with him again.”
With the help of FHB and Workiva, the City of Knoxville reduced their budget book preparation workload by half.READ MORE
Marion County Clerk
- Rachel Raymond
- Success Stories
- minute(s)Marion County prepares three publish-ready budget books in just eight hours Project: Budget Book Automation Organization: Marion County Clerk Solutions: Caseware Working Papers + custom scripting Budget Book: 2022-23 Adopted Line-Item Budget 2022/23 - 2026/27 Adopted CIP Success Story: Marion County With a team of five people and a billion-dollar budget, Marion County has always relied on technology to do more with less and do it quickly. Having worked first with GovMax, then with Tyler Munis for budget creation, the group decided that Munis’ budget-book automation capabilities were insufficient. To extend its capabilities such that its output would meet the needs of the county commissioner would require $150,000 worth of customization. Unprepared to pay the initial and any ongoing costs for subsequent updates and changes, the team started looking for alternatives. The whole package The team was introduced to Caseware and F.H. Black & Company Incorporated (FHB). Out of the box, the Caseware solution had much of what the county was looking for. And they soon learned that the public sector experts at FHB would fill in the gaps, making it the perfect solution for their organization. We interviewed Audrey Fowler, budget director at Marion County, to learn more about the project. Why not just use spreadsheets? Every day, we speak with finance and budget departments that still prepare their financial reports using some combination of spreadsheets, word processors, and publishing tools. Having made it our mission to replace these disjointed programs with purpose-built, database-driven solutions, we are always curious as to why organizations choose spreadsheets. So, when we asked Audrey why she chose not to use spreadsheets, we found that she was a kindred spirit, and her fear was real. It's a fear that our team of principal consultants knows all too well and has experienced firsthand during their time in public sector finance and budget departments: the fear that one or more of the thousands of points of entry is incorrect—that errors have propagated throughout the reports and that they’ve missed them. ”I would never dream of publishing a book from an Excel file, not at 700 pages.” Audrey Fowler, budget director at Marion County Clerk Automation by necessity In public sector finance and budget departments, obtaining buy-in, allocating budget, and setting aside time for an IT project is always challenging. And even when all of these things are in place, IT projects often fail, resulting in wasted time and money. More importantly, project failures drain enthusiasm for change. With the difficulty and risk involved, it's no wonder many organizations are hesitant to take on the challenge, despite the rewards of a successful project. When we asked Audrey about the county's decision-making process, it was immediately apparent that the budget team was very motivated and that this project was a means to an end. "I don’t have 40 hours to spend in a week on putting the book together... I have to spend the money on the automation, the technology to get things done. Otherwise, I can’t get my job done." Getting exactly what you want Audrey was no stranger to IT projects. She had versed herself in available and suitable solutions and knew what she wanted. She also knew that, to meet her needs precisely and guarantee optimal execution, she needed an implementation specialist. Audrey wanted a two-step process for preparing a visually appealing and accurate book: 1. Import data. 2. Click three buttons to generate the books. Using the FHB method, complemented by custom scripting, Marion County got exactly what it wanted and needed. "The implementation was fantastic, very responsive... I was a little skeptical at first, but [FHB] made a believer out of me, and it worked!” What does preparing your budget books look like today? "All three books are fully scripted... It's an eight-hour workday, start to finish." For more on this project, read the full story.
Some guidance and custom scripting is all it took to enable the dedicated team at Marion County Clerk to prepare 3 Budget Books of more than 1,000 pages in only 8 hours, start to finish.READ MORE
- Rachel Raymond
- Success Stories
- minute(s)Deschutes County Made Massive Efficiency Gains in Minimal Time with Only Moderate Guidance Project: Budget Automation Organization: Deschutes County Population: 204,801 (2021) Solutions: Workiva Wdesk & Wdata Budget Book: 2022 Adopted Budget Book Success Story: Deschutes County With a single automation project, the Deschutes County, Oregon finance and budget department team reduced its budget book preparation time by 60-65% in year one and anticipate greater efficiency gains in the coming years. Like many public sector organizations, the county's finance department was plagued by inefficient business processes and inadequate tools, tempering their ability to commit sufficient time to higher-value tasks like long-term forecasting. The Search Deschutes County enlisted the help of the experts at F.H. Black & Company Incorporated. Working together, they reviewed the county's existing processes, identified areas for improvement, generated a list of requirements, and assessed the qualifying solutions. "We looked at quite a few solutions, probably 8 or 9 different platforms over 6 to 7 months... FHB answered all our questions and steered us in the right direction." Daniel Emerson, Budget Manager at Deschutes County The Right Solution - Workiva After carefully assessing their requirements and stringently reviewing industry-leading solutions for the best fit, the county opted for Workiva. A combination of Wdesk and Wdata gave the county a robust cloud-based automation solution that enabled the seamless collaboration of all contributors to the book. The intuitive and familiar interface of Wdesk enables the team to instantly generate automated reports and create custom data sets and calculations in seconds. "We absolutely love Workiva! Right now, there’s an over 50% probability that at some point in the next year, we will reach out and talk about an ACFR implementation. We'll recommend F.H. Black for that as well.” FHB's Guided-Self Implementation Having selected Workiva as their reporting automation solution, it was time for the county to implement, configure, and optimize the solution for their environment. Workiva's seemingly limitless potential and plethora of features meant that if the county wanted to optimally implement the solution to maximize automation and collaboration, they would benefit from expert help. The question was, how much help? As no two organizations, finance departments, or implementations are the same, FHB offers its clients many options. Implementations are scoped, packaged, and priced based on the client's requirements, budget, and availability to contribute to the project. The county was offered a sliding scale of services. On one side, you have a delegated implementation. This option would see the county delegate the implementation to the CPAs at FHB. They would have to provide a little information, but almost all of the work would be completed by the team at FHB. This is the most expensive option; it requires very little input from the county and is fast. On the other side of the scale, there is the guided-self implementation. This is the least expensive option and designates most of the work to the team at the county. FHB provides initial infrastructure setup, training, guidance, and any additional custom development work requested. Confident in their ability and availability to self-implement the solution with guidance from FHB, the county opted for a guided-self implementation. Besides the cost, this option has the added benefit of including the county's team in just about every step of the implementation process, resulting in the team having familiarity and knowledge of the solution that they otherwise would not. The county also knew that they could always approach FHB for additional services if they ran into a problem. “I think that this project by the end of July would have already paid for itself”. Next year and beyond No matter how you measure it, the county's budget automation project was a huge success. As a result, the county can declare in no uncertain terms that it has massively improved the efficiency, reliability, repeatability, and accuracy of its budget preparation process, with far-reaching implications for the budget team, the department, the organization, and the community. For more on this project, read the full story.
Deschutes County reduced its budget book preparation time by 60-65% in year one and anticipate greater efficiency gains in the coming years. Learn how they made massive efficiency gains with only moderate guidance.READ MORE
Strategies for getting Council to understand and support your budget
- Joy Richardson
- Budget Book
- minute(s)It's budget time, and you're ready! Painstaking detail and effort have gone into making sure that all 300+ pages of the budget book have been checked and rechecked. While this may feel like a job well done, the hard part (communicating) is just beginning. The reality is that a budget without context is just as ineffective as a map without a legend. The presentation of the budget's information is your chance to help Council, the Board, or any other stakeholders map out where your organization is today and its future direction (remember the map)! With lots of information to share in a limited time, effective communication is essential. Therefore, when developing your strategy, you should consider the objectives of: Informing, and Engaging. Informing is the starting point for communication and is based on the following: Information flow is in one direction Reading a budget book is an example of the one-way flow of information. The reader receives the information. However, without any accompanying conversation, they do not have the opportunity to ask questions or give feedback. Further, just providing the information is not enough. Communicating with the goal to enable understanding helps Council focus on and interpret the data so that the intended messages are received. Simple strategies for improving comprehension include using: Progressive disclosure to keep things focused Progressive disclosure keeps information at the summary level until the reader asks for or needs more detail. Providing too much information at once is overwhelming, causing that glazed-over-eyes phenomenon we have all seen! Learning efficiency benefits greatly from the use of progressive disclosure. Information presented to a person who is not interested or ready to process it is effectively noise. Information that is gradually or progressively disclosed to a learner as they need or request it is better processed and perceived as more relevant. Universal Principles of Design, Lidwell, Holden, Butler Using a drill-down approach provides additional information as necessary when the readers are ready to make sense of it. Style for understanding When it comes to style, remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, the focus should not be on what looks pretty but on understandability. To convey the message, consideration should be given to using the right combination of text, tables, and graphs. Find more information on this topic in our 3 questions to answer before report design blog. Engaging provides Council with the opportunity to receive information as well as respond with questions. The benefits of this multi-directional approach become apparent as heads begin nodding with understanding instead of the usual nodding off. While the Council presentation and budget deliberations themselves are forms of engagement, tools such as real time-modeling can make things even more dynamic. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a simulation is worth at least a million. Simulations can help demonstrate individual budget components, their relationship with other areas, and the impacts of making changes that are often hard to articulate. Specifically, a simulation can: Demonstrate the inherent trade-offs that come with competing resources and desires Highlight the differences between discretionary and non-discretionary items and how they impact the budget Show both the short- and long-term impacts of budgetary changes Shifting your Role: It is no secret that finance and budget departments' resources are limited, and much of those resources are already allocated to just preparing the budget. This begs the question of how to implement these strategies? If you are familiar with our work, you may have already guessed the answer: Best Practices paired with the appropriate Technologies. There are various software solutions that can free up staff resources by: Soliciting community engagement and integrating it into the budget Automating the preparation of the budget publication Assisting with a real-time, interactive presentation Budget simulators are one such tool you can consider. Read more on their utilization for engaging stakeholders. Using technology to reduce the more manual and mechanical processes, you can shift staff resources to focus on better communication and engagement. This allows finance departments to add value as not just number crunchers but as trusted advisors.
Go beyond just submitting and presenting your budget book to Council. Use these strategies for stakeholder buy-in and informed feedback.READ MORE
What a difference a year made for the City of Fort Wayne
- Rachel Raymond
- Success Stories
- minute(s)The City of Fort Wayne cut budget book prep time by 75%. That's 300 hours! Project: Budget Book Automation Project Scope: Automate balances and narrative GFOA Budget Book Award compliance Replicate appearance of existing book Organization: City of Fort Wayne, IN Population: 265,752 (2019) Solutions: Workiva Wdesk & Wdata Budget Book: Operating Budget Book Success Story: City of Fort Wayne The Challenge When we first met the finance team at the City of Fort Wayne, they were using multiple disjointed systems to prepare their budget book. The budget department would bring balances from Excel into Munis, their ERP system. Any required changes would be manually keyed in there. The team would then run "really clunky" Crystal Reports and open them in Excel. Next, they pivoted the data by inputting appropriate parameters by fund and department. If a department like "police" had sub-departments (police admin, radio shop, records, etc.) any changes to a sub-department would require running a report at the sub-department level before running a department-level report. They then needed to review the reports for accuracy before going back to Excel for any updates. "Every time we made one little number change, it caused at least another 30-45 minutes worth of work." Kathleen Smith, Finance Manager at the City of Fort Wayne The Solution Having had great success with the reporting automation solution used to prepare the city's ACFR, the team opted for more of the same: Workiva's Wdata and Wdesk, customized and implemented with F.H. Black & Company Incorporated. What does the process look like now? Data is pulled from the City's ERP system and imported into Workiva. The budget book is then automatically populated with balances. All participants have the ability to access the system and provide their contributions. Any required changes are updated in a single location in Workiva; the book and all other applicable materials are automatically updated. Reports that would have taken hours to prepare now take moments, and data can be pivoted in an instant. "I just can't say enough about how much efficiency and accuracy improved." The Implementation After carefully considering the implementation service levels offered, the city contracted FHB to automate the budget book on a "guided-self" basis, with onboarding support. This meant keeping costs low, as Kathleen and her team would do the majority of the work under the guidance of FHB's experts, once they had completed the initial setup and customization. FHB assigned a team to work on the city's project and the work began. As with all FHB-led implementations, the initial kick-off meeting defined scope, assigned tasks/deadlines, and trained the city's team on using their project management tool. Next, FHB implemented a pre-built data model designed for public sector organizations, and built a connection from the city's ERP system. FHB recreated the prior year budget book template in Workiva, then set up basic sections and ten pages of linking to train the city's team. Next, we assisted the city with the tasks assigned to their team, including loading, tagging, and grouping imported data by object and function; building and linking schedules, notes, and statements; then reconciling, reviewing, and testing. "We had the budget book done probably a week earlier than we normally do, and that was while learning and implementing a whole new system." The Result The city achieved a 75% time savings while improving its budget book preparation process. Kathleen and her team now have robust, documented, and repeatable processes, making onboarding new team members a breeze. Having automated the ACFR and the expenditure budgets, the city is planning another project to automate the revenue side. "I was here a lot of evenings making sure everything looked right and tied together correctly. We didn't have that this year, I didn't find myself working any evenings or weekends." For more on this project, read the full story.
The city of Fort Wayne reduced their budget book preparation time by 300 hours, that's 75%! This is how they did it.READ MORE
Frederick County, MD Unifies and Automates the Budget Book
- Rachel Raymond
- Success Stories
- minute(s)Frederick County Unifies All The Pieces Of The Budget Book Under A Comprehensive Solution Project: Budget Book Automation Organization: Frederick County, MD Population: 271,717 (2020 Census) Total Budgeted Revenues: $905 million Solution: Questica Budget Book powered by CaseWare Budget Book: Adopted Operating & Capital Budgets Success Story: Frederick County The Challenge Frederick County's, Budget Department faced a challenge common to Public Sector organizations when preparing the Budget Book. They spent countless hours gathering and reconciling pieces of their Budget Book across multiple applications. They had pieces in Questica Budget, pieces in Excel, pieces in Word, and they presented it in Adobe. To ensure confidence in the data, every change or update would require a time-consuming review. "Budget Book pieces were coming from every direction, that's what we had to solve" Tanya Kauffman, Budget Analyst III at Frederick County Government The Solution Replace Microsoft & Adobe with CaseWare and integrate it with Questica Budget. CaseWare hosts the Budget Book template and pulls balances and narratives directly from Questica. Any changes applied to the budget are made in Questica and flow straight through to all applicable locations in the book, facilitating greater confidence in the data and reducing the requirement for constant review and reconciliation. In addition, CaseWare's document management functionality allowed contributions from all parties to be stored and managed in a single location. The Project F.H. Black & Company Inc. assisted the team at Frederick County to implement the solution with the FHB method. Discovery - What are the County's wants and needs. Scope - Defining the parameters of the project. Planning - Working backward from the project goal to define a timeline and assign tasks. Configuration - Configure the selected solution to meet the County's needs. Training - Provide training to the County's budget team in the use of their new tools. Management - Weekly meetings and communication to ensure the project stays on track. Completion - Mutual agreement that the scope of the project has been completed. Ongoing Support - FHB continues to support and work with the County to improve and refine their processes. The Result The County has unified its piecemeal budget book under a single comprehensive solution resulting in increased confidence in the data and an estimated 25% reduction in the time it takes to complete budget book preparation processes. We asked Tanya if she has anything to add about the project. Here's what she had to say... For more on this project, read the full story.
Frederick County unifies and automates the budget book with a comprehensive solution for outstanding results.READ MORE
City of Garland Modernizes its Budget Processes
- Rachel Raymond
- Success Stories
- minute(s)The Forward-Thinking City of Garland Overcomes 3 Budget Challenges With 1 Project Project: Budget & Budget Book Preparation Organization: City of Garland, Texas Population: 239,928 (2019 Census) Annual Budget: $1.1 billion (Operating + CIP) Solution: Caseware & Questica Budget Book: Annual Operating Budget CIP: Capital Improvement Program Success Story: City of Garland The Challenge The city of Garland's Budget Department faced a trio of challenges that shared the same root cause: antiquated software solutions, and the business processes required to make them work. The city relied on legacy budget software to prepare the budget and a combination of Word, Excel, and Adobe to prepare the Capital & Operating Budget Books. The processes were slow, disjointed, and error-prone. The Solution After extensive research, the city's Budget Director, Allyson Bell Steadman decided on Questica Budget to prepare the budget, CaseWare to prepare the budget book, and F.H. Black & Company Inc. to integrate the two and ensure the budget book solution was optimally implemented to maximize their benefits and guarantee project success. The Project The implementation process was managed and guided by consultants from FHB. It started with a planning meeting, introduction to FHB's online project management tool, allocation of deliverables, and scheduling of software training. Once trained in the use of their new tools, the FHB team built the Capital Improvement Program budget book template based on the City's specifications. Once complete, a similar process was carried out for the Operating Budget Book. The Result By the end of the sixteen week implementation, the City was able to produce and publish both the proposed and adopted 2020-21 CIP & Operating Budget Books. The City now has a robust, documented, repeatable, and largely automated process for preparing their budget book. "The Budget & Research Department is in a much better position to produce and distribute budget documents. Our most recent success was having our 2021 Adopted CIP document finalized for publication on the City’s website and distribution to City Council two weeks after adoption". For more on this project, read the full success story here.
The City of Garland modernizes its Budget, Capital Improvement Program, and Annual Operating Budget Book preparation processes with a single project.READ MORE
City of Greensboro Budget Book Automation Project
- Jamie Black
- Success Stories
- minute(s)With a population of nearly 300,000 and growing, the City of Greensboro is the third-most populous in North Carolina. The City's 2020-21 adopted budget of $602 million spans 169 pages and was awarded the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. Long-time Questica Budget users, the City is extremely happy with their processes for preparing the budget. The Budget Book however was another story. Like many finance departments, the City used Microsoft Excel, Word, and Publisher to prepare the book. The process was time-consuming, repetitive, resource-heavy, and disjointed; it was time to make a change. The team at Greensboro had heard about F.H. Black & Company Incorporated at a Questica conference and reached out for help to improve their budget book. Once the project was complete, we gave the City a little time to bask in their achievement before interviewing them about their journey. Here are the highlights of that interview with the City's Budget Database Specialist, Leah Price. The Old Way "We used a combination of Microsoft Excel, Word, and Publisher, and it was very time consuming for all staff members. The Budget Analysts had to manually enter all of their departments’ numbers line by line twice: once for the Manager Recommended version and again for the Final Adopted version. The Budget Database Specialist also had to make sure all of the formatting was correct in Publisher, and finally work with our internal print shop to make sure every page had the perfect amount of space between the text and the hole punches. When we heard there was a software that we could use to import the numbers from Questica directly into the budget document, we jumped on it." The Project "We sent our FHB consultants a copy of our former budget document and a copy of our budget data from Questica. The consultants built a template for us that was similar to the old format, and then worked closely with our staff to make sure that the budget data was going to the right places in the document. We have over 25 operating funds and many tricky aspects to our budget rules overall, so assigning the budget numbers and FTEs where they needed to go was the biggest struggle. However, it all came together in the end." The Benefits "The process is more streamlined and controlled. It probably saves the analysts a couple of weeks’ worth of time because they no longer have to do any manual data entry." "The budget analysts are an important resource to our departments, and their new found availability during the budget development process allows them to help out more with current year concerns." The Relationship "Our (FHB) consultants have always helped us meet our deadlines and make sure to work us into their schedule if we have last minute issues." "I have mainly worked with Joy, and I am so grateful to her for all of her help and expertise! I really appreciated that she wanted to make sure that I was learning how to do (almost) everything we needed her help with. It was my first year being responsible for the budget book and I had very little knowledge of CaseWare. I truly could not have done it without her." Considering a reporting automation project? Schedule a meeting with one of our experts to explore your options.
The City of Greensboro implemented an automated budget book solution that pulled data directly from their Questica Budget software resulting in a better book in less time.READ MORE
Engaging residents to address the impact of COVID-19 on the Budget
- Jamie Black
- Budget Book
- minute(s)Public sector organizations across North America are facing considerable budget pressures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This may necessitate slashing funding to programs and/or increasing tax rates. That is likely to be very unpopular with your stakeholders (council, board, and/or residents). Working through these options will require careful planning, making trade-offs, and effectively communicating new realities to stakeholders to get their buy-in and earn/maintain their trust. If you've read our Style & Substance blog articles before or attended our webinar series on best practices for communicating financial information, you know we have strong opinions on effective communication. In a time of massive budget challenges, your team's ability to communicate your message clearly and effectively is more important than ever. Over and above what we have laid out in our articles and presentations, what can your finance or budget department do to help stakeholders understand the complex issues you are facing? Too Much or Too Little Detail Stakeholder engagement is nothing new. Publication of large budget documents, public meetings to discuss these documents, focus groups, and advisory committees have been utilized for decades to engage with residents to educate them and receive their feedback. These approaches are often challenged by the complexity of the topic and the time investment required to execute them. Who wants to read even a 200+ page budget book? If they do read it, the result may not be what you expect: An implication for government transparency is that transparency initiatives that expect citizens to make sense of technical and abstract information, especially in large amounts, (such as the many line items and millions of dollars described in a typical public budget) probably face a much greater hurdle to increasing trust than their well-meaning originators thought. In fact, at worst, too much information could actually decrease trust. Transparency: A Means to Improving Citizen Trust in Government - Government Finance Officers Association As an alternative, local governments can utilize surveys or online budget tools to broaden the public meeting's reach. A classic example of this approach is the "digital budget book." These tend to be more approachable and, therefore, attractive to a typical stakeholder. This comes at the cost of the depth of detail and nuance necessary to truly educate the audience about the organization's constraints. Further, the act of merely putting a budget book online does not tackle the underlying barrier presented by large volumes of complex technical information noted by the GFOA. What you need then is: the ability to reach as many stakeholders as possible, in a way that encourages their participation, focuses on educating them on the context, constraints, and challenges we face and solicits their feedback. Engage Stakeholders with Budget Simulations This is where simulations come in. As technology has evolved, simulations have proven themselves to be the best of both worlds: broad reach and accessibility to maximize participation combined with the right amount of detail and nuance. Participants are invited to investigate the budget initially at a highly summarized level. This has the advantage of minimizing initial complexity and enabling understanding of the budget's overall state (e.g., surplus, deficit). They can drill down into more and more detail to understand the composition of the budget. Finally and most importantly, stakeholders are asked to increase or decrease budgeted amounts by department, service area, or program based on their own priorities and preferences. You can present them with a series of options to choose between that will impact the budget. Participants attempt to craft the budget they would like to see but will regularly bump into problems. Want to triple the budget on policing? Sure! But that puts us into a major deficit. How will you fund this increase? Participants can add comments explaining their rationale. All this data is collected for the hosting finance/budget department to analyze and leverage in refining the budget. Not having learned it is not as good as having learned it; having learned it is not as good as having seen it carried out; having seen it is not as good as understanding it; understanding it is not as good as doing it. ..He who carries it out, knows it thoroughly. The Works of Hsüntze Bringing your stakeholders into the budget process with simulations will allow them to understand the challenges you are facing and provide the feedback necessary to ensure you are optimally meeting their expectations.
COVID-19 has hit some public sector budgets hard! See why some organizations are choosing to educate and engage residents with budget simulations for stakeholder buy-in.READ MORE
The ADA & US Government: What you need to know in 6 minutes
- Jamie Black
- Financial Reporting
- minute(s)While many have heard of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), few truly understand its importance: Why should a finance or budget professional care about it? What do the laws (there are three) specifically require? How must I comply with the laws? This article answers these questions. 1) Finance & Budget Departments Should Care Designing documents that are easily understood by your audience is challenging. When some of your audience have visual impairments, there is an additional set of considerations. There are three primary reasons you should care about this topic: As a public sector organization, you want your message available to everyone. Approximately 5.5 million people have visual impairment in North America today. This is expected to double by 2050. To “read” your Comprehensive Annual Financial Report or Budget Book, visually impaired individuals must use assistive technology. These tools read the PDF to them electronically. Unless specifically designed for accessibility however, your PDFs will not be readable by assistive technology. Your organization is legally required to ensure all public documents are accessible (readable by assistive technology). Accessibility for your documents is legally mandated if: you work in a local government, a federal agency, or, a place of "public accommodation" (privately-owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, daycare centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, and so on), and you are located in the United States, and you publish content to a publicly accessible website. Numerous lawsuits have been launched for failure to ensure accessibility both for businesses and local governments. As identified by Seyfarth Shaw LLP, these lawsuits are becoming more and more prevalent. 2) The Laws Mandate Accessibility Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law (29 U.S.C § 794 (d)) applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information comparable to the access available to others. On January 18, 2017, the U.S. Access Board published a final rule updating accessibility requirements for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. E205.4 of this final rule stipulates the accessibility standard mandated by Section 508: Electronic content shall conform to Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in Web Content Accessibility Guidelines ( WCAG 2.0) (incorporated by reference, see 702.10.1). Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) It was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else. The ADA has three "Titles" (think sections), and it is Title II that applies to the programs and activities of state and local government (title I is employment practices and title III covers private entities that are considered public accommodations). While the ADA does not explicitly reference requirements for web content, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights division has confirmed their opinion that the ADA does in fact cover content on web sites. Unfortunately, there is no technical definition for ensuring your web content complies with the ADA. Congress sought clarification from the DOJ in 2018, but their response was noncommittal as to the standard required: Absent the adoption of specific technical requirements for websites through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA's general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication. In late July 2019, a series of questions were again raised to the DOJ from several senators looking for clarification. In particular, the senators attempted to learn if the DOJ "consider WCAG 2.0 an acceptable compliance standard". No response from the DOJ has been received as of this writing. California Assembly Bill No. 434 This legislation states that by July 1, 2019 all web content of the state agency or entity must meet... the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, or a subsequent version, published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium at a minimum Level AA success criteria. 3) Standards Determine Compliance Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Two of the three pieces of legislation above specifically reference Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 as the relevant standard that our documents must conform to. These guidelines were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community that develops open standards for the Web. WCAG 2.0 contains 12 guidelines designed to make content published on the web more accessible for those with impairment. Testable criteria are also provided to allow for the assessment of your content. Any piece of content can be assessed into one of three levels of conformance : A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). Note that the legislation mentioned above specify the level that your content must achieve. PDF/Universal Accessibility (PDF U/A) We mention this standard here as you may hear it and be confused by it. PDF/UA is the informal name for ISO 14289, the International Standard for accessible PDF technology. A technical specification intended for developers implementing PDF writing and processing software, PDF/UA provides definitive terms and requirements for accessibility in PDF documents and applications. PDF/UA defines the technical specifications to enable PDF documents to meet WCAG 2.0, but WCAG 2.0 has additional requirements that call for an author’s attention. For these and other additional requirements, the W3C’s technique documents (both general and PDF-specific techniques) guide authors interested in complying with WCAG 2.0. In short, if you are a state or local government in the United States and want to be confident that you comply with the various pieces of legislation, all content you publish to the web must conform to WCAG 2.0 level AA standard. Watch this space for our next article on the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0 and a methodology to employ to make your published documents fully compliant with the standards mandated by the ADA, Section 508, and California Bill 434.
Accessibility - Why should finance & budget professionals care? What do the laws (3!) require? How can you comply? This article provides the answers.READ MORE