There are several essential characteristics that should be present in a good budget:
The most critical component of a good budget, though, is the support and buy-in of your constituents. As a result, your local government needs to create communications that clearly explain your budget process and solicit opinions and preferences from your constituents.
Efforts to communicate clearly with the local community should focus on summarizing detailed information into simple terms. There are a few considerations to keep in mind as you strive to obtain your residents’ opinions and communicate your budget information:
Embrace transparency. Provide as much information as possible, and share it often. Repetition is a great way to make sure that your constituents have the opportunity to review budget items and form an opinion about them.
Keep it simple. While you want to prioritize transparency, don’t make the mistake of pushing every line item out to the public. You want to take a balanced approach of publicizing summary-level information, while making detailed information available for those that want to dig in deeper. Take time to have staff or citizens outside the budget team read over your budget documents to ensure that they are easy to read.
Mix text and graphics. Don’t publish a text-dense document that is bound to lose your most engaged citizens. Instead, create a mix of text, images and graphics so that it remains compelling and presents information in a variety of ways.
Give opportunities for feedback. Provide ways for your residents to tell you what they think of your budget. Social media and comment pages on your website are easily accessible ways for you to get feedback on the budget. Be sure to take the opportunity to respond and continue the dialogue with citizens.
Choose tools that make communication easy. Taking advantage of tools like Comcate’s Citizen Mobile Access encourages citizen engagement. Your residents can receive automatic updates and provide opinions on budget items that your government is considering. You can also set up mobile surveys to solicit your constituent’s opinions when determining how to prioritize limited resources.
From creating real-time data for budget creation to reporting for performance-based budgeting, Comcate software comes with a wealth of resources for building and communicating your budget. Contact Comcate to learn more about the many tools offered for supporting your budget process.