April 9, 2020 – Lane Hartman
On Tuesday, April 7th OpenGov hosted a webinar discussion featuring conversations with 3 customers who are at the forefront of their community’s response to the Coronavirus crisis. The discussion covered how they're responding quickly in the crisis to protect their communities and ensure continuity of crucial government functions, and how they are leveraging OpenGov to aid in their response.
While this blog post is not a comprehensive recap of all of the insights to be gleaned from the full webinar (to get that, watch the webinar here), it does provide 3 of the key insights that are driving an effective response in these government leaders’ communities.
Insight 1: Act Fast to “Flatten the Curve” on Budget Impact - from Micah Intermill, Budget Director, Minneapolis, MN
Impact of Early v. Late Action on Budget Replanning
*Note: This graphic is the property of Micah Intermill and the City of Minneapolis, MN.
As the budget director of the City of Minneapolis, MN, one of Micah Intermill’s lessons for other governments is to not delay on cost control and cost reduction measures. Much like the heavily-circulated “Flatten the Curve” graphic regarding how social distancing can avoid a spike in cases that would overwhelm healthcare facilities that many have seen, Micah warns that cost-cutting measures taken too late can deepen the service level and workforce reductions in the ensuing economic downturn. By acting quickly and smartly, communities can lessen the overall level of reductions needed to stay afloat in trying times.
“Budget teams need to take steps to control costs as soon as possible to reduce the need for sharp and deep workforce cuts in the future. This is for the same reason communities need to adopt social distancing earlier to flatten the curve on the infection rate.” - Micah Intermill
Here are a few other kernels of information that Micah provided:
“Do not use Great Recession scenario planning. The financial crisis was challenging, but marketplaces were still open for business, whereas with the COVID crisis everything is sidelined.”
“Time is one of the best tools budget teams have at their disposal. Move quickly to build moderate, heavy and severe scenarios with a long timeline in mind. What was normal yesterday is not going to look like normal tomorrow. For example, the shift to working from home on a massive scale is not likely to revert back to the way it was.”
Here is an example of what this planning might look like, but for a more in-depth view, watch the video below.
Related: Scenario Analysis
A key piece of this puzzle is to be able to effectively plan, model different scenarios, and act on them. OpenGov allows for robust scenario analysis to formulate actionable plans in times of uncertainty. For more information, watch the following video.
Insight 2: Centralize Communications - Sylvia-Carrillo Treviño, City Administrator, City of Sunset Valley, TX
Sylvia-Carrillo Treviño, the City Administrator of Sunset Valley, TX quickly set up a central place for all relevant communications regarding the current crisis. In her words: “The City of Sunset Valley is using their COVID-19 Dashboard as a single source for all communications, from details about where to find health care centers to tracking local business closures.” Aside from keeping the community aware of critical crisis updates, this single source of information helps the public understand what is happening locally, how it will be affecting the community, and what they can do to both stay safe and support local businesses who are struggling as a result of the necessary social distancing guidelines in place.
Additionally, echoing Micah’s advice discussed earlier, Carrillo-Treviño also urges peers to act fast to plan what measures must be taken and to follow through on them. As she puts it: “Delayed action carries a high cost, especially for cities like Sunset Valley which is almost entirely funded by sales tax revenues. Accounting for all the businesses that are closed or operating at a limited capacity is quick math that we must get right. In their calculations, many may overestimate, for example, revenues from internet sales for big box stores in their zip codes which may not accrue to the city even when goods are picked up curbside or delivered locally.”
Sylvia Carrillo-Treviño went on to marry the themes of quick budgetary/planning action and communication.
“You gotta be able to tell the story to your department heads and Council to move past the denial stage of this crisis. People in our city couldn’t believe that we would see a 80-90% revenue reduction (down $1.6 million). Sales tax funds, general funds, streets and greenspaces are all facing a shortfall. Even our ability to deliver water is affected. People really need to see it to believe it. Using OpenGov’s Budget and Planning software to break down the costs and impacts really helps tell the story. You lose people with spreadsheets.”
- Sylvia-Carrillo Treviño
OpenGov Stories was the vehicle Sylvia Carrillo-Treviño used to introduce the single source of information and tell the difficult but necessary budgetary story to her community. For more information on OpenGov Stories and how to use it to respond to the current crisis, watch the following video.
Insight 3: Run a Virtual Council Meeting and Online Permitting and Licensing for Residents and Developers - Jaime Tirado, Business Analyst, Gilpin County, CO
Jaime Tirado came into his role at Gilpin County, CO with digital transformation in mind. The Coronavirus crisis required him to speed that transformation in order to help the County effectively respond to new and pressing needs.
“Gilpin County, Colorado has moved many in-person functions online in the crisis, condensing a year-long digital transformation initiative into a few short weeks. When you’re moving quickly, finding the right platforms is only part of the process; you also have to bring people along with you. To do this, [our team has] made ourselves extra available. We often see that people embrace a new platform or workflow in meetings, but they have questions and doubts that they won’t raise in a larger group. Any question we get asked is documented on an OpenGov Stories page (internal). We also let people vent and get out grievances. Everyone’s got to have a voice.” - Jaime Tirado
Two of the key pieces of OpenGov that Jamie implemented at Gilpin County are Open Town Hall and Permitting, Licensing and Code Enforcement (PLC). Open Town Hall has allowed Gilpin County to run virtual town hall meetings, and it even allows council meetings and other closed-session meetings to run virtually (it also allows for virtual votes to take place). PLC allows for continued resident services via an online web portal where residents can apply for, receive, and pay for permits, licenses, and more.
“The results we’ve seen are: 1) greater public participation in Gilpin’s Town Hall meetings, as well as a more structured agenda based on questions submitted in advance; 2) a ramp to revenue with the deployment of Gilpin’s Permitting, Licensing and Code Enforcement portal — we were supposed to be live in July but pushed it out early to restart revenues for the county.” - Jaime Tirado
As always, speed is of the utmost importance.
“This is an important moment to speed up changes you were already planning.” - Jaime Tirado
For more information on Open Town Hall or Permitting, Licensing and Code Enforcement, watch the videos below.
Learn More: Watch the Full Webinar
The insights discussed above just scratches the surface of what was covered during the webinar. To watch the webinar recording in its entirety, click the button below.