Select Board approves adoption of new town budget software

The Select Board agreed to enter into a contract with ClearGov, a Maynard-based software company to adopt several online tools aiming to streamline the town’s budget cycle management.

The contract will cost the town $28,433 and will last for three years. The budget management software will afford the town access to modernized digital capital, and operational, and personnel budgeting. The new contract will also grant Marblehead access to a digital budget book and a public-facing “Transparency Center.” There, easy-to-understand infographics will inform interested residents of the town’s financial information, developmental goals, and results.

“I’m very impressed,” Select Board member Jackie Belf-Becker said. “I think this is a no-brainer. It’s collaborative and it’s transparent.”

There are several features that make up the “Transparency Center.” A Financial Story helps residents visualize and interpret basic fiscal metrics. An Open Checkbook delivers a searchable list detailing transactions to increase accountability. Peer comparisons bring life to the data by providing context.

ClearGov works with 700 municipalities across more than 40 states in the country implementing “just right” software that is easy to use, connect to, and afford. The software is based on Government Finance Officers Association, or GFOA, guidelines allowing participating local governments to align their budgets with nationally-recognized standards.

The City of Malden won an award from GFOA in its first year using the ClearGov software, according to the company’s Market Development Executive Vinny Petracca.

The software also produces a living budget document that local government staffers can easily print out, email, and distribute.

Marblehead Finance Committee Chair Alex Goolsby said committee members are excited about the change.

“Going back and forth on email has been very difficult for us with ‘version 9’ or ‘version 12’ Excel documents going around,” Goolsby said. “To be able to model out, not only currently every year in the budget, but also to be able to model out into the future and run different scenarios for the entire town budget, we think will be great.”

Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer said he doesn’t think the transition to ClearGov software will create many problems considering its interface is similar to Excel, the program Marblehead currently uses for its budget.

Petracca said ClearGov staff will work over a period of 60 to 90 days to transfer the town’s data to the new system as soon as possible.

“There may be some bumps in the road but once we get through that it ought to really help smooth out the whole process,” Kezer said.