The COVID-19 crisis is having a profound impact on local governments and public sector agencies around the globe. Public sector organizations are stretched to the limit at a time when revenue sources are scarce, and funding is being reallocated to emergency services. During this time of uncertainty, organizations need to strengthen their ability to respond to, learn from, and mitigate the impact of the crisis to effectively serve their communities. Budgeting is a key process that will help them achieve this goal.
For our virtual panel discussion on May 27th, Questica invited the City of Edmonton, AB; City of Moncton, NB; and Ontario Northland Transportation Commission to discuss budgeting in a COVID-19 world. Topics discussed included: managing the impact of COVID-19, transforming the budget process, budgeting remotely, and how Questica has provided their organizations with assistance over the years.
Our panel was comprised of:
Camilo Ramirez, CMA – Budget Officer – City of Edmonton
Gregg Houser – Deputy Treasurer – City of Moncton
Phillip Carmichael, MBA – Financial Analyst – Ontario Northland Transportation Commission
Here are a few highlights from our panel’s conversation:
Budgeting during COVID-19
“We’ve essentially created new reports that show what the initial budget was, what the COVID affect is, and therefore, what the new world will look like. Our team also had to come up with a process on how we were going to capture the new COVID impacts. We use change requests very heavily [in Questica Budget], so we created a specific change request for the COVID reductions in revenue and the reductions in expenses … with the system we’re able to really distinguish between this was the original budget, these are the affects that we expect from COVID originally, these are the changes now. And that is a great ability to actually see everything separately, so we can explain that to Council.”
— Camilo Ramirez
“Right now we’re not using the OpenBook process, but the reasons why we’re benefiting from having Questica Budget is it does allow access by a variety of individuals, whether it be at the department level, the operational level, finance, senior management, to look at anything in Questica Budget. It’s got the current budget, we load actuals in, so you can see actuals. It’s a lot simpler than our ERP system to access reports for the non-finance user. So that’s been a benefit to let them look at those things and identify where they are at with budgeting, staffing. We’ve now got capital loaded in so even all of the capital engineers can access it easily and know where they’re at with their projects.”
— Gregg Houser
“Our Polar Bear Express, which provides transportation from Cochrane and Moosonee to stop the spread, has been shut down for a while now. We’ve also reduced runs while expanding in the midst of it and also reducing the number of individuals on a bus. So this is all adding different costs to us and then we’re expecting other things to go down, so we’ve actually created specific general ledgers for all these costs, and with Questica Budget it’s allowed us to easily track and go and say, okay here’s how much COVID-19 has cost us for different items, such as hand sanitizer. So the managers are also able to see and compare their normal operational costs, such as running the bus, but also then the additional costs of cleaning it more thoroughly.”
— Phillip Carmichael
Budgeting collaboratively with social distancing
“Given that we’re on our 9th week of working from home, given that Questica Budget is a web-based system, my team hasn’t had much difficulty working with it. So I would say the best part of Questica Budget with COVID is we have a lot of detail in the system. Down to how much revenue we expect from our golf course, so when we start talking about what is it going to cost us to close our golf course for one month, three months or 6 months, which are the three scenarios that we provided, finance staff can go into our system and see exactly how much revenue they expect from that. From a corporate standpoint, the fact that we have all 15,000 FTEs [in the system] this also allows us to do some corporate-wide analysis without having to reach out to the individual finance sections.”
— Camilo Ramirez
“One of the things where Questica Budget has helped us a lot is its capability virtually, and you’re not sharing files, you can access it from anywhere. And because all of us work virtually and access through VPN or whatever system we all had, it was easy to use the system.”
— Gregg Houser
“All we had were spreadsheets. The first year was simply “let’s get a system up that we can put all of the information into” and by the following year we were using Questica Budget to build our budget completely … But the system itself was as advertised, a very easy to use system. I’m a very big fan of how easy it is to add a field. In one of the upgrades, you’re now able to add tables. We use that a ton. And this is all without having to go to IT which means that my team can do it in a matter of minutes to create a table or create fields. And that speaks to what an easy system Questica is to use.”
— Camilo Ramirez
“One of the things we were conscience of, and Questica is very good that way, is the business process. Questica Budget is developed with best practices and good business processes. A lot of our past business processes and budgeting were manual. A lot of our past processes used spreadsheets, manual paperwork, a little bit convoluted. So rather than trying to implement our past practices into Questica Budget, we let Questica drive our process and it made a big difference. Things like approvals and workflows, the reporting structure, things like that. Sometimes you fall into a trap and go like to like, we didn’t do that and that has benefited us significantly. Now we have a nice, clean process. It’s smooth and we probably were in a six-month stream for completing budgets before Questica Budget, but now it’s down to four months or less, from start to finish. So it’s advanced us that way and saved us a lot of time.”
— Gregg Houser
For more insights from our Canadian local government panel, watch the on demand webinar. Looking for information related to budgeting during a crisis and how Questica can help? Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for the latest resources.