Case Study: Washington County
Established in 1776, Washington County was the first county in the United States (U.S.) to be named for the Revolutionary War general George Washington.
It is a county located in the western part of the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 147,430. Its county seat is Hagerstown. Washington County is one of three Maryland counties recognized by the Appalachian Regional Commission as being part of Appalachia.
Washington County was developing their annual capital budget of approximately $40 million through spreadsheets and manual processes. They required a Capital Budgeting solution that could provide them with the flexibility to develop a 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
Questica Budget Capital
Questica Budget now provides Washington County with an accurate and centralized reporting center and the ability to create a 10-year CIP. Staff also has the flexibility to create and manipulate several what if scenarios and budgets.
- User friendly
- Customizable reports
- Lock down original budget
- Ranking system
- Explorer search tool
- Several budget scenarios
- Helpful Questica staff
Washington County had been using Excel spreadsheets to develop their capital budget. The County put out an RFP looking for proposals to effectively provide the following capabilities and services in a user-friendly and flexible manner:
- Store multiple years of capital budget projections
- Forecast efficiently over the lifespan of capital projects
- Produce accurate multi-year reports
- Analyze sophisticated multiple what-if scenarios
The County government is responsible for providing infrastructure improvements to its citizens. To provide for these improvements on a continuing basis, the Board of County Commissioners established a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that forecasts the future needs and priorities of the community. The County Administrator, the Chief Financial Officer, the Director of Planning, the Director of Engineering and Construction, and the Director of Public Works comprise the CIP Committee. From the time when the CIP’s initial annual review begins in October through its adoption in May of each fiscal year, there is constant interaction between departments, the CIP Committee and the elected officials.
A 10-year CIP is developed each fiscal year and includes scheduling and financing of future community facilities such as public buildings, roads, bridges, parks, water and sewer projects, and educational facilities.
The first year of the 10-year CIP acts as the Capital Improvement Budget. Funds for each project are allocated from federal, state, and local sources by the County Commissioners.
Questica Budget was selected in 2007 as the right budgeting solution for Washington County to assist them in creating their 10-year CIP and approved Capital Improvement Budget. At the time the County purchased 24 seats of Questica Budget.
For over nine years, Questica Budget has offered Washington County the opportunity to develop multiple year budgets quickly and seamlessly. The Questica budgeting system along with the exceptional Questica staff have assisted the County in maintaining a growing capital budget.
Questica Budget is a user-friendly software system. Questica Budget is designed in a table format and it has similar functionality to Excel. This familiarity makes it easy to learn how to use the software.
As Questica Budget is a very intuitive budgeting solution, implementation and staff training at Washington County was quick and straightforward. The County created training manuals which are easy to comprehend and have been used as references for current users as well as in the training of new staff members. Sara Greaves explains that even though the manuals are available, most employees just get into the system and start using it as Questica Budget is self-explanatory and easy-to-follow.
Questica Budget assists the staff by saving them time when creating budgets all within a centralized budgeting system. There is now only one point of data entry and seamless integration with People Soft, Washington County’s financial system.
Questica Budget has well over 100 reports in its reporting center. The County has worked with Questica to develop their own customized reports based on the needs of their staff. The reports easily identify budgeted project costs, related funding sources and other project details.
Lock down original budget
In October, the County’s budget from the prior year is rolled over for the new budget year. The budget is then cleaned up and saved as the original budget. It’s then distributed to the departments for staff to modify existing projects or enter new projects for the next budget year. Once the users submit requested projects and associated costs, the original version gets locked down. The budget is then copied over to an approved scenario. In this scenario, adjustments may need to be made by the CIP Committee to stay in line with County objectives and goals. This method of locking down the original budget allows comparison between versions, showing the differences between what was submitted by departments and what was approved by the commissioners.
To keep within a yearly budget, it was important for Washington County to allow their staff to rank budgeted projects. If there are any projects tied to state regulations or which would incur fines if not implemented, those would be ranked higher to ensure they are not cut. The ranking system is a useful way to determine which projects should receive top priority.
Explorer search tool
Administrators can quickly search for information they need and change or add accounts when needed. Questica Budget provides an explorer search tool where staff can search by project or department. If staff searches by department, they will see all the projects within a department for that current year. Searching by project will display all projects, even past projects unless otherwise specified. The explorer tool is very effective in pin pointing what you are looking for.
Several budget scenarios
Washington County was looking for a solution which would allow them to create a 10-year budget for their CIP. It has been helpful for the County to maintain an original budget submitted by the department as well as an approved budget scenario for changes by the CIP Committee. In December once all budget information is entered into Questica Budget by staff members, division directors approve the budget and promote it to the Budget and Finance department. The tiered process ensures that only one group/person can access the budget at a time.
The approved budget scenario is distributed to the designated CIP Committee to review and make any necessary changes or modifications. It’s then presented to the county commissioners during their weekly session. The highlights of the 10-year plan are presented but only the current year is being approved. Depending on approvals, several drafts could be required. The budget is very transparent and all dollars are accounted for.
Helpful Questica staff
Questica takes pride in our exceptional customer service. From Sales and Implementation to ongoing support, our staff is available to answer any questions and assist in configuring Questica Budget to your organization’s specific needs.
Sara Greaves states that “throughout the implementation, upgrades and ongoing customizations, the staff at Questica have been very professional and helpful.”
Thanks to more efficient budgeting, Washington County is brilliant.