As always, the Open North crew has been out and about in the world getting the word out about Citizen Budget, our powerful online budget simulator. For the fourth time now, we took part in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Conference Trade Show, where Citizen Budget is always highly popular. For its inaugural presentation program, we spoke about the benefits and best practices of online engagement.
We also recently attended the Government Finance Officers (GFOA) conference expo again. This time it was held in Toronto, which meant more Canadian delegates than usual. In all cases, it’s always exhilarating to meet new people, as well as our existing clients at these events.
We can’t stress how important these types of events are for us. Every day, we get to work closely with dozens of amazing people from across North America, helping municipalities boost their consultations by connecting them more efficiently with their citizens. However, most of this work is done remotely. So it’s especially rewarding when we get the chance to meet many of our 60 clients face-to-face and to hear about their successes with Citizen Budget in person.
One subject that came up time and again at the FCM trade show was the focus on capital projects. With the federal government’s announcement of a $120-billion investment in infrastructure over the next ten years, municipalities everywhere have a list of capital projects coming up. But with big projects, comes big spending – and some tough decisions. Fortunately, we’ve developed a version of Citizen Budget designed just for capital project consultations that has been used very successfully to date in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario.
For many of the municipalities that have yet to use our highly-customizable Citizen Budget simulator, the challenges of traditional public consultations remain the same: they cost a lot of money, they stretch over a long period of time, and they have low participation rates (usually always the same people or interest groups ready to discuss issues that are only specific to them). Taking the consultation online changes all of this.
Some of our clients described how our cutting-edge budget simulator allowed them to get some much-needed buy-in on some of these difficult decisions – and all at an affordable price. For residents, seeing big dollar amounts in newspaper articles can be overwhelming. But seeing how these same numbers impact their actual property tax assessment really puts things into perspective: a project that costs millions can only actually represent a few dollars on a tax bill.
That’s why we were thrilled to see so many people stop by our tradeshow booths with excitement. As the desire to engage citizens grows every day, more and more municipalities are turning to Citizen Budget simulator to build better community relations and better budgets.