Keep it Brief: A City Budget You’ll Actually Want to Read
Do you wish you could explain your city’s budget to residents, Council, and staff in 5 minutes or less?
We know residents and city staff are busy AND curious about how their local government spends money. Realistically, reading a 320-page budget jam-packed with spreadsheets and jargon can be intimidating and time-consuming. Our goal as government communicators is to deliver budget information in a concise, informative manner that people actually want to read. It comes in a variety of formats, but we like to call them Budget Briefs.
From my 12 years in local government communications, I’ll never forget what my finance director once told me, “The city budget is the most important document your government produces. It outlines the city’s priorities for the coming year and is a roadmap that guides future projects.” The unfortunate part? Most residents won’t take the time to read it. It’s a lot of data that people don’t understand.
With information like annual revenue from taxes, total expenses, and projected spending, this document will be highly referenced throughout the year by virtually all your constituents. It’s important to make it easy for staff, Council, and residents to understand how city finances impact them. A Budget Brief is the easiest way for them to receive this information.
Benefits of a Budget Brief
Condenses hundreds of pages of data-rich info into 3-4 pages
Showcases the community’s highest priorities
Communicates data and fund allocation
Shares information through visual elements and infographics
Provides the highest overview of important community topics
Optimizes delivery of a mandatory document
One of the reasons I believe the Budget Brief has become popular in city reporting is because it is short, concise, and visual. This is our goal when we design for local government, making your job easier while increasing transparency.