The end of the year comes up fast, and if you’re looking for wise ways to spend that “use-it-or-lose-it” municipal budget before it expires, you’ve come to the right place.
Government leaders sometimes complain that they don’t have enough money to complete key community projects. However, many agencies and offices leave money on the table in their use-it-or-lose-budget.
Ideally, budget plans are established early enough that you don’t have an excess of funds to go through in the final weeks of the year. However, if you do, there are a number of effective ways to maximize the usefulness of your remaining municipal budget funds.
Today, we’ll cover:
- What is a use-it-or-lose-it budget?
- What happens to unspent municipal budgets?
- 11 ways to wisely spend your end-of-year municipal budget
What is a “use-it-or-lose-it” municipal budget?
A true use-it-or-lose-it budget means that if you don’t spend the total budget during the time in which it is allocated, you lose access to the unspent funds.
In addition to missing out on opportunities to complete important projects, unspent funds influence future budget decisions by legislators. The assumption is that if your agency didn’t use the funds available, there is no need to allocate as much money in upcoming years. In essence, failing to spend what you have creates a double-whammy.
What happens to unspent municipal budgets?
The specific implications of an unspent municipal budget vary somewhat. Budgets appropriated by local, state, and federal governments come with defined terms by which the budget is managed. In some cases, unspent funds are reallocated to your agency, office, or department budget for the upcoming year.
In some cases, budgeted amounts are tied to specific projects. In such cases, you might be able to apply remaining funds to that project if it is started during the current year, but completed in the upcoming year. Review relevant legislation or appropriation contracts to know for sure what happens to unspent money in your situation.
11 ways to spend your use-it-or-lose-it budget before it’s gone
Given the drawbacks of an unspent municipal budget, consider how your agency can best use your end-of-year budget. Even if you don’t have pressing financial needs, you might have some backburner projects that you can move up in your timeline.
Here are 11 ideas on how you can spend your end-of-year, use-it-or-lose-it municipal budget wisely:
- Upgrade your communications technology
- Invest in retraining programs
- Hold fundraisers
- Embark on research projects
- Work on skill development and cross-training
- Prioritize digital security
- Initiate transportation system repairs
- Upgrade office equipment
- Engage professional maintenance and cleaning services
- Begin construction projects
- Modernize your website
1. Upgrade your communications technology
One of the most surefire ways to put your remaining budget to good use is with a communications system upgrade. A modern digital communications infrastructure radically improves internal efficiency and enhances your effectiveness in meeting the needs of your citizens.
A comprehensive, cloud-based platform allows agents to seamlessly move from one communication platform to another in a safe, secure environment. According to a report from RingCentral, government organizations saw at least a 57% increase in staff satisfaction after improving their unified communications.
Pro tip: All-in-one platforms make payments easier
As you shop for a cloud communications platform, it’s a good idea to look for all-in-one solutions. Having a single vendor for all your channels streamlines invoices and technical support. RingCentral is one powerful, feature-rich platform that includes everything you need for in-person, hybrid, and remote teams:
- Business phone
- Video conferencing
- Team messaging
- SMS (business texting)
- Virtual breakout rooms
- Insights and analytics
2. Invest in retraining programs
Over time, it is common for employees to forget best practices when completing routine or periodic tasks. Investing in a retraining program can boost quality and productivity for your government workers. 37% of organizations also saw an increase in employee productivity after unifying their communications tools.
When you upgrade your communications platform, look for features that support training programs, such as video conferencing capabilities, SMS messaging for internal teams, and other collaboration tools.
3. Hold fundraisers
If your agency organizes end-of-year community or holiday events, extra funds could boost the reach or impact of the events. If you haven’t done so, putting some of the municipal budget twoard these events may allow you to get creative in coming up with ways to boost community engagement.
4. Embark on research projects
Citizen engagement has become a priority at all levels of government. To effectively engage citizens, it is helpful to know preferred methods of interaction and types of content citizens want. Surveys, focus groups, and other research methods can offer useful insight. You might also find useful analytics provided in your communications platform that may help you discern preferred methods and channels of communication for your communities.
5. Work on skill development and cross-training
With extra funds on hand, it is a good time to grow your agency’s creative skillset through targeted skill-building and cross-training. Broader and deeper skillsets contribute to higher productivity and better public service. They also minimize the negative impacts caused by short-term and long-term employee absences.
6. Prioritize digital security
Expansion of broadband internet and digital technology attract more interest from hackers. Cybersecurity has never been more important to government organizations. Evaluate your existing systems, identify opportunities for risk reduction, and consider software security protocols when upgrading your digital infrastructure. This also helps protect the identity of your citizens and staff when implemented with a unified communications platform.
7. Initiate transportation system repairs
If you have transportation systems and roads in need of repair, there is no reason not to spend your use-it-or-lose-it municipal budget to fix them. In addition to road fixes, subway systems and buses may need some work.
8. Upgrade office equipment
Does your office have any outdated equipment? If so, upgrades can boost employee productivity and improve capabilities of meeting public needs efficiently. In some cases, you may find that cloud technologies may replace some of your equipment. For example, rather than replacing old fax machines, you may consider using faxing services to save office space, reduce the number of hardware maintenance chores to be performed, and further digitize your office.
Pro tip: Hardware leasing can make your budget go further
And if your budget is too small for huge upgrades, Device as a Service (DaaS) is also a growing trend. With DaaS, you can lease new office technology for a monthly subscription fee instead of huge, upfront capital investments to upgrade.
9. Engage professional maintenance and cleaning services
The end of the year is a good time to give your office space a comprehensive refresh. Consider any basic maintenance or irregular deep-cleaning needs. Use some of your year-end municipal budget to hire a professional service firm that can make your space more aesthetically pleasing and sanitary.
10. Begin construction projects
You could bump up your timeline in a construction project that is on the back burner or scheduled in the future. Alternatively, strategize about a small project that would meet the needs and interests of your constituents.
11. Modernize your website
Citizens increasingly expect to find government resources and information online. An antiquated website makes it difficult for people to find what they want. Hire an outside agency to redesign your website to allow for an optimized citizen experience.
End-of-year municipal budget: Don’t leave money on the table
How you handle your end-of-year municipal budget impacts what happens this year and influences future budgets. Although you want to spend remaining funds, it is important to choose projects that have the most positive impact on your agency and citizens.
Any of the ideas discussed here could benefit you. However, upgrading your digital communications infrastructure would have a long-term, profound impact on internal and citizen-facing interactions. RingCentral for Government is a cloud-based communications system that also integrates with many top digital applications you likely use already. See RingCentral government solutions to learn more!
Originally published Mar 13, 2023, updated Mar 22, 2023