News & Insights

News

Munetrix Facilitates Collaboration Among Municipalities and Local Governments via Social Sharing Tools

collabWhat do Munetrix and Facebook have in common?

More than you might think.

Unlike Facebook, Munetrix is all about productivity. Munetrix is a firm believer that there is no value to reinventing the wheel.  What we believe is valuable, however, is that sharing the design and schematics of the invention of the wheel so that others can benefit from it is important.

That’s why Munetrix, in addition to hosting powerful financial and transparency forecasting tools, is designed to function as a socially networked collaborative hub for school and municipal administrators.  A special web-based portal and database inside Munetrix now stores more than 800 best practices and ideas that are searchable for others to learn from.

Local government administrators and employees can search the common database by over 30 functional or departmental filters to discover unique collaborations that saved local governments or school districts time and money.  

Education, K-12, News

Munetrix Helps School Districts Comply with New MDE Transparency Requirements

school-68931_640The State of Michigan continues to push local units of governments and school districts toward greater efficiency, transparency and accountability.

Much like it did with revenue sharing for municipalities through the Economic Vitality and Incentive Program in 2011, the State of Michigan established new best practice standards in 2013 for local and intermediate school districts under the State School Aid Act (Public Act 60) for 2013.

The new law links compliance with 8 best practices to discretionary per-pupil foundation allocations, on top of to any regular transparency requirements. The economic benefit of compliance is substantial; equal to $52.00 in addition to the foundation allowance per pupil. Compliance must occur before June 30, 2014.

News

Polar Vortex Continues to Wreak Havoc on Local Government Budgets

Tennessee_Tech_during_Polar_Vortex

Image source: Wikipedia

As mayor pro-tem for Auburn Hills I often receive emails from residents, and recently I received one from a concerned citizen asking why the roads in his neighborhood were so bad and what I was going to do about it.

Most residents don’t understand the difference between a state, county or local road.  They just know that when their tire blows out—they are not happy!

News

Six Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Budget from the Polar Vortex

Surprises.  We all hate them when it comes to budgets.

Most local units of government have been pulling themselves up by the bootstraps since the impacts of the Great Recession.  But the uncertainty of Mother Nature has thrown many for a frozen loop this year.

How do you budget for snowiest January ever?

Most local units have used 60-70 percent of their road salt half way through the winter, not to mention overtime hours, wear and tear on equipment, water main breaks, and potholes.

And the worst is not over.  Regardless of how much snow we will still get, and no matter how cold it stays, the eventual spring thaw will wreak havoc on the condition of the roads come April showers and May flowers.

So what’s an administrator to do?  Here are six best practices that might make your winter doldrums more palatable.

  1. Monitor your departmental budget monthly to actual expenses so there are no fiscal surprises.
  2. Develop budget recovery plans now, using up to a three-year outlook on where to pull the revenue from.
  3. Communicate with residents before the roads turn to mush.  Let them know that this will be a rough spring when it comes to road conditions, and to use as much caution as possible (and to be patient).
  4. Pool resources (collaborate) with neighboring communities to avoid any overlap in maintenance of lane miles.  If your trucks have to travel over a neighboring community’s road to reach a destination, consider working out a financial arrangement to be able to cover each other’s area and avoid duplication.
  5. If you are not already doing so, consider brine solutions to slow down the consumption of your salt.
  6. Develop an asset management plan so you know ahead of time which roads may be most problematic, and which water mains may be suspect due to age or materials.

At the end of the day, roads and infrastructure maintenance are one of those “must perform” services that any local government has to do regardless of the circumstances.

Munetrix can help you understand where you stand in relation to other local governments’ operating expenditures for your DPW expenditures.  If you see that a peer has a lower operating cost per capita, or other measure, consult with them to find out what they are doing that might help you dial in your services or costs to become more efficient.  We all need to learn from each other, and Munetrix is an enabler in that regard.

Also, use data to tell your story, and make sure you understand what your residents must have, would like to have and could care less about by conducting bi-yearly citizen surveys.  Munetrix can steer you to services that perform these surveys.

In any event, over-communicate and drive the story.

Why? Because nobody likes surprises.

Author: Bob Kittle
Bob Kittle is the President and Co-founder of Munetrix.com

News

Grading Schools: Letters, Colors or Numbers?

According to an Oakland Press’ editorial in the November 10, 2013 Open Forum, Michigan Republican state Rep, Lisa Posthumus Lyons is proposing legislature that would change the color-coded method Michigan currently uses to rate local schools to a single letter grade matching the report card formats used on K-12 education.

In today’s world of tablets and technology, visualization is an effective way to communicate performance management. Michigan’s Governor Snyder has instituted visual dashboard metrics into virtually every department within the state, municipalities and schools notwithstanding.  People understand red = bad and green = good, and gradients in between are somewhere between good and bad, so long as the scale is shown in context to the scoring system.

Munetrix, a fiscal measurement and grading transparency website for local governments and schools, uses this methodology quite effectively.  From a fiscal stability standpoint, the Munetrix scoring methodology translates complicated financial data into a simple, visual snapshot that anybody can understand – even using the “lime green” that Ms. Posthumus Lyons believes will confuse parents.

Grading SchoolsWe use this method because people easily understand simple color-based data representations and we would suggest, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, the Michigan Legislature look at successful implementations of standardized metrics and work with data in the way people digest information today: with their eyes.

Besides, when kids go beyond the K-12 education system, letter grades go out the window and are replaced with a 4.0 scale.

Bob Kittle, President & CEO Munetrix

News

Four subjects we need to focus less on in school

Are we failing the youth of this nation?

No, this is not a POD song tribute… more of a commentary on the education system as a whole. It is my humble opinion that the attempts at making students more “well-rounded” have most definitely had the reverse effect.

The argument for the past 20 or 30 years is that introducing students to a greater variety of topics will increase their ability to get a better job, contribute to society, and/or possibly be a better person.  I do not necessarily disagree with this sentiment. The focus on it has become far too great, much to the detriment of those exposed to it.

Trust me, this isn’t a fun argument to have. You try telling people that their kid should learn LESS. Very few positive reactions, let me tell you. Even so, I believe it is a conversation worth having.

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News

Data’s future: cloud(y) but clear

Remember dancing to your favorite 45s,cruising to an 8-track tape or popping a cassette into the stereo? Seemslike a long time ago, doesn’t it?

That is because these all representtechnologies of the past. Even the once-mighty compact disc appearsheaded for extinction. One recent survey indicated more people are now streamingmusic rather than buying it.

Records, tapes and even CDs are just datastorage systems by other names – they’re just like file folders, zip drives andhard drives. All are yesterday’s news. Each system has its virtues, buteach has the same major limitation – each can only contain a limited amount ofdata and can only be accessed in one particular setting.

Not so with the expanding internet and cloudcomputing.

News

Every number has a meaning with Munetrix

MunetrixIt’s all in the numbers and the simpler they are – the easier they are to understand. That is why Munetrix uses a single digit number as a barometer to gauge the financial health – or stress – of local governments and school districts.

We use Michigan’s single digit Fiscal Scoring System, augmented by our color-coded highlights. It makes for an eye catching display that is easy to understand. Financially healthy jurisdictions tend to have a smaller number, highlighted in green, while their stressed counterparts tend to have a larger number, highlighted in red.

This methodology allows for quick identification of those who may be taking a turn for the worse, highlighted in blue, while giving them enough time to avoid a problem. These data representations are a tool to help jurisdictions make educated, fact-based decisions about their finances. They also give a clear, concise financial picture to government officials and the people they serve.

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