How 3 Special Districts Achieve Strategic Goals

How 3 Special Districts Achieve Strategic Goals

After years of adapting to resident requests for more data and transparency, special districts now have enough metrics to not only measure performance but also use those metrics to optimize their work and achieve strategic goals. But what does this transition within data-driven governments actually look like in practice?

Check out these three special districts that initially started using OpenGov tools to measure data more efficiently and are now employing performance data and metrics to achieve their strategic goals.

Strategic Goals for Palmdale Water District
Objective – Implement a modern procurement solution
Metrics – Time spent issuing and preparing a solicitation

– Number of qualified bids received

– Cost of solicitation publishing

Results 2x # of qualified bids received on projects

– Reduced time to prepare a solicitation from 7 days to 15 mins

– Publishing costs for solicitations reduced by 96%


Scott Rogers, the Engineering Manager for Palmdale Water District (PWD), was facing challenges not unique to other California special districts. Special districts are tasked with some of the most critical and demanding needs of the communities they serve and often do so with limited resources and funding. Many special districts do not have a department solely dedicated to procurement, so the regular responsibilities of a procurement office often fall on staff members, like Scott, whose primary function exists outside the realm of purchasing goods and services.

Back in 2020, PWD purchased OpenGov Procurement after Scott joined the organization in 2019. Scott and his team used the following five decision criteria, which demonstrate the ways modern technology is changing the game for procurement leaders in special districts: keep it simple, enable collaboration through cloud solutions, streamline bid development and publication, establish compliance, and partner with vendors who listen. 

Thanks to OpenGov Procurement, PWD’s procurement process looks drastically different. Scott and his staff used to spend hours creating solicitations, scanning contractual documents, uploading them to the website as PDFs, and mailing out hard copies to prospective bidders. In addition, the cost to publish public notices in the local newspaper was roughly $10,000 per bid opportunity. Now, they use a short description with a URL to the OpenGov Procurement landing page, which reduces publishing costs by 96% per bid. This allowed PWD to save time and resources that could go towards other essential functions. 

Strategic Goals for Jackson County Water & Sewerage Authority
Objective – Simplify their complex and time-consuming financial process by implementing a modern budgeting solution
Metrics – Hours saved preparing reports

– Timeline for preparing annual budget

– Frequency of reporting

– Materials and resources saved

Results Day-long process to prepare a report takes 30 minutes 

– Budget was finalized a month ahead of schedule

– Reporting cycle changed from monthly to quarterly; leading to more granular information analysis

– Paper used to generate budget was 38x smaller


Jackson County Water & Sewerage Authority (JCWSA) is in charge of many essential functions such as finances, administrative duties, maintenance, and operations. Outdated technology and manual clerical work prevented JSWSA from creating efficient and measurable processes. JCSWA struggled with serving multiple functions with limited resources and needed a budgeting system that would help with automation and collaboration to help their smaller staff. 

Judy Smith, JCWSA’s finance director, purchased OpenGov after attending a GFOA conference in Philadelphia. Judy was quick to decide that OpenGov would be crucial in her efforts to revolutionize the current budgeting process. OpenGov Budgeting & Planning simplified the initial compiling of the previous year’s budgets and actual financials, which was done manually. As a result, Judy could pull the last year’s budget and actuals in seconds.

Once JCSWA was able to build its budget in OpenGov, their entire process transformed. They were able to produce relevant reports in 30 minutes when it would normally take a day, prepared their budget 4 weeks ahead of schedule, changed their reporting cadence to focus on real-time and accurate data, and shrank their printed approved budget from being 4 inches thick to just an eighth of an inch thick. 

  1. Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority 
Strategic Goals for Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority
Objectives – Inform key stakeholders such as Board members

– Inform the public about NOVA Parks operations and services

– Report on net income for park services for transparency

– Conduct scenario analysis for different events to maximize revenue 

– Compare and contrast park performances

Metrics – Number of reports/Stories prepared to Board for transparency

– Number of annual park budget meetings using OpenGov reports, dashboards and analytical tools for decision making

Results – Create regular monthly reports 

– Publish monthly financial data and analyze trends as they are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

– Report on revenue gained from park services and how they track against budgeted amounts in real-time

– Utilize scenario planning to plan for future events

– Analyze similar parks’ performance and communicate ways to improve

-OpenGov tools used for analysis in 45 annual park budget meetings.


Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, or NOVA Parks, has been a customer of OpenGov since 2015. They started as a financial reporting customer and eventually moved to Budgeting and Planning to address their struggles around personnel calculations, planning, and difficulty with reviewing and entering their operating budget. They were looking for a new solution to help eliminate Excel from their budgeting process and report on their operations in a format that was accessible to many audiences. Now with OpenGov, NOVA Parks is able to make changes to their budget in real-time and communicate with different departments and managers to easily slice and dice their data.

OpenGov has revolutionized the way that they prepare their budget and financial information. More importantly, they can analyze trends both month over month and year over year to efficiently assign resources, such as temporary and part-time staff, based on demand and visitors. Every month, NOVA Parks can publish reports that provide snapshots of all their major park types with YTD and single-month comparisons. Additionally, NOVA Parks helps drive regular park budget meetings. Staff members can access their information online instead of bringing in stacks of papers, make updates in real-time, and compare and contrast reports collaboratively. 

As a special district, NOVA Parks is unique in the Parks and Recreation field, as only 12% of operations are funded through taxpayer support.  The remaining 88% of operations are funded with revenues from a diversified mix of park-related enterprises. They are also able to analyze trends affected by COVID-19 and plan how to meet demand based on seasonality. For example, NOVA Parks used OpenGov for special projects, such as their holiday light show. They could analyze the event based on different impacts and scenarios such as the day of the week, weather, type of ticket, etc. By publishing monthly reports for each division and reports specifically for their Board members, the public, and other stakeholders are able to be informed of progress and stay up-to-date with the latest financial information. 

Category: News

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