Using analytics to manage capital projects funding & costs


Cities and counties are responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure to support a broad range of services. Local governments must develop and implement multiyear capital projects plans that provide infrastructure for things such as jails, courts, public office buildings, streets, bridges, parks, athletic complexes and community centers, water treatment and reclamation facilities, motor vehicle and equipment fleet to support police, fire and public works services, as well as other miscellaneous construction and equipment. Tracking the progress of all these complex projects is a formidable task.

Local governments are faced with accounting for hundreds of single and multiyear projects with combined budgets totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Accurate accounting includes not only tracking project costs by category and progress toward completion, but also requires tracking the order and rate of expenditure from each revenue source (ie. General Fund, Utility Fund , bond debt, General Obligation revenue, Tax Increment Financing, grants, impact fees, donations, etc). Tracking the real time status of both revenues and expenditures is critical in managing the projects efficiently, and making future budget decisions.

One SAS local government customer had a capital projects budget that included 147 projects totaling $348,000,000. The budget staff spent two weeks each year creating a spreadsheet that would give the revenue and expenditure status of the 147 projects. This information is used to determine what funds are available for new projects. In addition, the staff spent weeks responding to scenarios requested by the town council. Faced with decisions about raising taxes, utility rates and/or issuing more debt to pay for needed projects, the immediate availability and accuracy of this information is critical. Using data integration and business intelligence software, the budget staff created an integrated, comprehensive report that identified the exact amounts available from, and the status of, each project.

This information was created in 30 minutes rather than two weeks. Budget decisions can now be made in minutes rather than in weeks, saving hours and hours of staff time and council time. The improved accuracy allowed the town to know in advance if there was enough available General Fund cash across several projects to fund a new street project, instead of having to issue another $20M in General Obligation bonds for the coming year. The availability of accurate capital project data resulted in annual savings of $2 million.

Large, metropolitan governments have multi-billion dollar capital project budgets. Imagine the huge savings in time and money, and the benefits to taxpayers, by applying advanced analytics software to those governments’ daily business problems.


About Author

Bill Coleman

Advisory Industry Consultant

Bill Coleman works with SAS local government customers across the US to understand best practices and solutions. Coleman applies his more than 30 years of experience as a senior leader in city and local government to guide SAS product and marketing management. From 1994 to 2008, he served as Town Manager of Cary, NC, the seventh-largest municipality in the state with a population exceeding 130,000. Coleman was responsible for planning, organizing and directing municipal operations, which included more than 1,000 employees and 11 departments providing a full range of municipal services. Under his leadership, Cary was the first municipality in North Carolina to work on performance enhancement system. The system was designed to help the town maintain its high quality of life by improving resource allocation and operational efficiencies throughout town government, beginning with the areas of public safety and development services.

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