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How To Structure Your Municipal Annual Report
Almost every municipality creates and releases a budget report each year, which outlines city-wide financial data. But in the last few years, more and more cities are creating an additional report that details the municipality’s
Almost every municipality creates and releases a budget report each year, which outlines city-wide financial data. But in the last few years, more and more cities are creating an additional report that details the municipality’s services, operations, events, activities, and strategic progress in each department.
Known as a municipal annual report or municipal plan report, it’s a great way to inform citizens of how the city, and each department, is performing with regard to established objectives and measures. Creating this municipal report highlights your commitment to transparency and helps your city better monitor progress on goals and objectives.
If you know of this general concept but aren’t exactly sure how to create a municipal annual report—or even if you’ve never heard of a municipal annual report—these tips and pointers will help get you on the right track.
What To Include In Your Municipal Annual Report
- A letter from the mayor, administrator, or a designated council member detailing high-level accomplishments and updates from the previous year.
- Your municipal vision, mission, and values. A refresh for citizens on what is important to your city will help them put the information in perspective. It’s a good idea to continually refer back to these areas in each departmental section of your municipal annual report. For example, a city’s annual goal of creating more outdoor recreational space can be tied directly to the Parks and Recreation department’s accomplishment of opening three new town parks over the last year.
- Your organizational chart, which provides a visual representation of the municipality’s governing body.
- Noteworthy awards and recognitions. If someone in your city council or in a department receives an award—given by your city government or by an outside source—make note of it here.
The meat of a municipal annual report is comprised of the sections for departments or divisions. Each departmental review should include the following:
- A departmental overview that details the different divisions of the department, the number of staff, and the main functions of the division or department.
- Accomplishments and events. This may include any major or special undertakings over the past year. For example, Public Works accomplishments might include the renovation of a famous park, fountain, or statue; or the installation of new traffic lights.
- A qualitative summary that outlines the progress the department has made toward its goals over the past year. The summary may include contextual information for charts and data, as well as feedback from citizen meetings and/or reviews by third-party organizations.
- Quantitative data, including a few simple charts or statistics on expenses incurred over the last year, and how those costs compared to the budget. You may include specific details regarding measures that the department tracked, and how those contributed to the goals that were set. For example, again for Public Works, you may report on the amount of solid waste collected, recycling collected, maintenance vehicles added, parks opened, etc.
In your conclusion, you have the opportunity to present additional information that is relevant to the upcoming year or the timing of the report. Some examples are below.
- Any noteworthy upcoming events, like a fair, major planned construction, or maintenance projects.
- Your city meeting schedule. If your citizens are invited to attend city council or county administrative meetings, this is a good place to include next year’s meeting dates.
- Citizen satisfaction survey data. We are big proponents of collecting and using citizen survey data. Including any major findings of your surveys in this municipal annual report is a great way to let your citizens know their feedback is both welcomed and considered.
- Departmental contact information for critical parties who were not mentioned in a department section of your report.
5 Other Things To Keep In Mind While Creating Your Municipal Annual Report
We’ve seen reports that are five pages long and reports that are 80 pages long. The shortest reports typically group departments together (including eight different departments under “Public Works,” for example) and the longest reports give an extremely detailed look at each division and department.
You’ll know your report is the right length if it only includes information relevant to your citizens. When you read through your finished report, consider whether or not the data you’re providing is easy to understand and meaningful. If not, cut it!
2. Formatting & Design
Municipal annual reports should be visually interesting to entice citizens to begin reading (and continue reading). To take the design up a notch, include your municipal colors or design elements that also appear on your website, and consider including images of your staff, or images specific to each department.
3. Contact Information
If you keep up with the ClearPoint blog, you know we emphasize municipal transparency—and including contact information for someone in every department is a great way to be transparent. On top of that, if citizens actually use that contact information, you may get some good feedback from them about the report or ideas on how your city can improve.
4. Legislative Reports
It’s a great idea to include a letter or report in the conclusion from a federal or state legislator regarding what that municipality has accomplished over the last year. This person may want to share with citizens, for example, a bill they’ve helped pass, and how that has impacted citizens of your municipality.
5. City/County “At A Glance” Statistics
Including some interesting statistical information or demographic trends highlighting how your city has changed in the last year can be an interesting way to cap off your municipal annual report.
Keep in mind: If you aren’t tracking your city’s performance, creating this annual report will be very difficult.
If you’re concerned that your city’s performance management process is lacking, take a look at ClearPoint. This software not only helps your municipality track important objectives and measures, but also makes creating your municipal annual report a breeze every year.