Monday, November 17, 2014

The Crisis is not Fiscal! The Ongoing Financial Struggles of America's Big Cities


 "...the crisis facing local governments is not fiscal. It's the choices we make to address the fiscal challenges."


"States and cities have deep structural problems that will not go away just because the country is coming out of the recession that started in 2008." - Volcker-Ravitch Report


Recently, the PEW Charitable Trusts published Recovering from Volatile Times: The Ongoing Financial Struggles of America's Big Cities through their American Cities Project. The findings of this analysis are explored in detail in PEW's report, but briefly:

Revenue Declines
  • 18 of 30 cities saw government revenue fall between 2011 and 2012, double the number from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, eight cities recorded their lowest level of revenue since the start of the recession.
Property Taxes and State and Federal Aid
  • 4% average decline in property tax and government aid across the 30 cities between 2011, 2012
Revenue Rebounds
  • 10 of 30 cities had recovered their prerecession revenue peak by 2012
  • Four of the nine cities that had surpassed their pre-downturn revenue peak in 2011 fell back below that level again in 2012.
Spending and Reserves
  • 17 of 30 cities increased overall operational spending and 18 of 30 cities increased reserves in 2012
While there is some reason to be positive, and clearly some cities (and geographic areas) are thriving, the overall impression is one of continued fiscal challenges. In local government, unlike the federal government, we don't have the luxury of operating in an environment of unbalanced budgets. Cities and counties are mandated to present balanced budgets each and every fiscal year. For as challenging as it is for local governments to continue to present balanced budgets in the face of years of revenue shortfalls and painful service cuts, they simply must.


In January 2014, the New York Times recently reported on the release of the Volcker-Ravitch report in their article Task Force Urges Local Governmens to Stop Obscuring Fiscal Troubles. The State Budget Crisis Task Force released its final report, calling for an end to the longstanding practice of using one-offs and opaque accounting methods that make budgets appear balanced even when fiscal problems are worsening. "Local governments must stop using budget gimmicks that obscure the true extent of their money problems." The task force was led by a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Paul A. Volcker, and a former New York lieutenant governor, Richard Ravitch, who have warned that states and cities have deep structural problems that will not go away just because the country is coming out of the recession that started in 2008.

Now, so many of us who "are in the business" of trying to balance budgets, understand and appreciate the dangers and fallacies of applying budget gimmicks. But then, why do these practices still prevail? Why do many resort to these types of solutions knowing they deny transparency, mask problems at worst, and at best, trick decision-makers into a false sense of security? Perhaps at least part of the answer is that it's difficult to conceive of any other way to solve the financial problems of the day - perhaps, for lack of another solution, budget tricks are the best solutions we have? For as fundamentally sound and true and correct as the Volcker and Ravitch report is, it's most significant achievement is pointing out where government is falling short. This begs the next question: what can be done to fix these pressing problems?

A new paradigm is required - a "New Wave" in local government Fiscal Health.

The Crisis is Not Fiscal

In part due to the recession that started in 2008, and in part to attempt a departure from the exact same types of practices outlined by Volcker and Ravitch, CPBB co-founders Chris Fabian and Jon Johnson published their first local government fiscal health and prioritization report Getting Your Priorities Straight in ICMA's PM Magazine. This paper was published prior to the existence of the Center for Priority Based Budgeting.

During this time, Jon and Chris both worked for Jefferson County, Colorado as Budget Director and Internal Business Consultant respectively. It was at Jefferson County where Jon and Chris had first started to conceive of the creative and innovative concepts of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting.

As if predicting the New Wave, in Getting Your Priorities Straight the authors emphasize the point that the recession isn't the only driver causing local government fiscal challenges. They state, "why do local government professionals believe that this is the crisis? What assumptions do we hold so firmly and that so calcify our thinking to convince us that changing fiscal conditions represent our crisis? Would higher revenues and lower expenses allow us to operate crisis free? Or does the true crisis exist when, despite our fiscal realities, we don’t focus on those priorities and objectives that ensure the success of our communities?"

The authors went one step further, and just like Volcker and Ravitch, made a critical leap: the crisis facing local government is not fiscal. It's the choices we make to address the fiscal challenges. Volcker and Ravitch make the same argument when observing that the end of the recession alone will not result in better financial management.

In Reengineering the Corporation, Michael Hammer writes that organizations suffer from “inflexibility, unresponsiveness, the absence of customer focus, an obsession with activity rather than result, bureaucratic paralysis, lack of innovation, and high overhead.” Why?

“If costs were high, they could be passed on to customers. If customers were dissatisfied, they had
nowhere else to turn.” Should we in government only now be concerned with flexibility, responsiveness, customer focus, and results because we can no longer afford not to be?

Perhaps the biggest concern we face is not a fiscal crisis. Fiscal trends and conditions are by and large out of our control and simply represent a reality with which we need to cope. The real crisis on our hands is whether our organizations have the capabilities to address current fiscal realities and still meet the objectives of government and the expectations of our constituents.

The Imperative of "New Tools" in Creating Financial Transparency - "Data Visualization or How I Learned to Stop Worrying (and Obscuring Financial Problems) and Love Financial Transparency"

The Volcker-Ravitch report places special emphasis on the harmful impacts that budget gimmicks create when the intention is to mask or obscure financial problems. But what would true financial transparency look like?

CPBB co-founders faced the exact same dilemma when the principles of Fiscal Health were created to address these very issues. The budget book, the certified annual financial report (CAFR), and reports out of the financial system are great tools for finance professionals, but they prove insufficient to clearly and simply answer the question: is the organization in "good shape" or is there trouble on the horizon?

Furthermore, in a world of rapidly changing economic variables, the answer to that question today might not be the answer to that question tomorrow. (A recent ICMA report on this very subject appeared on the CPBB blog recently.
 
First and foremost, local governments must be clear and transparent about what truly is their picture of fiscal health. Communicating that picture simply and clearly without volumes of numbers, spreadsheets, tables, and an endless series of charts is frankly a challenge that has plagued financial managers for years. If local governments are going to be able to demonstrate financial reality internally to elected officials and staff, and externally to residents, they have to find better ways to make fiscal situations understandable and transparent to everyone. 
 
The key breakthrough in this area has been "data visualization" which allows for the easiest way of creating a common view, a common perspective that is simple and that everybody can agree on. Part of the reason that financial problems can be obscured or hidden is because many times decisions makers have no idea how to understand finances to begin with. 
 
Data Visualization allows us to create a common view of the financial situation that is simple to understand and interpret, describes the clearly defined variables that can impact the financial situation, allows for "live" and "real-time" changes in these variables, and offers the ability for "dynamic" modeling of "what-if" scenarios - this is how transparency is created, and this is the essential first component of the paradigm shift required.

CPBB Web-based Economic Modeling Tool Overview
 

Shifting the Paradigm Part 2: Resource Allocation through Priority Based Budgeting

The second component of the paradigm shift is changing the way that resource allocation discussions take place. Financial problems are also effectively hidden and obscured because the budget process allows for it. Line item budgeting, incremental budgeting, zero-based budgeting were each attempts to better understand "how" money is spent, but these methods fail to address a more fundamental question: "why" money is spent.
 
To the point of the Volcker-Ravitch report, the question of whether or not public dollars are being used effectively is not answerable with the tools currently available to elected officials, decision makers, staff and citizens. 
 
Priority Based Budgeting provides a comprehensive review of the entire organization, identifying every program offered, identifying the costs of every program offered, evaluating the relevance of every program offered on the basis of the community's priorities, and ultimately guiding elected and appointed officials to the policy questions they can answer with the information gained from the Priority Based Budgeting process, such as:
  • What is the local government uniquely qualified to provide, offering the maximum benefit to citizens for the tax dollars they pay?
  • What is the community truly mandated to provide? What does it cost to fulfill those mandates?
  • What programs are most appropriate to fund by establishing or increasing user-fees?
  • What programs are most appropriate for establishing partnerships with other community service providers?
  • What services might the local government consider “getting out of the business” of providing?
  • Where are there apparent overlaps and redundancies in a community because several entities are providing similar services?
  • Where is the local government potentially competing against private businesses within its own community?
Incredibly, earlier this year, as if to accelerate the ushering in of the "New Wave," the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's upgraded the bond rating of Douglas County, Nevada by two levels, from A+ to AA, citing evidence of the County's efforts "to implement several fiscal health practices, including long-range financial forecasting, revenue and expense stabilization, and priority based budgeting." 

The New Wave - Over 70 Communities

It is of utmost importance that all local government communities take to heart the warning and recommendations outlined in the Volcker - Ravitch report. Only the most innovative public entities have made strides in changing their structural approach to long-term fiscal health. And with the economy showing some signs of improvement, many will continue to operate as if to preserve the status quo and vainly wish for increased revenue. This approach represents a philosophy of wishful thinking that will only lead to failure.

The "New Wave" represents efficiency and innovation in this Era of Local Government. The new wave represents a golden opportunity for local government communities. Finding creative, clear, and transparent ways to demonstrate what the next 5 to 10 years might look like is a must if local government professionals are going to address fiscal concerns. All too often, local governments are unable to make sound, timely decisions regarding investing in new resources, starting new programs, or initiating major capital projects because elected officials, local government managers, and staff members are paralyzed by the uncertainty of whether they actually have enough money to appropriate for these purposes.

Local government communities must consider a completely different perspective. In order to achieve success and accept the challenges that are ahead, we must see more clearly how to manage, use, and optimize resources in a much different way than has been done in the past. This new environment demands a new (economic) vision of the future.

Local governments choosing to implement the concepts of Fiscal Health as a treatment regiment are making substantial progress because they are doing the analytical work required to more accurately diagnosis the reasons behind their fiscal issues and then determining the best treatments that lead to a viable cure. Once an organization is on the road to being fiscally healthy, it can then become more financially sustainable by implementing a Fiscal Wellness regimen centered around the principles of Priority Based Budgeting.

The mission driven Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB) believes that every local government community has the potential to achieve fiscal health and wellness. We proudly offer our technical and advisory services to help any local government organization address its fiscal realities both in the short term (Fiscal Health) and long term (Fiscal Wellness) through innovative and creative leading practices that are actively being implemented across the country.

The Center for Priority Based Budgeting has developed the Fiscal Health and Wellness© process to help cities, counties, school districts and other non-profit agencies find answers to the most relevant questions of the day:
  • How can we best address our "budget crisis"?
  • How can our organization "spend within its means"?
  • How do we allocate scarce resources to top priority programs?
  • How can we link the budget with our strategic goals/objectives and with performance measures?
  • How does our organization head down a path of long-term financial sustainability?
The most innovative public entities managed to take advantage of the economic downturn, almost as if it were an opportunity to seize instead of a problem to overcome. These organizations leveraged a state of crisis to obliterate the status quo, ushering in new ways of doing business and achieving better results for their citizens, despite a scarcity of resources. In short, they've revolutionized how community's leverage resources to embrace a "new wave" in local government. 

Keep an eye on the CPBB blog for further updates. Sign-up for our social media pages so you stay connected with TEAM CPBB!

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If you're thinking of jumping into the world of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting we would certainly like to be part of your efforts! Contact us to schedule a free webinar and identify the best CPBB service option(s) to meet your organization's particular needs.

 

"DATA VISUALIZATION" for Local Government

Monday, November 10, 2014

In Bainbridge Island, WA, Even Citizens Blog About Priority Based Budgeting!


"I still have a lot to learn, but I can now see several advantages to linking our revision of the Comprehensive Plan to the budgeting system.  As different as they are, both the Comp Plan and the budget framework are toolkits for planning and managing our civic life; each ought to be consistent with the other.  Both are asset maps, describing what goes on in our community, and both also describe goals and aspirations – “the way it’s s’posed to be.”

One of our most recent successful partnerships has been with the City of Bainbridge Island, WA. They have been working hard since spring 2014 to implement priority based budgeting (PBB) in their community. And have been very successful in doing so (see recent article Long-Term Financial Sustainability through Priority Based Budgeting in the City of Bainbridge Island, WA).


The City is now focusing on early 2015 to begin the next iteration of the priority based budgeting process. The next iteration for Bainbridge Island includes a citizen engagement component in the form of multiple public forums. These forums will provide an opportunity for the City to transparently ensure that the update to the Comprehensive Plan (linked to the city's priority based budgeting framework) are consistent with what the citizens of the community expect from their local government.

And the citizens of Bainbridge Island appear receptive and supportive of the cities efforts. One example is a recent blog post on the Sustainable Bainbridge blog. We don't often see heavy citizen blog activity supporting local government decisions, much less support for the alignment of the City's Comprehensive Plan and priority based budgeting framework. It is typically a more wonkish subject than most citizens have time to dive into. But the individual in this case certainly did his homework and we applaud his feedback! See full post below.

From Sustainable Bainbridge blog: 


Are you familiar with COBI’s Priority Based Budgeting http://www.bainbridgewa.gov/633/Priority-Based-Budgeting.) system? It's a new way of
thinking about the City’s biannual budget, adopted in the Spring of this year, and it looks like an excellent set of tools for planning and funding the City’s necessary and discretionary operations.  (For more information, go to the City website:

There’s a reason for my digression: I’ve mentioned COBI’s budgeting system because its key elements will be used to organize the six public forums.  In a graphic display that you will find on the COBI website, the City’s services are organized in six categories: Safe City; Healthy and Attractive Community; Green, Well-Planned Community; Vibrant Economy; Reliable Infrastructure & Connected Mobility; and Good Governance.

Starting out clueless about this new budgeting system, I was somewhat dubious about its relevance to the update process: I thought it would add an extra layer of complexity to a project that is already awfully complicated.

I still have a lot to learn, but I can now see several advantages to linking our revision of the Comprehensive Plan to the budgeting system.  As different as they are, both the Comp Plan and the budget framework are toolkits for planning and managing our civic life; each ought to be consistent with the other.  Both are asset maps, describing what goes on in our community, and both also describe goals and aspirations – “the way it’s s’posed to be.”

Using the budgeting system as a frame of reference for re-thinking the Comprehensive Plan may help to bring our ideas and our language down to earth, focused primarily upon the City’s core responsibilities.  (Pragmatism is, I hope, one of the community values that will be exhibited throughout this project.)  The update process could also test the will and ability of our City Council and the COBI staff to deliver on the commitments that the budgeting system lays out.

* * *

I’ve now said more than once that throughout the long update process, the entire COBI apparatus (the City Manager and administrative staff, the Council, and the Planning Commission) will be on trial in the eyes of the general public.  I say that not to be cranky, but in a good way, as a true believer in good governance and long range planning.

As you’ll see if you visit the City’s website and its description of Priority Based Budgeting, the page describing Good Governance explains what that shiny concept means in an array of specific commitments.  One of them reads, “Supports decision-making with timely and accurate short-term and long-range analysis that enhances vision and planning.”

Another says that the City “fosters trust and transparency by ensuring accountability, efficiency, integrity, innovation and best practices in all operations.”

These commitments pertain directly to what’s involved – and what’s at stake – in the Comprehensive Plan update.  These are promises to keep.


Keep an eye on the CPBB blog for further updates. Sign-up for our social media pages so you stay connected with TEAM CPBB!

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If you're thinking of jumping into the world of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting we would certainly like to be part of your efforts! Contact us to schedule a free webinar and identify the best CPBB service option(s) to meet your organization's particular needs.

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Priority Based Budgeting - Innovation & Implementation Beyond Cities and Counties


At the Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB), we're proud of our work assisting dozens of
cities and counties across North America fundamentally change their approach to resource alignment through Priority Based Budgeting (PBB). PBB contributes to a communities long-term financial sustainability and allows communities to better serve their residents in the most effective, efficient and fiscally responsible manner possible. The City of Boulder, Colorado recently stated that "priority based budgeting is the "framework" in which all budget decisions are made."

We developed Priority-Based Budgeting in 2009 due to the very fact that nothing else existed within local government public finance that truly is scalable, transferable and effective. And our work in assisting over 70 city and county local government communities, of different geographies, demographics and economies, across the US and Canada, successfully implement this best and leading practice substantiates the demise of the myth that little can be replicated across local government communities.

What excites us so much now is discovering how truly scalable, transferable and effective priority based budgeting can be not only for cities and counties, but beyond! Local government is not specifically confined to cities and counties, but also represents school districts, utility districts, fire districts, special districts and a variety of public authorities, boards and commissions. There are over 50,000 of these "special districts" across the US which are using public dollars to provide some level of public service. And now this sector of local government is also discovering the power of priority based budgeting!

Mountain View Fire Rescue (MVFR), a fire protection district based out of Longmont, Colorado, is the latest "special district" to successfully implement priority based budgeting. MVFR is a full service fire department tasked with the "care and safety of 50,000 permanent residents and a commuting population of more than 60,000 daily. The district has seven fire stations located strategically throughout its 184-square-mile district."

MVFR has recently published an article on how they've successfully implemented priority based budgeting. MVFR states, "Over the past year MVFR has worked with the Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPPB) to offer a clearer, more transparent picture of our Organization’s fiscal health.  MVFR is the first independent Fire District in North America that has taken the steps to examine our financial health from a new angle to ensure we are providing the utmost transparency to our citizens.

The CPPB has provided us with the tools and techniques needed to assess and monitor the District’s picture of fiscal health.  They have assisted MVFR in clearly defining 5 goals and objectives that lead to a process that prioritizes spending to align with these goals. 


MVFR has always placed a strong emphasis on superior financial management and we are prudent with taxpayer’s dollars.  Using Priority Based Budgeting gives us another set of tools to bring more transparency to our business and assist us with analyzing and improving on the financial health for the MVFR District." To read the full article and see a larger image of the above graphic click here.

We're also proud to announce that we've partnered with JEFFCO Public Schools in Colorado to launch priority based budgeting in our first school district! Jeffco has been providing education in Colorado for over 60 years. They serve nearly 85,000 students representing approximately 9 percent of all K-12 students in the State. And with a budget of nearly 1 billion dollars, this is a fantastic opportunity to ensure these resources are strategically invested in Colorado's students (through priority based budgeting).
 

Priority Based Budgeting is a unique and innovative approach being used by local governments across the Country to match available resources with community priorities, provide information to elected officials that lead to better informed decisions, meaningfully engage citizens in the budgeting process and, finally, escape the traditional routine of basing "new" budgets on revisions to the "old" budget.  This holistic approach helps to provide elected officials and other decision-makers with a "new lens" through which to frame better-informed financial and budgeting decisions and helps ensure that a community is able to identify and preserve those programs and services that are most highly valued.  

The underlying philosophy of priority based budgeting is about how a government entity should invest resources to meet its stated objectives. It helps us to better articulate why the services we offer exist, what price we pay for them, and, consequently, what value they offer citizens. The principles associated with this philosophy of priority based budgeting are:

• Prioritize Services. Priority based budgeting evaluates the relative importance of individual programs and services rather than entire departments. It is distinguished by prioritizing the services a government provides, one versus another.
• Do the Important Things Well. Cut Back on the Rest. In a time of revenue decline, a traditional budget process often attempts to continue funding all the same programs it funded last year, albeit at a reduced level (e.g. across-the-board budget cuts). Priority based budgeting identifies the services that offer the highest value and continues to provide funding for them, while reducing service levels, divesting, or potentially eliminating lower value services.
• Question Past Patterns of Spending. An incremental budget process doesn’t seriously question the spending decisions made in years past. Priority based budgeting puts all the money on the table to encourage more creative conversations about services.
• Spend Within the Organization’s Means. Priority based budgeting starts with the revenue available to the government, rather than last year’s expenditures, as the basis for decision making.
• Know the True Cost of Doing Business. Focusing on the full costs of programs ensures that funding decisions are based on the true cost of providing a service.
• Provide Transparency of Community Priorities. When budget decisions are based on a well-defined set of community priorities, the government’s aims are not left open to interpretation.
• Provide Transparency of Service Impact. In traditional budgets, it is often not entirely clear how funded services make a real difference in the lives of citizens. Under priority based budgeting, the focus is on the results the service produces for achieving community priorities.
• Demand Accountability for Results. Traditional budgets focus on accountability for staying within spending limits. Beyond this, priority based budgeting demands accountability for results that were the basis for a service’s budget allocation.

Priority Based Budgeting has now been successfully implemented in over 70 local government
communities coast-to-coast. We take pride in our partnership with these CPBB communities in an effort to improve a community's fiscal health for the benefit of the entire community. 

The core CPBB concepts of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting are truly inspiring a new wave of municipal fiscal stewardship. A complete revolution in how local governments utilize their limited resources to the benefit of the communities they serve. 

This "New Wave," the fundamental paradigm shift in municipal financial stewardship, must be accepted if local governments are to be financially viable and able to create the types of communities their citizens are proud to call home.

Local government communities must consider a completely different perspective. In order to achieve success and accept the challenges that are ahead, we must see more clearly how to manage, use, and optimize resources in a much different way than has been done in the past.  

This new environment demands a new (economic) vision of the future. And that vision is created through priority based budgeting.
 
Keep an eye on the CPBB blog for further updates. Sign-up for our social media pages so you stay connected with TEAM CPBB!

Follow Us on FacebookFollow Us on Google+Follow Us on TwitterFollow Us on LinkedInFollow Us on RSS

If you're thinking of jumping into the world of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting we would certainly like to be part of your efforts! Contact us to schedule a free webinar and identify the best CPBB service option(s) to meet your organization's particular needs.

 
 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Whose Turn? It's Gaston County, NC's Turn to Implement Priority Based Budgeting!


 "More than seventy cities and counties have adopted PBB as a means of better aligning available resources with local government priorities. In this time of increasing budgetary challenges, innovative approaches like PBB offer the hope of preserving vital local government services."


In our experience at the Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB), we don't see enough city or county leaders writing articles in support of local initiatives they find exciting and innovative. Not that local governments aren't doing exciting things, but we suspect it is likely more of an issue involving lack of time rather than interest.

So when we come across such articles, and especially when the topic revolves around priority based budgeting (PBB), we throw our full support behind the local leader turned author. Recently, Gaston County, NC County Manager Earl Mathers penned an article for the Gaston Gazette (My Turn: Gaston County implements Priority Based Budgeting).

This article (below) articulates County Manager Mathers experience implementing priority based budgeting and its positive impact on Gaston County, NC.  

Congratulations to County Manager Mathers for his excellent article and his leadership, and the leadership of his staff and elected officials, in implementing PBB on behalf of the County and the citizens of this beautiful community.

My Turn: Gaston County implements Priority Based Budgeting


Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) is the brainchild of Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian, two former county finance professionals who launched the Center for Priority Based Budgeting in Denver, Colo. several years ago. Since that time, PBB was identified by the International City and County Manager’s Association (ICMA) as a “leading practice” and has also been endorsed by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).

More than seventy cities and counties have adopted PBB as a means of better aligning available resources with local government priorities. In this time of increasing budgetary challenges, innovative approaches like PBB offer the hope of preserving vital local government services.

Gaston County began to consider PBB as an alternative approach to budgeting early in 2014 with the approval of the Board of County Commissioners. Fundamentally, PBB is designed to optimize the use of tax payer dollars and promote better alignment between programs and community values.

Unlike traditional approaches to budgeting which usually feature incremental changes to line item
budgets, PBB allows for a more comprehensive review of all programs. Through the various stages of PBB, staff members and the governing body are able to engage in meaningful dialogue concerning the numerous programs that comprise the activity of a typical local government and determine the degree to which those programs fulfill community priorities.

The goal of PBB is to identify those program areas that most closely align with Board established priorities and direct adequate resources to those areas. Conversely, programs determined to be less in alignment may receive less funding, be eliminated entirely if they prove to be duplicative or obsolete.

There is also the possibility that lower priority programs can be targeted for partnerships with other groups in the community that provide similar services. This process enables the local government to become more strategic in its approach to service delivery while conserving scarce resources.

PBB is an enlightening process for all those involved since it facilitates an objective prioritization process which provides better information on program efficacy. Unlike the private sector, local governments are mandated by the state and federal government to perform the majority of their programs. However, PBB also allows participants to determine just how much of a particular mandate they are obligated to fulfill.

A large number of Gaston County department heads and others have devoted a significant amount of time to PBB activities such as “result mapping” and “peer review teams.” They are to be commended for their efforts.

In future budget years, Gaston County is likely to create enhanced performance metrics to be used in conjunction with the PBB process. It is also anticipated that greater citizen involvement will be a feature of the process in the future.

PBB is compatible with other good governance strategies that will enhance Gaston County’s ability to meet the needs of our citizens as a responsive high performance public organization.

Mathers is County Manager for Gaston County.


Keep an eye on the CPBB blog for further updates. Sign-up for our social media pages so you stay connected with TEAM CPBB!

Follow Us on FacebookFollow Us on Google+Follow Us on TwitterFollow Us on LinkedInFollow Us on RSS

If you're thinking of jumping into the world of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting we would certainly like to be part of your efforts! Contact us to schedule a free webinar and identify the best CPBB service option(s) to meet your organization's particular needs.

 

Monday, October 27, 2014

High Five to Boulder, CO! The City Unveils 2015 Budget Based Upon 5th Straight Year of Priority Based Budgeting!


"Priority based budgeting contributes to the city's long-term financial sustainability and allows the City of Boulder to serve its residents in the most effective, efficient and fiscally responsible manner possible."


At the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, we pride ourselves on being dependable long-term partners with the communities we work with across the nation. We have strived to develop our core concepts of Fiscal Health through Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) to be the most effective local government budgeting, planning and economic forecasting tools available.

We are often asked if our tools are scalable and replicable from one community or public entity to another. While we have always been confident that priority based budgeting truly is the most effective, scalable and replicable public finance budgeting tool available, the real proof is demonstrated by the size, diversity, geographic location and sheer variety of the over 70 communities who have implemented PBB.

And now we have yet another case study that demonstrates the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of priority based budgeting. The City of Boulder, Colorado first implemented PBB in 2011. And now in their fifth straight fiscal year of utilizing priority based budgeting to develop their annual budget, Boulder depends upon PBB as "the cornerstone of the city's budget process," and "the framework within which all budget decisions are made."

These are powerful statements from a city that is consistently listed as one of the top 10 best communities to live in in the US. We at the CPBB are so proud of how effectively the city's staff, leadership and elected officials have developed PBB into their work, and are honored to be partners with the City of Boulder, Colorado.

To learn more about the city's utilization of PBB in their 2015 budget read the summary (below) or click here for their full 2015 Budget Overview document.

Priority Based Budgeting

Purpose of Priority Based Budgeting

Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) builds on the city's prior Business Plan, which separates goals and actions into near term versus long term frames. PBB harnesses the policies and values of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan and department strategic and master plans. As the cornerstone of the city's budget process, PBB gives the city three central benefits:
  • Identifies key Council and community goals (see the next section on PBB Results and Attributes)
  • Evaluates the impact of these goals of city programs and services
  • Provides a tool for strategic decision-making in funding, adding and/or eliminating programs and services, and making more effective use of the city's limited resources  

 2015 PBB Outcomes


Now integrated into its fifth consecutive year of budget development, PBB is the framework in which all budget decisions are made. In the 2015 budget process, the city engaged in a streamlined PBB process, recognizing the significant work that had been done in prior years, as well as the demands on staff due to flood recovery and the implementation of an integrated Finance and Human Resources business solutions software package. The 2014 budget invested primarily in enhancing existing high priority programs, with the goal of an increased impact on achieving the PBB identified results. As a result, the 2015 PBB process was able to maintain the quartile information previously identified and the 2015 budget process focused on continued investment in high quartile programs and services, reflecting community priorities.

The city continues to have a favorable distribution of resources between the highest priority (Quartile 1) and lowest priority (Quartile 4) programs. Fewer resources are invested in programs yielding lower impact on community values. A listing of all 2015 programs by quartile is included in the following section (page 55). Community programs are those providing direct service to residents and businesses, while governance programs are those providing support services within the city to other departments.




Strategic Planning



This graph shows the distribution of proposed 2015 budget additions by Quartile. The largest amount of investment is in Quartile 1, with a decreasing amount in Quartile 2, 3 and 4 respectively. Taking into account inflation, the actual dollar increase in Quartile 4 funding actually represents flat to decreased investment levels.

Another way to look at the resource shifts achieved by using PBB is shown in Table 2-01 below. The use of PBB in the 2015 budget process achieved a reduced proportion of city resources being allocated to Quartile 3 and 4 programs, little to no change in the proportion of resources allocated to Quartile 2 programs and an increased proportion of resources being allocated to Quartile 1 programs.



Budget Allocation By PBB Quartile


Final program scores created four Quartiles. The highest rated programs are rated Quartile 1. Figures 2-03 through 2-05 below demonstrate that the city is recommending an allocation of greater financial resources to programs identified as highly influential in achieving city results (Quartiles 1 and 2). Priority Based Budgeting provides the city with an additional tool to identify efficiencies and ensure that the city provides priority services to residents and businesses.







To better understand how the City of Boulder utilizes priority based budgeting as the "framework in which all budget decisions are made," click here!

Congratulations again to the City of Boulder, Colorado! You remain a true priority based budgeting all-star and a leading PBB practitioner in local government fiscal stewardship! 



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