What's New in City Design

Priority Based Budgeting

Priority Based Budgeting scrutinizes government program performance in meeting important community goals given budget & resource constraints.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Open discussion on community priorities: Priority based budgeting forces open conversations on ranking priorities & setting directions for the future. This provides a chance to talk about risks in a problem-solving manner, including mandated programs which may need new approaches to meeting required outcomes.

Program assessment: Older programs get reassessed for effectiveness in meeting current or fast-changing needs. This also provide the chance to revisit the community's definitions of performance and use new assessment & trade-off tools. 

Busting budget silos: Instead of setting budgets for individual Departments, PBB focuses on how goals are addressed by multiple entities. This can eliminate redundant services, costs and complexity for the public.

Demystifying the budget & process: Use priority based budgeting to simplify the presentation of revenue, process, spending & trends. Use the process to showcase programs & how government works.

Tips & Techniques

Beginning the process & setting goals: Because priorities naturally force tradeoffs, establishing a compelling purpose and goals are essential.  Goals, set by elected officials, set the stage for defining performance with the community & creating a credible scoring system.

Steps in the process: (1) Elected officials set community & internal governing goals for the process, in some cases aided by a steering committee. (2) The city validates the goals with the community, further defining desired outcomes and priorities, (3) Program inventory including responsible Department(s), (4) Scoring, (5) Report to the public ahead of budget hearings & decisions. 

Budget simulations with the public: Cities often give citizens a set amount of money to allocate among programs. This can include role playing games where citizens "spend" money in someone else's shoes.

Example scoring categories:(1) whether the program is under a mandate, (2) program cost recovery, (3) a program that meets multiple goals, (4) goals met by other sectors, (5) 

Hot Buttons: Community & internal opposition to cutting programs, ensuring all voices heard, meeting the needs of the most vulnerable citizens, the process viewed as veil for slashing the budget.


Center for Priority Based Budgeting

The Budget Story: Walnut Creek CA US

Image: Walnut Creek CA