Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christiansburg, VA Embarks on Priority Based Budgeting: "This gives some rhyme and reason to trying to avoid the situation we've had in past years"

Christiansburg Town Council votes to buy budget help -
By Lerone Graham
The Roanoke Times

CHRISTIANSBURG -- Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to contract with a not-for-profit organization to help with the budget process.

"We have to find a new way to do our budget. The way we've been doing it is not going to work," said Finance Director Val Tweedie.

The Center for Priority Based Budgeting consults with governing bodies to assess departments, goals and needs in reference to spending, while helping establish a budget process that works best for the municipality.

The firm would use a detailed scoring system for each department and various initiatives to prioritize them based on performance and need when considering the budget.

Hiring the company would cost the town about $22,000, which would be pulled from reserves.

Interim Town Manager Barry Helms and Tweedie would go through a variety of training sessions so that the plan can be implemented for tackling the budget, starting with fiscal year 2011-12.

Contracting with the company would allow for a "healthier" budget process, Tweedie said.

She said in the past the town had enough money to go around.

With money tighter the past few years, the town has had to take a number of measures to cut costs. Some of these measures included freezing positions, hiring and salary freezes, workforce reductions and early retirement incentives.

Key points Tweedie said the town should emphasize moving forward are: spending within its means, incorporating long-term planning and economic analysis, transparency, and establishing and maintaining reserve funds.

Town Council passed the current budget in June, which is later than members expected, with the fiscal year beginning July 1. Major amendments were made into the fall. The council has since stressed at multiple meetings that they must start the budget process sooner next year.
Councilman Brad Stipes said using this company is a step in the right direction.

"This gives some rhyme and reason to trying to avoid the situation we've had in past years," he said.

Vice Mayor and finance committee member Mike Barber said he's "extremely pleased" with the idea.

"We can't go through another budget process like we have the last two years," he said.

Tweedie said the company is prepared to get started as early as this month.

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