Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Opening Night for Monterey Citizen Forums to Engage Community in Priority Based Budgeting Process

Monterey uses play money to help with budget issues
City asks residents for value ranking

The city of Monterey is inviting residents and taxpayers to use $500 of play money to help with the city's next budget. The city is facing an estimated $5 million budget gap when it starts putting together its 2011-12 budget, the latest in a string of spending squeezes.

As a result, the city is using a different approach to put together its next budget, a technique called "priority-based budgeting" that is being used by a growing number of public agencies around the country.

The process recasts budgets into programs, rather than line items, and asks residents to rank the programs by the value they place on them.

"We started down this road last year after last year's budget was wrapped up," said city spokeswoman Anne McGrath.

The program was launched in early October when about 60people participated in a kickoff session where they "put more meat on the bones" of overarching city goals set by the City Council in 2007.

At next week's follow-up sessions, people will use their imaginary tax dollars to allocate spending among about 150programs the city provides.

"They are given their hypothetical $500 and asked, 'If this was the tax money you contributed to Monterey, where would you put it?'" McGrath said.

The public's rankings will be used in putting together a draft budget, which will be released next spring.

The city is using Colorado consultants Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian on the budgeting approach. About 18 other cities are using their model,




including Walnut Creek and Boulder, Colo., McGrath said.

The city is spending about $20,000 for the budget consultants, she said.

Monterey's total operating budget for the current fiscal year is $101million, with a general fund budget of $58.4million.

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