Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Christiansburg Gains Community Support for Priority Based Budgeting Approach

Christiansburg Tries New Approach on Town Budget

Christiansburg Tries New Approach on Town Budget
Posted: Mar 08, 2011 4:23 PM MST

Christiansburg, VA - As governments look for new and better ways to stretch your tax dollars, many municipalities around the country are turning to a relatively new approach. It's making your money go farther, while bringing residents into the decision-making process.

The town of Christiansburg is trying what's called Priority Based Budgeting. The idea is to establish priorities within town departments that will help the decision makers avoid often counterproductive across the board cuts.

Carol Lindstrom is one of those neighbors that spends a lot of time holding the Christiansburg accountable.

"I'm just the shy quiet-type and never say a word about anything. Just ask anyone on town council," Lindstrom said.

It's the focus of her blog, which isn't always critical, especially since the town started moving toward Priority Based Budgeting, something she says is a big step in the right direction.

"The biggest thing it offers the citizens is the citizens have the opportunity to have a say in how their tax money is spent," Lindstrom said.

The idea first gained traction when acting town manager, Barry Helms, was introduced to the concept during a work related webinar in 2008. But it was painful budget decisions in 2010 that initiated the change.

"It wasn't easy. In fact it was very painful so I said, 'Let's try something different,'" acting town manager Barry Helms said.

So now the town has sent out some 9,000 surveys for citizens to fill out. The idea is to spend 100 fantasy dollars on six different goals the town has provided; information that will help leaders prioritize services based on response.

"We then take those results and compile them and use that when helping to determine what our citizens think our priorities should be for our spending," Christiansburg Public Relations Officer Becky Wilburn said.

Trimming only where trimming is needed within a department based in part on the values and preferences of the community.

"It's just absolutely amazing. I think it shows a clear resolve on part of the town to make sure that its citizens are participating in their government," Lindstrom said.

So far more than 200 people have responded to the survey. Town leaders will be taking those surveys through March 25.

If you want to learn more about Priority Based Budgeting go to

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