Wednesday, April 20, 2011

City of Grand Island Launches Into Another Year of Priority Based Budgeting with Deeper Review of Results

Grand Island's priorities remain the same > The Independent > News > Local
By Tracy Overstreet, Wednesday, April 20, 2011 10:12 AM CDT

A safe community remained the overall No. 1 city priority in a resurvey of the Grand Island City Council, but four new ideas were added to the 21 priorities the council first set two years ago. Those new priorities were immigration control, regional travel/airport development, rightsizing government/outsourcing, and having representation for the city in higher government. The new ideas were write-ins to the survey the council took over the weekend as part of the "$500 exercise" for the city's program prioritization process.

Program prioritization is a budgeting mechanism that begins with asking how much money the city has available, as opposed to how much money it needs, said consultant Jon Johnson.

He and Chris Fabian of the Center for Priority Based Budgeting in Denver began working with the council in 2009 to determine what the city's core functions were and how best to allocate the city's limited resources to those functions.
It's a process that is particularly helpful in reshaping government during lean economic times, Johnson said, by making the best use of a city's resources.
Once the amount of money available is determined, the second question is "what to keep" as opposed to the approach most elected officials take in asking "what to cut," Johnson said.

He and Fabian demonstrated a refined program prioritization tool that uses spreadsheets and filters to essentially draw a concrete "picture" of the most demanded programs a city has, the programs with the fewest partners to provide the service and those programs that generate a revenue as opposed to those that are a cost only. The filters can also display which city programs are mandated by state or federal government.

Filtering through all that information doesn't provide answers, but rather generates questions for elected leaders to answer, such as why the city is providing a service that has little demand and no funding, Johnson said.

Answering the questions can lead to strategic cuts of little-appreciated programs while saving precious resources for the most-needed, most-demanded core city functions, he told the council during a Tuesday night study session.

"We don't want to become mediocre at everything we do," Johnson said, noting that across-the-board budget cuts can create mediocrity.

Because the council had set goals two years ago, Johnson and Fabian said the council first needed to revalidate its goals. Each council member was asked to allocate $500 of imaginary money to the 21 previous priorities -- or to come up with new ones if demands have changed.

The end result was that each of the overall four priorities remained in the same rank as before -- although a safe community rose in importance, but remained No. 1, and quality of life dropped slightly, but remained in third position. The second overall priority was strategic, sustainable and maintained development. The fourth overall priority was stewardship of the environment.

City department directors will review the voting Wednesday and work with Johnson and Fabian on how the results can be built into the start of the 2011-2012 city budget.

Here's how 9 of the 10 Grand Isand City Council members and the mayor voted on the city's priorities in Tuesday night's $500 exercise. The individual voting was anonymous.

Safe community: $1,670

$575 -- Protects its citizens, proactively prevents crime and enforces the law.

$345 -- Proactively prepares, promptly alerts and swiftly responds to emergencies.

$275 -- Protects the physical and environmental health of the community.

$195 -- Encourages a community that feels safe, accepting and connected.

$150 -- Facilitates and enhances transportation and mobility options.

New addition $50 -- Immigration control.

Examples of programs: 911 communications; animal control; Central District Health Department; city code prosecution; child abuse unit; commercial plan review; crime investigation; drug enforcement unit; electrical inspection; emergency management; fire and ambulance response; fire inspection; gang unit; hydrant maintenance; liquor licensing; police patrol; public nuisance inspections; school resource officers; snow removal and ice control; traffic control; traffic signs and signals.

Strategic, sustainable and maintained development: $1,405

$580 -- Encourages sustainable and affordable development supported by sufficient city services and infrastructure.

$245 -- Recruits, retains and revitalizes a business community that provides opportunities for a skilled, quality workforce.

$220 -- Leverages regional and community partnerships.

$210 -- Promotes well-regulated, strategically planned and future-focused development.

$130 -- Enhances identity as a regional trade center and encourages tourism opportunities.

New addition $20 -- Regional air travel/airport development.

Examples of programs: Civil engineering; conditional use permits; development review; economic development corp.; land use planning and zoning; maintenance of wells; subdivision review and regulation; sewer taps; traffic engineering.

Quality of life: $1,274

$369 -- Develops and maintains safe, reliable and efficient roadway, storm water and public transit infrastructure.

$241 -- Provides opportunities and access to services that promote the health, safety, well being and basic needs of citizens.

$211 -- Provides opportunities and facilities for safe, inclusive and diverse recreational activities.

$161 -- Supports and encourages access to quality employment and educational opportunities to sustain the community.

$131 -- Promotes and maintains an attractive place to live.

$101 -- Promotes cultural enrichment and diversity, supports the arts and encourages events and activities that stimulate the community.

Examples of programs: Building inspection and permitting; Central District Health Department; code enforcement; Community Fieldhouse; Economic Development Corp.; Island Oasis water park; landscape and forestry; library materials circulation; manufactured home park regulations; housing inspections; pavement repair; public computer access; right-of-way maintenance; sign permits; sports field management; teen library programs; swimming lessons.

Stewardship of the environment: $770

$240 -- Manages and mitigates factors that impact environmental quality and sustainability.

$195 -- Promotes and regulates a clean, orderly and ecologically balanced community.

$155 -- Controls and abates threats to the environment caused by nature.

$95 -- Provides for the renewal of the environment through recycling and reuse.

$85 -- Encourages energy conservation and efficiency through education, incentives and the provision of alternative solutions.

Examples of programs: Flood plain management; landfill operations; one-call locates; plumbing permits; sanitary sewer operations and maintenance; storm water management; storm drainage; storm water quality; street sweeping.

Other new additions

$10 -- Right-size government/outsource noncritical functions.

$2 -- Representation in higher government.

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