Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Participatory Budgeting Meets Priority Based Budgeting in Douglas County

Citizen engagement in the budget process has been increasingly of interest in our work at the Center for Priority Based Budgeting over the last few years. The logic follows that the more citizens can authentically contribute and influence the decisions being made by their government, the more ownership they might take in their community. Trust increases with transparency. Compassion comes with trust. The benefits are undeniable.

Still, organizations ask us, "but what about the risks inherent in citizen engagement? What is the right role for citizens?" We're asked, "to what degree is it appropriate, safe, meaningful, realistic and effective to have citizens participate in decision making?" Pete Peterson, one of the nation's leading experts in the field and Executive Director of Pepperdine University's Davenport Institute of Public Policy pushed us to recognize the difference between citizen engagment as a means to an end, or an end in of itself.

In our work, we continue to strive for answers to these questions - they are the right questions. With the potential for such great outcomes, if we can answer them correctly and involve citizens in more meanigful and influential ways, we are moved to try and answer the questions.

For at least a glimpse at what is possible, and an inspirational glimpse at that, we are pleased to share with you Douglas County, Nevada's experience in putting citizens in the driver's seat of their Priority Based Budgeting process. Special thanks to Peak Democracy - our partners in the development of the County Budget Challenge.

Click Here for the Article Just Published in the Carson Valley's Record Courier
NOVEMBER, 30 2012

Mandee Guariglia has lived in Carson Valley for 14 years. She and her husband have two boys, and she works part-time. Despite her busy schedule, Guariglia took time out Thursday to participate in the Douglas County budget challenge at the Minden library branch.

“It sounded like a good idea, to put your voice where you want taxpayers money to go,” she said.

Guariglia spent about 15 minutes on a computer provided by the county allocating a fictional $500 to various county programs.

“It's a good thing I'm not in charge of budgets,” she said, as she figured out where to allocate the money. “It gets you

She invested most of the money in public safety.

“I put money to keep the area safe, for preventative measures. And to preserve the land. I don't want us to become overrun with cement slabs and empty buildings.”

Guariglia was assisted by county management analyst Kathy Lewis, but said she found the process easy to understand.

“I don't think people speak up enough nowadays,” Guariglia said. “Our elected officials don't know what you want if you don't speak up.”

Residents have until 5 p.m. Monday to complete the Douglas County Budget Challenge on the county Web site. The results will be presented to county commissioners at a special meeting 1 p.m. Dec. 10. Commissioners will review the results of the survey and work done by county departments and elected officials to identify and prioritize programs on Dec. 10.

“We greatly appreciate everyone who has participated in the budget challenge and encourage those who have not to
please consider doing so before 5 p.m. on Monday,” said Christine Vuletich, assistant county manager and chief financial

The said the most consistent investment by taxpayers has been “reliable, well-maintained infrastructure” — that
includes parks, transportation, roads, water, and stormwater management, Vuletich said. She said Guariglia's reaction to the process was typical.

“That's what everyone says,” Vuletich said, referring to the complexities of budgeting. “People have made very
thoughtful and interesting comments.”

Priorities the county focused on include economic vitality, growth and development, natural environment, resources and
cultural heritage, infrastructure, safe community and financial stability.

The online forum is run by Peak Democracy, a company whose mission is to broaden civic engagement in local

Douglas County is getting national attention for its effort after the International City/County Manager's Association
published an item in its newsletter about the county's outreach.

“So far, the feedback we have received for people who have completed the budget challenge has been very positive,”
Vuletich said. “I think it is likely that the county will be using this online forum for other topics in the future as well.”
The budget challenge is part of the county's implementation of priority-based budgeting for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Under the direction of the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, Douglas County began preparations a year ago to move
away from traditional across-the-board cuts.

“Targeted cuts require a serious discussion of community values, relative benefits of different services, and long-term
implications,” according to the center.


Go to, and select "Budget Challenge" on the left side of the screen. Complete the on-line
registration. Registration information is secure and will not be shared with any outside party. The physical address will
allow responses from geographic areas within the county to be viewed, but the county and public cannot see the names
of individual participants.

A community workshop is 1 p.m. Dec. 10, Emergency Operations Center, 1694 County Road, Minden, to review results.
Participants can choose from:
-- Quick Version (estimated completion time 5 minutes), distribute your $500 among the six community results, or
establish new priorities.
-- Extended Version (estimated completion time 15 minutes), distribute your $500 to more detailed sub-results within
each community result or establish new priorities.

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