Friday, March 29, 2013

PBB Explores Role of Local Government in Ensuring Quality Education

In Part #4 of the National League of Cities Report, the focus is on Education as a policy priority, and once again NLC has hit the nail on the head with their perspective. How can local government be a partner in the success of our schools?

In our work implementing Priority Based Budgeting in city and county organizations, a very interesting question tends to emerge: what is the local government’s role in ensuring quality education? In most communities, it is beyond the local government’s sphere of influence to impact education; that’s the role of the school districts. And on the other hand, the success of the school districts has everything to do with the success of the community. What to do?

Fairfield, California

The City of Fairfield is geographically interesting – not far from wine country, neighboring Napa, as well as the City of Vallejo, California. There are few places in the Country who have experienced the type of economic upheaval that this region has gone through, thus the launch of Priority Based Budgeting in the City (see Fairfield PBB article here).

In our work with Fairfield citizens, attempting to define all the influences on the City’s Economic Health Result, something very interesting took place. As citizens and civic leaders spoke of incentive programs to attract new businesses, or services to minimize “red tape” to please existing businesses, another citizen reluctantly spoke up about the role of schools. Families weren’t moving to Fairfield, and in fact some were moving out, in part because of the challenges the school district was having. Incentive programs to attract new businesses sounded fine, but if the company could not be sure that a stable, local workforce would reside to fill jobs, and worse if families were leaving the City, what good would incentives do?

The health and effectiveness of the local education system was at issue, and no amount of businesses incentives could make up for the need to improve the schools. And that’s how Fairfield came to recognize the importance of partnering with schools as an economic issue (as you see in their Result Map, “Promotes Quality Job Creation and Provides a Skilled and Educated Workforce to Fill those Jobs” as a means to achieve a Prosperous Local Economy).

Fort Collins, Colorado

The City of Fort Collins, Colorado was also recently profiled on this blog regarding their unique contribution to the wildly successful business incubator, the Rocky Mountain Innosphere (RMI).

Fundamental to this incredible story is how local government came together with the university to jointly support a business incubator for the creation of new jobs. RMI is not a city program, although the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland are contributors to the partnership. If anything, RMI is the holy grail of the “shared service model” that you hear about from ICMA’s Center for Management Strategies. “The incubator is a private nonprofit corporation. Its operations are funded through private donations and annual contributions from the state government, Colorado State University, local banks, Loveland and the City of Fort Collins.”

The City of Fort Collins, just like every other city and county we’ve helped to implement PBB, also strives to achieve (in their words) “Economic Health.” It’s a priority (just as you can see from their website, here).

But City leaders were brilliant enough to realize that creating a nirvana of job creation need not come in the shape and size of a City program.

Most interestingly, the City’s share of funding to support RMI scored well in the PBB process – it’s was a high priority. However, using the filters of the PBB Model, it was clear that this was a program that others could offer and were offering in the form of business support (in other words, the City need not be the only player in providing this service), that the City wasn’t mandated to do, and was unlikely to pay for itself. Through the lens of PBB, this points precisely in the direction of a partnership. The role of government, even in a high-priority program, is not always to be the direct service provider; it can be a key partner!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Through a Unique Lens: Safe Communities and Public Safety

The National League of Cities latest "State of Cities" report has shed light on a topic that is of such great importance – the policy priority of achieving "safe communities" in our cities.

As we previously detailed on this blog (NLC and PBB Priorities are in Synch), "Public Safety" is one of the most commonly cited priorities in our work, as well as the findings of NLC's research on "State of the City" addresses across the Country. What is most interesting in NLC's latest report is something that we have found in community after community through the implementation of Priority Based Budgeting – the programs that truly help us achieve a "Safe Community" are not only the programs that immediately come to mind…

How We Achieve Safe Community

The Result Map (right) comes from the City of Cincinnati. Precision in Priority Based Budgeting depends on the clear articulation of the cause and effect relationship between a program and a defined Result. With clearly defined “Result Maps,” detailing the factors that influence the Results the organization is in business to achieve, it can seek to minimize subjectivity in the process of linking those Results to programs or services offered to the community.

In Cincinnati's Result Map, you'll see that there are the obvious elements of public safety included in the map (law enforcement, emergency response, crime prevention). Yet, because we strive for a comprehensively defined result in the Result Map, we also see the often over-looked strategies to achieving a Safe Community that are also vitally important in the City (safe environment, feeling of safety for youth and families, safe water and air, ability to travel safely, etc).

A Means to An End: Public Safety as an Economic Health Strategy

Finally, NLC's report also hit on the interplay between Results, and how achieving one Result may be a means to achieving another Result. CPBB is emphatic about the concept of "leverage" in Priority Based Budgeting - a leveraged program being one that has an influence on achieving multiple Results. As we work with communities to align resources with their priorities, our quest is to pinpoint and highlight those programs that produce the greatest investment - one tax dollar spent on a program that achieves multiple Results is a leveraged tax dollar (its as if the money has been spent twice, or three times to achieve two or even three Results!).

It's a tremendously exciting concept, and therefore the CPBB is extremely enthusiastic to see NLC's report highlight the phenomena that sometimes the achievement of one Results is a means to an end to achieve another Result. Take for instance, the City of Billings, Montana, and their policy priority of achieving "Sustainable Economic Development." While this is an economic result, there are elements of public safety all over this Result Map! To the extent that citizens believe that their community is safe, that it is safe to shop and work downtown, it absolutely has an economic impact - Priority Based Budgeting proves this point again and again.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NLC and PBB Priority Community Policy Results in Synch!

NLC (National League of Cities) has recently evaluated "State of the City" addresses from 30 various communities, and from that analysis something very interesting has emerged – among these disparate communities, nearly all identified 5-6 common community policy priorities. 

At the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, we've worked with over 40+ communities to assist them with identifying their own 5-6 top major policies. At CPBB we refer to these priority public policies as "Results."

What is fascinating is that the 5-6 major policy issues identified by NLC are precisely in line with the most commonly articulated "Results" from communities who implemented Priority Based Budgeting (PBB). These include:
            • Economic Development
            • Public Safety
            • Education
            • Infrastructure
            • Finance 
Resource Alignment with Priorities

It is our quest to understand how dollars are aligned with community priorities, and where we have opportunities to align spending even further. Through the "new lens" of Priority Based Budgeting, we are continuing to find news ways of assessing this alignment - the "Resource Alignment Diagnostic Model" has produced a unique picture, detailing our best choices to reallocate resources when they are less in line with our priorities, to areas of greater return.

What would elected officials, community leaders, administrators and citizens like to see in order to demonstrate that the policy priorities (or "Results) they strive to achieve, are being supported with financial decisions in the budget? We'd love to learn how communities are demonstrating this alignment (and always interested in sharing our approach to this incredible pursuit)
Click here to comment.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

City of Edmonton's PBB focus on walkability supported by newly published 10-year study

The City of Edmonton, who are actively implementing Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) by partnering with the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, has identified walkability as one of their community priorities. This community focus is directly supported by a recently published 10-year study by the University of Melbourne.

Lead researcher Professor Billie Giles-Corti, Director of the McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing at the University of Melbourne, said "The study provided long-term evidence that residents' walking increased with greater availability and diversity of local transport and recreational destinations. The study demonstrates the potential of local infrastructure to support health-enhancing behaviours."

In our work in Priority Based Budgeting, we've seen this once before - in the City of Boulder, Colorado. What’s so unique is the explicit link between the City’s approach to budgeting, and their intended result of a healthier community.

“People here take health and fitness very seriously,” says Steve Mertz, Open Space and Mountain Parks Education and Outreach Coordinator with the City of Boulder. And so does City government.
Just as we’re seeing in Edmonton, the City of Boulder encourages a healthy lifestyle, including enhanced walkability throughout the City through its budgeting process, Priority Based Budgeting.  One of the results against which all 500-plus programs in the City are measured is “A Healthy City and Community.” In other words, the City makes a specific effort to lend support to programs that promote health and fitness within the community.

Congratulations, Edmonton, for your focus on creating a healthier city through improved walkability and urban design!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Center for Priority Based Budgeting

CPBB: "Through the Lens" Update

March 20, 2013

Co-founded in 2010 by:

Chris Fabian & Jon Johnson

The Center for Priority Based Budgeting™ (CPBB), a Denver, Colorado-based non-profit organization established in 2010, provides technical and advisory services to assist local governments, school districts, educational institutions, special districts and other non-profit agencies achieve Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting. This creative and unique process, developed by CPBB, enables communities to reassess their priorities in order to make sound, long-term funding decisions. CPBB has already led over 40 communities through this comprehensive body of work. Learn More

Priority-Based Budgeting
How to Engage Citizens and Elected Officials

EngageIs your "new" budget simply a revised version of your "old" budget? Are your strategies for allocating resources or for implementing cost-cutting measures in line with the priorities of the community and its elected officials?

ICMA's Center for Management Strategies presents Priority-Based Budgeting, the first in a series of web conferences designed to share leading practices for managing local governments.

In this session, you will discuss this holistic approach to budgeting that helps local government managers engage citizens in the budget process for a fiscal outcome that aligns with community priorities and gets buy-in from elected officials.

The speakers:
-    Jon Johnson, co-founder, Center for Priority-Based Budgeting
-    Chris Fabian, co-founder, Center for Priority-Based Budgeting
-    Kathie Novak, former elected official and 2009 president of the National League of Cities

To find out more and sign up for this web conference click here

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

KATHIE NOVAK Joins CPBB as Senior Advisor

KathieThe Center for Priority Based Budgeting is thrilled and honored to announce an exciting new partnership with Kathie Novak, a former long-term Council member, former two-term Mayor of the City of Northglenn, Colorado, and former President of the National League of Cities. She joins CPBB Founders Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian in bringing the dynamic and established concepts of Fiscal Health and Priority Based Budgeting to local governments nationwide. Kathie's wealth of experience and insights from the perspective of an elected official will truly enhance and energize the work of the CPBB. Welcome and congratulations Kathie!

Kathie states, "I so believe in what the Center is doing…helping elected officials and communities really understand their financial situation, better communicate that information to their citizens, and use that information to make the best decisions possible for their communities in light of  changing economic situations.    The tools they have developed help policy makers move from the “What we know we need/would like to do”  to the “How do we actually make it happen.”  I wish I had this available when I was in office!"

Monday, March 18, 2013

Visionary and Monterey's PBB Pioneer, Don Rhoads, Heads to the Hills (Beverly Hills, that is)...

From the Monterey County Herald: "City Manager Fred Meurer credited Rhoads with leading the city through the Great Recession and starting a priority-based budget process, which increased fiscal transparency."

Don Rhoads was one of the first true visionaries in Priority Based Budgeting, who knew immediately that the City of Monterey needed to implement the process. Fred Meurer's quote from the Herald is right on target: Don's leadership and vision is directly responsible for the financial sustainability and success of the City of Monterey through the Great Recession. We could not have been more fortunate than to have worked for Don, and his team, in Monterey.

Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian, Co-Founders of the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, offer this review of our work with the City, as we wish Don the best in Beverly Hills: “We have cut millions of dollars out of the City budget over the last two years, and there really isn’t anything left to cut that won’t be painful for our residents and our employees,” said City Manager Fred Meurer. “That is why we have worked diligently this year to get the all of our stakeholders involved in the priority-based budgeting process.”

In 2010, the City of Monterey engaged staff and residents in a priority-based budgeting process to determine how to best address reduced revenues and a five million dollar budget gap. Rather than make across the board cuts, the city brought in The Center for Priority Based Budgeting to help them engage staff and residents in transparently crafting a budget linked to results and values most important to the community. The city hired CPBB because of the proven and refined process for aligning city resources and services with community values that has been implemented successfully in neighboring California communities. Residents were asked to further define broad goals set by the City Council, and then to prioritize how they wanted their tax dollars spent to achieve those goals.

The City of Monterey chose a two-year implementation process.  For the first year, CPBB was engaged to assist the City in reviewing their strategic Results in the form of “value drivers” and then developing definitions of those value drivers and creating “Result Maps”, conducting an orientation workshop for department directors and one for Council.  The project also called for the project team to coach the City as it developed program inventory listings.

Upon completion of this first phase, the City moved on to the next phase where CPBB assisted the City in the completion of the scoring of programs, conducted a Peer Review process, assisted and facilitated a robust Citizen Engagement process and finally developed the program prioritization arrays by score and by cost for utilization in the City’s budget process.

According to “Strong Cities, Strong State,” a California think-tank: “Using a mathematical model developed by consultants with the Center for Priority-based budgeting, the priorities given to specific City programs were considered by executives and the City Council during budget deliberations. The Monterey City Council adopted a balanced 2011-2012 budget and closed a $5 million gap between expenses and revenues with public support and a more informed citizenry."

“The success of the program encouraged the City to continue its commitment to priority-based budgeting. During the current fiscal year, the program focuses internally as departments analyze their programs, staffing and costs. Next year, the City will once again reach out to its citizens for feedback through a comprehensive community survey. Ultimately, the City hopes its new approach to budgeting will monitor the performance of individual programs; help set fees more accurately, and assist in decision-making about where to invest and / or withdraw City resources.”

Congratulations again, Don! CPBB wishes you the best of luck in replicating your success in Beverly Hills.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Douglas County unveils "QUICK WINS" from Implementation of Priority Based Budgeting

On March 11th, Douglas County, NV unveiled their first annual "Financial State of the County" presentation. Fresh off the County's recent bond rating upgrade (thanks in part to the implementation of Priority Based Budgeting), the County has also been successful in implementing significant cost saving changes. These Priority Based Budgeting Outcomes To Date include:
  • Elimination of Home Occupation Permits
  • Elimination of Notary Services
  • Reorganization of Finance Department
  • Evaluating other department reorganizations
  • Review of DMV Services at Lake Tahoe
          • Evaluating Utility Billing Improvements

Additionally, these Outcomes have produced the following Solutions to Financial Stability:
  • Reduced and stabilized personnel costs
  • Stabilized revenues through shift of existing property taxes from other taxing units
  • Implemented regional partnerships, consolidation and privatization
  • Shifting property taxes to road maintenance
  • Focusing on priorities to ensure highest value to tax payers
Lastly, Douglas County has achieved a breakthrough in Priority Based Budgeting by being able to clearly articulate "what they see" through the "new lens"of the PBB model. They organized this vision around four key policy areas that were particularly insightful to them:
  1. Invest in priorities as established by Board and public            
  2. Continually improve efficiency and cost-effective services
  3. Recover costs within programs
  4. Pursue alternative service providers/regional collaboration
Spectacular work Douglas County! Your effective implementation of Priority Based Budgeting is truly paying off to the benefit of the entire community.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Former ICMA Executive Director, Bill Hansell, Leading Lehigh County through Priority Based Budgeting

Lehigh County, PA Moves Towards Priority Based Budgeting

Bill hansell lehigh county budget presentation
County Executive Bill Hansell, in his "state of the county" address, conveyed that Lehigh County is emerging from the recession in a sound financial condition and that the state of the county is strong.

Looking to the upcoming budget cycle, Hansell specifically cited Priority Based Budgeting, in which a county identifies its larger community values and budgets based on them, in his state of the county address.

Lehigh County Commissioner Vic Mazziotti also said he was particularly pleased with Hansell's movement toward performance evaluations for county employees and priority-based budgeting, two items both Hansell and the commissioners have advocated before.

Congratulations to Lehigh County, County Executive Bill Hansell and the Board of Commissioners for sound fiscal stewardship and taking the initiative to implement Priority Based Budgeting.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

More Evidence that Priority Based Budgeting Leads to Strong Bond Ratings

From the Record Courier Douglas County, Nevada has further established the link between Priority Based Budgeting and a community's strong bond rating. Congratulations to Douglas County for this tremendous accomplishment, and for successfully implementing Priority Based Budgeting - an ICMA Leading Practice.

As previously reported at the Davenport Institute for Public Policy, the bond rating agencies, which are critical for a community's ability to borrow funds, are placing an increased focus on local government's ability to provide evidence that resource allocation decisions are tied to community values. The City of Chesapeake, Virginia's breakthrough experience, citing their implementation of Priority Based Budgeting as integral to their ability to demonstrate long-term financial sustainability to the bond rating agencies, was inspiration to our work. Douglas County's efforts continue to substantiate this approach, and we couldn't be more excited about the implications.

Read the full press release here