Thursday, July 18, 2013

"DATA VISUALIZATION" for Local Government: The CPBB Web-based Fiscal Health Diagnostic Tool


"The Unique Lens" is itself a product of the process as are the tech tools that have opened up a view on local government strategy, culture, management and decision-making unlike anything else!


Fiscal Health Diagnostic Tool
The most effective and affordable local government fiscal tool available
In the midst of serious fiscal challenges, it will be particularly important to stay true to the values that will carry us through these difficult times. The goal of fiscal health was established in consideration of the need to adjust the budgeting process to more effectively align resources with the City’s priorities. - City Manager’s Budget Message - City of Seaside, California
The Center for Priority Based Budgeting has seen its diagnostic approach to achieving Fiscal Health and the development and utilization of its unique and innovative “Fiscal Health Diagnostic Tool” profoundly change the conversation between local government managers, finance professionals and elected officials.   These are but a few of the powerful ways Fiscal Health has been used to help local government leaders achieve long-term financial sustainability.  

In 2012, Wheat Ridge City Council included the identification of core services as a top priority goal in their strategic plan.  The City was already operating at a base level of service due to budget cuts implemented to cope with the nationwide economic downturn.   In addition, the City continued to face a long-term lack of funding for Capital Improvement Projects (CIP).  With no dedicated revenue stream to fund more than 250 million in infrastructure projects and a systemic budget shortfall, 2014 would be the final year the City could fund minimal preventive maintenance projects with a transfer from the General Fund. 
The Fiscal Health Model provided a new visual tool to help facilitate budget discussions.  The Fiscal Health Model allows staff to develop live scenarios to provide elected officials an instant picture of the financial impacts of their decisions. One of the more powerful traits of this process is how it has equipped Council and staff with information presented in a format that is resulting in new conversations around budget and resource allocation.

The power of the Fiscal Health Model was realized on May 19th, 2012 at the City Council’s annual
planning retreat.  City Manager Patrick Goff used the model to show Council members how different
scenarios affected the City’s financial situation.  Wheat Ridge has a backlog of more than $250 million in unfunded CIP projects.  The Fiscal Health Model allowed staff to illustrate to Council that given the current fiscal situation, “cutting” the budget to solve the problem was not a viable option. The City needed to identify new dedicated revenue sources to ensure the success of these projects in the future.

One Council Member in particular had a very interesting reaction to this new way of looking at budgeting opportunities.  Although he believes there are still ways and areas to find efficiencies to save money, he now sees and concedes to the fiscal realities the City faces.  He realizes, as we all do, that no amount of reductions or cuts would ultimately solve the City’s long-term budget issues related to capital improvements.

Using the Fiscal Health Model has helped staff obtain a deeper understanding of our budget variances.  Every year staff would find that our actual expenses were much lower than our budgeted amounts.  Looking at these phenomena, understanding the causes, and working to eliminate them has helped staff present a more accurate picture of the City’s financial situation.
The CPBB congratulates the City of Wheat Ridge, CO for their effective and innovative implementation of Fiscal Health!

Seeking clearer understanding and communication with your elected officials?
·      Elected officials have adopted Fiscal Health as their preferred means of communicating with staff regarding any decisions brought before them that potentially might have a fiscal impact – asking staff to show us those impacts using the principles of Fiscal Health as the primary communication device.  
 Working through challenging conversations about compensation with staff or bargaining units?
·      Organizations have entered into labor negotiations with their bargaining units using Fiscal Health as a way to quickly agree on the assumptions behind the City’s fiscal forecasts, therefore establishing a basis of trust in the discussion – then modeling the bargaining units’ requests to demonstrate impacts to the City’s fiscal position.

Weighing various financial related decisions, with complex variables, and long-term impacts?
·      Fiscal Health modeling is a powerful scenario-planning tool, providing easy to understand visualization of data. It has even been used to help a Water and Sewer District prioritize capital projects, understand the ongoing impacts of those projects, and effectively develop rate increases by better understanding their ongoing and one-time sources and uses of funding in their operation.
Local governments choosing to implement the concepts of Fiscal Health as a treatment regimen are making substantial progress because they are doing the analytical work required to more accurately diagnosis the reasons behind their fiscal issues and then determining the best treatments that lead to a viable cure. Once an organization is on the road to being fiscally healthy, it can then become more financially sustainable by implementing a Fiscal Wellness regimen centered around the principles of Priority Based Budgeting.
CPBB will help you diagnose which of these flexible and attainable objectives best meet the needs of your organization and then tailor your needs to develop the  level of engagement that is the “best fit” for your organization as it strives to achieve true “ Fiscal Health and Wellness”.

CPBB strives to be exceptionally cost-conscious and affordable in its work with local governments, a key reason for establishing ourselves as a mission-driven organization.   We are committed to successfully meeting the goals of your community and achieving the desired outcomes of our work together.

Keep an eye on the CPBB blog for further updates and to feed the "local government high" inspired by the "Summit." Sign-up for our social media pages so you stay connected with TEAM CPBB!

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If you're thinking of jumping into the world of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting we would certainly like to be part of your efforts! Contact us to schedule a free webinar and identify the best CPBB service option(s) to meet your organization's particular needs.


  1. when will the 2014 CPBB conference be staged? where will the conference be held? M. Keating

  2. I use creately for my data visualization needs. Its online diagram and collaboration software.