Thursday, December 3, 2015

City of Kalamazoo, MI Evolves the Way They "See, Think & Touch" the City's Budget!

"The Priority Based Budgeting process is the tool which injects and integrates our strategic planning into our everyday activities." -  Kalamazoo City Manager James Ritsema

In March of this year, we wrote about two organizations who were empowering citizens with civic engagement through priority based budgeting. One of these organizations we wrote about was the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

We wrote, At the Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB), we're constantly impressed and amazed at just how innovative local government communities can be. Through our concepts of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting, we've partnered with communities to define exactly what the community is in business to achieve and then prioritize scarce resources (tax dollars) to meet those community results. This work has allowed nearly 100 cities, counties, school districts and special districts to completely redefine their community.

When implementing the priority based budgeting (PBB) process, civic leaders have the option of engaging residents in an effort to define the results the community wishes to achieve.... or not. The citizen engagement component to this process can be time consuming and challenging, but often lead to a more robust set of community results that are fully supported by the community residents.

The City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, is deep in the process of implementing priority based budgeting while engaging with citizens in an effort to collaboratively define the future of the community. This program, Imagine Kalamazoo, is the city's citizen engagement platform where citizens can weigh in and help define the future of Kalamazoo.

Priority Based Budgeting in Kalamazoo 2.0

Just last week, the City of Kalamazoo released their proposed budget for fiscal year 2016-2017. This is the first budget for the city since implementing priority based budgeting (Kalamazoo implemented PBB in 2015 after their budget was developed and approved).

In the Fiscal Year 2016 - 2017 Proposed Budget Transmittal Letter, City Manager James Ritsema
writes: "Priority-Based Budgeting (PBB): the administration has instituted Priority-Based Budgeting for the first time in the Proposed Fiscal Year 2016 - 17 Budget. This will evolve the way that we see, think and “touch” the City’s budget. Instead of abstract line items, compartmentalized, bureau-centric thinking, and incremental budget cuts, PBB provides a tool that refocuses decision-making around well-defined programs, which are prioritized to maximize scarce resources towards achieving the Community’s desired and required results, including a safe community, effective transportation systems, environmental stewardship, and so on.

PBB also involves continuous improvement in efficiencies by way of new technologies, better organization, and leveraging partnerships or handing off functions to other overlapping entities, in order to lower costs and improve outcomes. In 2016, the City will be identifying meaningful and accurate measurements to ensure that high-priority programs are achieving results. The City is retasking an analyst position in the Management Services Department to serve as our new Budget Manager, a position which will provide transformational leadership to fully realize the promise of Priority Based Budgeting, as well as promoting best practices in citywide budgeting."  

City Manager Ritsema also discusses how to bring "visions and values of our organizational leadership and community into focus in the form of strategic plans." The following is quoted from the "From a "Priority-Driven" to "Vision-Driven" Trajectory" section of his Proposed Budget Transmittal Letter.

From a “Priorities-Driven” to “Vision-Driven” Trajectory

Our budget is the natural result of continued negotiation between the expected role that the City plays in promoting and preserving the quality of life that our citizens desire and deserve, in the context of the realities presented by our economic and cultural environment. In order that our activities remain fresh and relevant, and our budgeting process propels continuous improvement in our outcomes, we need to constantly reground ourselves in the vision and values of our organizational leadership and the community at large. The City utilizes a number of collaborative bodies and processes to bring these visions into focus in the form of strategic plans. 

In 2016, the City will be engaging all of its planning resources to “reset” the City’s vision under the auspices of the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 project. As the name suggests, the result of this process will be a new shared community vision, expressed through the many strategic plans that the above graphic depicts.

This upcoming year presents us with an opportunity to move beyond transitional management tactics and fully engage the organization and the environment with our new strategic tools. This includes identifying sustainable revenue for ongoing operations and programs, building on the high-performance organization model that is sparked with innovation and fueled by an ethos of continuous improvement. The Priority Based Budgeting process is the tool which injects and integrates our strategic planning into our everyday activities, by aligning the allocation of resources with the vision and values of the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 initiative.  

One of the things that stands out to us about Kalamazoo's implementation is their complete dedication to infusing PBB into the culture of the City, and the fabric of the community. When we first met their implementation team, City Manager Jim Ritsema brought his senior leadership team along with City Council members in a passenger van, traveling all the way to Ann Arbor for a Michigan Municipal League day-long training. From that moment, it was clear that their dedication level was extremely high, and so were there expectations for how this process could help transform the community.

Led by Laura Lam, Community Planning and Development Director, Patsy Moore, Deputy City Manager, and Jeff Chamberlain, Deputy City Manager, the City successfully implemented one of the most comprehensive and extensive citizen engagement initiatives associated with PBB. Chief Financial Officer Tom Skrobola led the City's Fiscal Health modeling initiative, and then turned around to lead the PBB process. And all throughout the process, the City's elected officials were involved and engaged, participating in the strategy and guidance of the process.

Hats off to Kalamazoo for all that they endeavored to achieve, and their dramatic success in executing such a comprehensive implementation in a single year. We at CPBB are proud to be associated with your tremendous leadership in local government!

Keep an eye on the CPBB blog for further updates. Sign-up for our social media pages so you stay connected with TEAM CPBB!

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.



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