Monday, May 2, 2016

First Past the Priority Based Budgeting Post in Strathcona County

“To think about how much of a pioneer you truly are is substantial, and people will look to you for your example and they will learn from you.”

Strathcona County, Alberta, Canada, is leading the way in priority based business planning and budgeting. As the first municipality in Canada to implement online PBB, this will result in Strathcona County being more proactive, strategic and effective in program and service delivery. The process will provide valuable information that supports decision-making by directors and managers, enabling them to allocate or reallocate resources, based on each program or resource request’s alignment to strategic and corporate priorities. It can also be used by the organization to set targets and determine how resources are aligned, based on priorities.

The following article was published on April 18, 2016 by the Sherwood Park News and written by Krysta Martell.

First past the priority-based budget post

Strathcona County is becoming a leader in budgeting, as the first municipality in Canada to implement priority–based budgeting.

Three years ago, county council discussed strategic planning and priorities with representatives from the Denver–based company, the Centre for Priority–Based Budgeting.

A strategic planning session followed consultations, at which point council got the opportunity to see results from an American community that had gone through the process.

To help Strathcona County pursue the initiative, an online tool will be used to allow the county to look at their budget and consider what the best dollar value will be for residents.

“This is a big moment... This is the mission of our entire endeavor,” said Chris Fabian, co-founder of the Centre for Priority–Based Budgeting.

He said there have been more than 100 organizations that have gone through the process of priority–based budgeting; six have attempted it in Canada, two have made it to the point of prioritizing programs, and one — Strathcona County — is the first with online tools and the potential of delivering on the initiative.

“There are over 90,000 entities of local government throughout the United States and Canada,” Fabian said. “To think about how much of a pioneer you truly are is substantial, and people will look to you for your example and they will learn from you.”

Jon Johnson, co-founder of the Centre for Priority–Based Budgeting, said they always want to ask the question: Why consider priority-based budgeting?

“This is a challenging time, whether it is the economy, whether it is the environment, whether it is our political climate,” he said. “Why would you change? Why would you look at the budget differently?... We found this helps you communicate differently what you spend your money on — how you can make it clearer to everybody and what is it that we do with those tax dollars.”
Johnson said they want to be able to help guide the conversation in determining where to put the money that would have the most benefit for the community.

“You talk about looking at your ongoing operating budget. You got $320 million that we had to communicate. Well, what is it that we do with those dollars? What is it that we spend them on?” he asked.

The consultants provided an overview of the online budgeting program for different county programs, as they apply to the budget.

“There are $13 million of programs that resources are being allocated to for which you are not influencing in any of the results you want to do,” Johnson said, adding: “This tool is about reallocation, reuse, retraining. It is helping you see, how we take the resources we have and move them in a different direction.”

The City of Boulder, Colorado discovered they were not spending enough money on environmental sustainability, looked at their resources and made a plan for almost $3 million of new programs in that area by shifting and repurposing resources.

“Just realize, this is the beginning of the work you are going to be doing with staff,” Johnson said.
“How do we direct things? And how do they help you get to the policy questions and the policy discussions that you want to have about your budget? Your resource allocation plan maximizes the strategic goals your community wants to achieve — that you know are important for your community.”

Coun. Brian Botterill noted the county’s open data portal may be helpful in the budget process.

“I think best practices — if there are any between communities using PBB (priority-based budgeting) and how they share their successes — would be hugely beneficial because the volume of data is very, very large,” he said. “Choosing what to share and how to share it would be imperative and I think, down the road, one thing I would like to see is a way to integrate this with our open data portal.”

“I’ve always been a very strong proponent of zero-based budgeting,” said Coun. Vic Bidzinski. “I was a little skeptical three years ago when we made that first presentation... How is it going to affect us? And what is the difference between this and this?... I think you can go even deeper into departments... and really get some unbelievable information.”

Mayor Roxanne Carr said she is looking forward to using the tools.

“I have been waiting for this update... for three years because it was this council that had the foresight to bring them in and to encourage our administration to go forward into the future with the priority-based planning,” she said. “I was excited to hear them and I am looking forward to using these tools.”

The Center for Priority Based Budgeting
“A Prioritized World” 
2016 Annual (Un)Conference

Denver, Colorado | August 2 - 4, 2016
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel 

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