Saturday, May 14, 2016

Strathcona County Aces the Test for Implementing Priority Based Budgeting

"We are able to evaluate the impact of community goals on programs and services and enhance strategic decision making to make more effective use of county resources." - Councillor Fiona Beland-Quest

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 May 12, 2016 by the Sherwood Park News and written by Fiona Beland-Quest (councillor for Ward 8).

Strathcona County aces the test for implementing priority-based budgeting

As a councillor, during the last Priorities Committee meeting, it was so rewarding to listen to Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian from the Center for Priority-Based Budgeting recognized that Strathcona County is leading the way — an actual pioneer in priority-based business planning and budgeting.

Strathcona County is working with the Center for Priority-Based Budgeting, a Colorado-based organization, which is focused on providing technical and advisory services to help governments achieve fiscal health and wellness.

I’m proud to say this council and our administration are committed to this new approach, which is allowing our county to identify key community and council goals and priorities clearly and comprehensively. We are able to evaluate the impact of community goals on programs and services and enhance strategic decision making to make more effective use of county resources. We are proving successful in doing this, because we have a better understanding of how programs align to our community goals. This approach is also helping our community understand why programs are offered, what they cost, and consequently, the value they provide to citizens and businesses.
The philosophy behind priority-based budgeting is that resources should be allocated based on how effectively a program or service achieves the goals or objectives that are of the greatest value to the community.

As a result of all this hard work, Strathcona County now has a Resource Alignment Diagnostic (RAD) Tool that identifies the nature and cost of 315 unique programs, and evaluates the relevance of each, based on alignment with community priorities.

The RAD Tool is a data source that contains information about Strathcona County programs. It includes program descriptions and costing; program relevance to meeting community and/or governance results and attributes; and multiple filters for data analysis. This innovative tool creates a new lens through which our county can analyze how dollars are spent and how each program aligns across all priorities, and to individual priorities. These tools create greater flexibility, and position Strathcona County to react appropriately, and to make the right decisions, working in a challenging and dynamic environment.

Programs for which residents, businesses and visitors can look only to the county to obtain the service will receive a higher score for the reliance attribute compared to programs that may be similarly obtained from another intergovernmental agency or a private business.

Each of our 315 programs are scored and allotted to one of four different quartiles. Inventorying all of our services into a list of programs is the most difficult part of the process; however, it’s the most illuminating. By costing out and rethinking the budget in terms of what specific services our county provides, we gain valuable information about what we actually do and how much each unit costs to produce.

I have never been so excited about hearing about our budgeting and strategic planning processes. Only 120 out of about 90,000 municipalities are using the priority-based budgeting process in North America. Strathcona County is one of the first to complete all five steps in Canada.

That’s quite an achievement. Administration deserves a high-five for working so hard on behalf of our citizens and businesses! Critical to the success of priority-based business planning and budgeting is the strong support that this Council has shown for the Strategic Plan and the prioritized goals identified within the plan. The ability to be successful in prioritized areas is compromised when everything is identified as a priority.

I know the work is not done. We’ll continue to drill down into our programs and services to find additional efficiencies that will keep taxes low and allow us to continue delivering the high level of services our citizens deserve. I encourage you to take the time to view the full presentation online, so you too can feel confident in the way your tax dollars are being spent.

Related Articles:

First Past the Priority Based Budgeting Post in Strathcona County

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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