Thursday, June 2, 2016

City of Joplin, MO Residents Engage with City Budget Survey to Rank Seven City Priorities

"Priority-based budgeting will allow city officials to regain control of the budget." - City Manager Sam Anselm

The City of Joplin, Missouri is in their first year of the priority based budgeting process. And they're making excellent strides in their work! As part of this process, Joplin conducted a citizen survey to collect public input and validate community results. And the results are in!

In a survey conducted earlier this year, citizens were asked to address what truly matters to them as they think about their city of residence? This survey, part of the Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) process recently adopted by the City of Joplin, is the citizen engagement portion of PBB which helps ensure that resources are allocated in the best way to meet the needs of citizens.

The survey asked citizens how they would rank seven priorities, and provided an opportunity to participate in the City’s budgeting process. The input received will influence how the City invests in and achieves each result. The priorities listed in the survey were determined through an analysis of City planning documents and in consultation with City Council and City staff.

"By looking at many factors of the City’s operations, Priority Based Budgeting starts to identify services areas that are important to our community,” said City Manager Sam Anselm. “As we go through this process, we’re looking at all programs and services and the significance they hold with our citizens. With these priorities defined, City Council can better allocate our resources to make sure we’re spending money on the programs that the community feels are most important. This will help better manage the broad number of services we provide, while recognizing our budget constraints.”

Budget work sessions are scheduled in September, and the Council will be addressing these priorities at that time. “Between now and then, City staff still has more work to do in identifying costs of programs and services through the PBB process, in order to do a thorough evaluation of City services,” added Anselm.

The article below was recently published by The Joplin Globe and written by Debby Woodin.

Joplin residents rank safe, secure city as highest priority

Joplin residents who responded to a city budget survey rated a "safe, secure and prepared community" as the highest of seven city priorities.

Residents were not asked to vote on specific city services to fund or how much funding they thought should go toward specific services.

The instructions in the survey, offered online and at City Hall in beginning in February, stated, "You have 700 votes to allocate to these priorities that define 'Why' Joplin exists as an organization, to serve the community." It ends with: "Where would you place your votes?"

Residents were also told they could give zero points to statements with which they did not agree, but all seven received points.

The priorities rated by residents in the survey:
• "Safe, secure and prepared community" was supported by 284 of the 322 residents who took the survey.
• "Vibrant local economy with thriving workforce" also was supported by 284, but with substantially fewer points than the previous statement.
• "Attractive and healthy place to live with diverse neighborhoods, quality schools and strong community pride" received 257 votes.
• "Reliable infrastructure and effective connected mobility" was supported by 262 but received fewer points than the previous priority.
• "Access to parks, culture, recreation, lifelong learning and leisure-time activities" was awarded points by 219 survey respondents.
• "Environmental health, sustainability and resource preservation" was supported by 220.
• "Well-planned, well-managed and well-regulated recovery, rebuilding and growth" received 204 votes.

Of the 322 people who voted, 284, or 88 percent, supported "safe, secure and prepared community" as the top priority, awarding it 74,074 points, or nearly one-third of the total 225,400 points available.

Though the same number of supporters, 284, or 88 percent, awarded some points to a "Vibrant local economy with a thriving workforce," the points scored for that priority totaled 31,720.

City Manager Sam Anselm said Tuesday that the survey is a way to engage residents early rather than later in the process of budgeting city funds based on priorities determined by the input of city administrators, the City Council and the public.

Asked if “safe, secure and prepared community” is a reference to police, fire and emergency services coverage, Anselm said in an email, "Not in and of itself, no. A safe community could mean those things, but it could also mean that we make sure the wastewater that we treat that ultimately ends up back in the stream is safe according to EPA/DNR standards."

That also could be applied to safe streets and playgrounds, Anselm said, adding, "Another community involved in the priority-based budgeting process may come up with a completely different definition than ours, for example. So what do these “results” or “priorities” mean for Joplin? That’s what we’re working on now."

Asked if the lower score for parks and recreation, compared to the top priority of "safe and secure" meant that the city is overfunding parks, Anselm said that to him, "the numbers reported indicate that about as many respondents see value in offering parks, culture, recreation services, etc., because many of those same respondents also saw value in the 'safe, secure and prepared community' result.

It’s just as a whole, the group feels more strongly about the priorities that received more points. This survey doesn’t translate to dollars and cents. That phase comes later."

The City Council in September approved a request by the city manager to move toward the priority-based budgeting method. The panel approved spending up to $62,500 on work for that approach.

In the budget for the fiscal year that began Nov. 1, spending was listed at $179.2 million and revenue was estimated at $198.5 million.

Much of the revenue comes from $158 million in federal disaster recovery grants and $20 million in a disaster grant to build the new Joplin Public Library. There also is funding from local sales taxes such as capital improvements, public safety, and parks and stormwater that are committed to specific funding needs or projects.

But there has not been enough growth in the city's general revenue fund to pay for all the city's operational costs along with pay raises for city employees. Payroll now amounts to about $21 million. Two years ago, the city's finance director said that the addition of six positions combined with deficit spending in the parks fund constrained the budget.

City employees have not had raises for at least two years, an issue that bubbled up in a February when the council was asked to approve some new positions in the parks department and some pay raises for parks personnel who took on supervisory roles or added duties.

Budget work sessions are held between city staff and the council in September of each year.

"Between now and then, city staff still has more work to do in identifying costs of programs and services through the priority-based-budgeting steps in order to do a thorough evaluation of city services," Anselm said in the city statement.


The city manager said he believed priority-based budgeting would allow city officials to regain control of the budget.

Congratulations to the City of Joplin for their leadership in civic engagement through priority based budgeting. Fantastic work and the CPBB is proud to partner with you in implementing PBB! 

Related Articles:

City of Joplin, MO Seeks Public Input to Set Priorities for Budgeting!

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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