Monday, June 27, 2016

Why Strathcona County Council & Administration have Embraced Priority Based Budgeting


"Its (PBB's) ultimate goal is to help taxpayers understand why programs or services are offered, what they cost, and consequently, the value they provide to citizens and businesses to ensure we are “fiscally prepared” for whatever is ahead." - Strathcona County Councillor Linton Delainey

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.

To date, Council and Administration have developed a strategic plan and completed a 4E (efficient, effective, equitable and economical) review of business plan and budget processes. Strathcona County undertook the review, recognizing the volume of effort required by these processes, and the impact both the process and results have on internal and external stakeholders. The review identified optimal business planning and budget processes and methodologies that will:
  • Help meet the County’s service delivery and fiscal objectives
  • Add value, incorporate best practice
  • Be less onerous and time consuming than current practice
  • Complement the Economic Sustainability Framework implementation projectIncrease accountability and transparency through performance measurement reporting.Since that time, the County has embarked on processes (see diagram below) to implement the recommendations arising from the 4E review.
  • Costs associated with this effort will be used to develop reporting tools and software, determine service levels and expectations, and to hire dedicated staff.

When complete in 2015/16, these processes will simplify and strengthen business planning and budgeting at Strathcona County, providing focus and direction to all of the County’s activities.

Congratulations to Strathcona County for their uniquely innovative and inspiring approach to implementing Priority Based Budgeting. Using the OnlinePBB platform, Strathcona County staff are setting the bar high with their extensive approach to PBB training throughout the organization - equipping every department with access to the tools, and training them how to dive into the data to make resource re-allocation decisions.

As if this weren't enough, the County's dedication to "open data" is leading the evolution of PBB as an open, dynamic, citizen-engagement tool with the access to OpenPBBdata (stay tuned!)... 

This new article below (Can priority-based budgeting do the job?) was originally published by the Sherwood Park News and written by Strathcona County Councillor Linton Delainey.

Can Priority Based Budgeting do the Job?

Regardless of which budget model Strathcona County uses, or whatever name is used to describe it, the request I receive most often from residents remains the same: “Tell us where you plan to spend our money, show us where you spent it, and tell us what we got for our property tax dollars!” In short: “Show me the money!”

The philosophy behind priority-based business planning and budgeting (PBB) is not unlike other budget models. 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. Its ultimate goal is to help taxpayers understand why programs or services are offered, what they cost, and consequently, the value they provide to citizens and businesses to ensure we are “fiscally prepared” for whatever is ahead.

To get the PBB process started, council developed their strategic plan, Powering our New Tomorrow, aspiring their vision of what they think our community might look like in 2030 to make Strathcona County “Canada’s most livable community.”

This plan is comprised of eight priority areas and five pillars of sustainability, based on the strategic planning framework developed by current and previous councils. It is your council’s perceptions of what they believe is most important to taxpayers in achieving our long-term goals and meeting the needs of our county as identified in various master plans such as transportation and transit, agriculture and others. Together, these form the guiding documents for governance, community development, infrastructure and service delivery when our county’s 19 departments develop annual and multi-year business plans, uniquely designed to align with the Corporate Business Plan, against which their success will be monitored and measured.

During 2016 budget deliberations last November, I indicated it was my desire that administration invite the Center for Priority-Based Budgeting to make a formal presentation to council. I am pleased to report that this presentation occurred at the April 19 Priorities Committee meeting. I encourage every taxpayer to view the presentation ( in order to gain a more complete understanding of why council and administration have embraced the PBB model, which they believe will result in our county being more proactive, strategic and effective in providing the 315 programs and associated services it currently offers.

Using the PBB model, Strathcona County now has a resource alignment diagnostic (RAD) tool that identifies the nature and cost of 315 unique programs to enable us to evaluate the relevance of each one based on alignment with community priorities. With this knowledge, and with input from the public, our organization can now group its budget programs based on an alignment with council’s priorities, set targets, measure successes, and identify opportunities for efficiencies to allocate resources to what matters most to our community.

Combined with operational planning and resource allocation information gathered through the newly-implemented County Connect online service request tool, PBB will further facilitate council’s goal of making informed “evidence-based” decisions.

It is my understanding that the presentation of the 2017 Corporate Business and Budget Plan to council this November will once again be made by the executive team at the divisional level.

However, residents have consistently indicated to me that they would instead prefer that each of the 19 directors present an overview of their departments’ priorities, provide a broad detailing of the costs for major budget line items, including full-time equivalent staffing numbers, and indicate what measures they plan to use to determine and report their department’s level of success. Since I am often told by taxpayers and business owners that such presentations are essential in making PBB more meaningful and relevant to them, I will continue to advocate that these presentations occur.

Over the past two years, I have also advocated that upon completion of each budgeting cycle, each of the 19 department directors return annually to present a results review to council prior to proceeding with their next annual or multi-year business and budget plans.

I believe such a review would provide a critical body of information that would allow administration and council to assess the level of success of each department, and to identify diagnostic information that would enable them to put budget dollars where they will do the most good so that taxpayers receive the best value for their property tax dollars.

I invite every taxpayer to let me know if my approach to budget accountability is on the right track!

Linton Delainey is councillor for Ward 6. He can be reached at 780-464-8206 or by e-mailing To sign up for Delainey’s eNewsletters, please visit

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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