Wednesday, July 27, 2016

An Analysis of Survey Data from Municipalities who have Implemented Priority Based Budgeting

PBB & Strategic Planning

An analysis of survey data from municipalities who have implemented priority based budgeting
For the 5th year in a row, Priority Based Budgeting has been the subject of a Master's degree or PHD thesis defense. CPBB's annual Conference has provided a platform to showcase the academic experts and researchers, as it is our belief that unbiased academic research is part of the key to the Priority Based Budgeting movement - the more research, the more we all learn, and the more the PBB Community is able to evolve to achieve the overall mission of fundamentally reshaping resource allocation in our communities.

Liz Butterfield continues this tradition with her Master's Capstone exploration of the influence that PBB has had on strategic planning in local government. Her paper provides key insights that suggest Priority Based Budgeting is encouraging communities to understand long-term strategic planning in new ways. With the tools of PBB, leaders and decision makers are better able to understand how their resources are being marshaled to achieve their policy objectives - thereby reinforcing the importance of strategic goal setting, as policy makers have a clearer path to achieve their stated Results.

We at the Center for Priority Based Budgeting are especially intrigued with Liz's capstone research findings, and will provide Liz the stage at the CPBB Conference next week to share the implications of her work. Congratulations Liz! Great work advancing our communities!
This capstone was completed during summer 2016 for the Center for Priority Based Budgeting in partnership with the Alliance for Innovation. The capstone fulfills the requirements for completion of MPA coursework for the University of Colorado - Denver School of Public Affairs.
The analysis attempts to look at a relationship between two variables, priority-based budgeting and strategic planning in local governments. The research attempted to identify links between priority-based budgeting and strategic planning through an analysis of the presence and use of strategic plans, their impact on workflows, and an evaluation of the perceived value of connecting strategic planning to the budgeting process.

CPBB Clients & Respondents

*Note: International locations not included in this map of survey respondents**Note: Clients who were not members of municipalities (e.x. airports, school districts, others) were excluded from the survey
The Center for Priority Based Budgeting works with clients across the United States and Canada. For the purposes of this report, only municipalities who have implemented priority-based budgeting (PBB) were used in the analysis. These clients were asked to respond to a survey on their experiences.


All survey participants indicated they used at least three elements of strategic planning at least “occasionally” (does this activity less than once per year), using the survey question key to indicate what elements of strategic planning were used and how frequently. Because each of the participants responded they used some elements of strategic planning, the key to this research is to what extent the priority-based budgeting process changed their strategic planning since implementation.  

Respondent counts: Strategic plan elements


Never: never does this activity
Occasionally: does this activity less than once a year
Frequently: does this activity once or twice a year
Consistently: does this activity every quarter or more frequently

Frequency of use: Strategic plan elements by type

The graph below depicts the frequency of use by type of strategic plan element the respondents reported. Click on each element to display the frequency chart. 

While most organizations who have implemented priority-based budgeting use strategic planning elements, the data indicates majority do not use a combination of elements “consistently,” i.e. every quarter or more frequently.  

Respondent counts: Stakeholders involved in strategic planning

The graph below depicts the number of respondents who selected stakeholders involved in strategic planning processes. About 97% of respondents indicated members of the executive management team or directors were involved in the strategic planning process, with about 94% indicating Councilors were involved.
302520151050ResidentsCouncilExecutiveManagement TeamDirectorsBudget DepartmentOther StaffOther Stakeholders1531323227169

Influence of PBB: Perceptions of connection and change

The second grouping of major results is found in a series of questions regarding the relationship between strategic planning and the change resulting from implementing priority-based budgeting. Click on each element below to display frequencies in perception of these relationships.
About 37% of respondents noted that implementing priority-based budgeting had a moderate change in their strategic planning process. Additionally, 37% of respondents reported there was a large connection between their strategic planning process and budgeting. 


Link from PBB to Strategic Planning

This analysis does not attempt to indicate that adding priority-based budgeting caused a change in strategic planning, but it attempts to identify perceptions of change in strategic planning processes. About 85% of respondents indicated they strongly agreed that strategic planning and budgeting should be closely aligned. Additionally, these analyses indicate that the majority of those who perceived a moderate or large amount of change in their strategic planning process after implementing priority-based budgeting also believed there to be a strong link between budgeting and strategic planning.

CPBB provided tools for strategic planning?

About 75% of respondents indicated the CPBB provided them with tools for strategic planning. 

Is it beneficial for PBB to provide structured strategic planning tools?

In addition to 75% of respondents indicating the CPBB provided them with tools for strategic planning, about 69% of respondents overall indicated providing structured strategic planning tools would be either very beneficial or extremely beneficial to them.

Analysis & Recommendations

The result that about 85% of municipalities strongly agree that strategic planning and budgeting should be closely linked does not seem too surprising when looking to the crosstabs analysis of the link between workflow based off strategic planning and the level of change perceived in workflow after implementing priority-based budgeting, where 66.7% of respondents saw moderate changes in both. This research also indicates there are questions not answered by this study that remain open to further research. For example, to what extent have processes changed based off the tools provided by the Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB)? How has priority-based budgeting impacted the strategic planning more specifically? Although the CPBB does not explicitly provide tools to aide strategic planning, according to about 75% of respondents the Center provided them with some tools to help with strategic planning.

This is interesting, since strategic planning is not the explicit intent of the CPBB, but appears to be a side effect of their program. Because of the very high rate of respondents who strongly agreed that budgeting and strategic planning should be connected, it might be of use for the CPBB to provide more structured elements of strategic planning to their program.

There are other relationships between the priority-based budgeting products and its impact on municipal work that deserve more study as well. Looking to how priority-based budgeting has impacted more than just the budgeting process, such as changes in work processes or use of more strategic planning elements, might also be important for the CPBB to identify what additional products or strategies to use in the future. The Center may be able to find ways to more closely link strategic planning and the budgeting process, or help municipalities include a variety of stakeholders through both the strategic planning process and budgeting initiatives so they better complement one another. 

Respondent counts: "Strategic planning and budgeting should be closely aligned"

2520151050Strongly disagreeSlightly disagreeNeither agree nor disagreeSlightly agreeStrongly agree100428

It would also be of use for the Center for Priority Based Budgeting to begin a deeper analysis as to where the municipalities are within the strategic planning process before implementing priority-based budgeting. As one respondent stated in their survey, “The organization had no (strategic) planning process. PBB created a (structure) for it, but there has been little to no follow through.” As indicated above, municipalities engage in a range of strategic planning elements to build strategic planning efforts. It may be of use for the CPBB to identify what the strategic planning process exists already before beginning the priority-based budgeting process; this may enable clients to better link strategic planning and budgeting ahead of implementing the new budgeting program.


Providing additional tools to help with strategic planning could include structured workshops, an analysis of where the organization is with current strategic planning efforts and an outline of how to use priority-based budgeting alongside strategic planning as the new program is implemented. This way, each organization that works with priority-based budgeting can have the opportunity to improve their strategic planning efforts alongside priority-based budgeting and align the two early on.
For more information on this study or questions regarding results, please contact the researcher, Liz Butterfield, at Thank you!

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