Transition our budget-creation process to one that is designed to build the future we map out for ourselves, rather than perpetuating the city’s budgeting habits of the past, so we can become more resilient and adaptable to economic fluctuations and crises.
In our own personal budgets, we spend money on what we value. We decide what our household goals are, and we budget to meet those goals.
Our city budget should be no different. We should have a clear idea of our city’s goals and what we need to do in order to reach them, not just give them lip service.
Yet, right now, we don’t. Our city budget, though balanced, does not begin with a clear vision of who we are as a city. We don’t clarify goals for how we want to invest in our city, our people, our businesses, and our environment. We don’t make sure that we are actualizing through our policies and practices what we say we stand for.
Essentially, our current budget-creation process simply divides funding among different city departments based on the prior year’s spending and, when necessary, applies varying levels of city-wide cuts to account for decreases in revenue.
Outcome Budgeting is an innovative and proven way to meet our goals by building a budget around those goals. It was first implemented in Baltimore in 2010, and since then, several cities have adopted variations of it for parts or all of their budget-creation process. (You can read more about Outcome Budgeting from Baltimore’s website or as discussed by Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.)
Essentially, Outcome Budgeting places outcomes and innovation at the center of the budget process by beginning with a set of measurable goals and tasking departments with developing plans to meet those goals—either on their own or by breaking down department silos and working together.
When we transition our budget process to focus on outcomes and then spend accordingly, we will improve and strengthen those services that are most important to our citizens and demonstrate the results we are working toward. It will help us get the most value out of every public dollar we spend and enable us to be more resilient when economic downturns strike.
How I Will Improve Our Budgeting Process to Reach Our Goals
I will work with the City Administrator to:
- clarify a set of desired outcomes for our city’s services and future,
- develop a timeline for departments to collaborate on plans for achieving those outcomes, and
- build a budget that funds those plans best able to meet our goals and serve our citizens’ needs while also staying within revenue forecasts for the coming fiscal year.
We will then work with the City Council to:
- address any and all concerns,
- make amendments where necessary, and
- ensure the budget is achieving its aims while being fiscally responsible.