The City of the Battle Creek is the second Michigan community to take on an entirely new way of budgeting, with the help of a Denver-based firm dedicated to helping local governments address their fiscal health and long-term wellness.
Through priority based budgeting, staff is reviewing the entire city organization, identifying all programs, their costs, and their relevance through prioritizing each. This process has been implemented by almost 100 local governments across the United States and Canada and is recognized as a best practice by organizations like the International City/County Management Association (ICMA); the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA); the Alliance for Innovation and the National League of Cities (NLC).
Organizations that use priority based budgeting believe it increases the level of accountability and transparency and better communicates how resources are allocated through the budget process to achieve priorities of the community.
This is a new process for the city, and not a small one to begin, but moving in this direction was a goal City Manager Rebecca Fleury brought to the organization when she was hired in 2014.
“Understanding what our community thinks are our most important services is key to good governance,” Fleury said. “It is vital to the City Commission and this administration. Priority Based Budgeting helps us focus on these and align our resources to be the most efficient and effective in providing services. PBB is a transparent way to ensure, as public servants, we are being good stewards of the tax dollars with which we are entrusted.”
The goal of PBB is to make sure the city is spending tax dollars on the highest priority programs that meet eight "results," the term used to identify the role of city government. Through focus groups, surveys and workshops with staff and city commissioners, the City of Battle Creek's results are:
1. Access to recreational, cultural and leisure opportunities
2. Connected, accessible and reliable transportation network
3. Economic vitality
4. Environmental stewardship
5. Reliable and up-to-date infrastructure
6. Residents and visitors feel safe
7. Vibrant, healthy neighborhoods
8. Well-planned growth and development
The Center for Priority Based Budgeting has worked with the city along the way, as we work to fully implement this budgeting process in our next fiscal year, starting July 1. The CPBB helped develop "results maps," which detail the factors that influence the way we achieve those results. Staff then worked through a process of creating a program inventory in each department and assigning a value to each.
City staff and community members were asked to fill out a survey last spring to help inform those results maps.
The CPBB next will help the city develop a method for allocating our resources, based on our priorities. We will have a customized diagnostic tool that will assess spending in terms of our identified priorities (more information to come on that in the future), develop "target budgets" for departments, and analyze programs. Prioritizing in this way will help the city visualize and analyze how we spend money and how we might adjust spending according to our stated results and priorities.
Keep up with our progress with priority based budgeting at our website, www.battlecreekmi.gov. Hover over I Want To… and, under Learn About, click Priority Based Budgeting. Also learn more about PBB by visiting www.pbbcenter.org.