New City Budget Process Creates More Transparency

The Council was briefed today on the upcoming city budget. (Our budget year runs from Oct. 2006 to Sept. 2007.) This year’s budget process is different from previous years’. It is based on a “budgeting for outcomes” approach. Instead of giving city departments the same amount of money year after year without analyzing whether we are achieving our goals, we are now building the budget from the ground up.

At the council retreat in January, we did what policy-makers should be doing: giving staff goals to meet, and requesting that cross-departmental teams of staff members bring back proposals for programs that help us meet each of those goals. The council also set the “price of government” at $1.68 billion, which means we would not have to increase the tax rate.

The draft budget shows those projects that can be funded and those projects that cannot be funded under the current $1.68 billion budget. The following updated information indicates that we will have an additional $63 million in revenue, for a total of $1.743 billion total revenue with no tax rate increase:

–$11.5M Additional projected sales tax
–$16.8M Additonal property tax base growth
–$2.1M Additional sanitation fee increase (to do recycling and full cost recovery)
–$1.6M Additional building inspection activity
–$6.0M Red-light citations
–$25.0M Additional refinements of estimates (such as franchise fees, landfill fees, landfill feees, interest earnings, property tax collection rate and courts)

Please take a look at the draft budget. Today I asked City Manager Mary Suhm to provide a little more specificity in the “bid name” so that it was clear what was being proposed, and she agreed to do so.

The draft budget reflects a focus on providing more cost effective city services. While there are reductions in costs for many projects and programs, the service level remains the same.

The transparency of this process is very impressive — we know what we’re spending money on. We can’t fund everything, and it will be challenging to decide what programs to eliminate. But now we have much better information to work with, including performance measures tied to ensure that the project meets the goal set by the council.