“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
- Vice President Joe Biden
One of the most essential, telling, and time-consuming tasks of a City are writing, updating, and compiling the annual budget. A municipal budget should clearly demonstrate the priorities and vision of a community. At the same time, it must be an accessible and clear document for citizens to easily read and understand.
At last week’s City Council study session meeting, City Manager Geinzer presented an outline for a new budget format. The goal of the redesign is to make the budget more user-friendly and provide relevant performance measures that connect with the City’s vision and goals.
With citizens in mind, a visual executive summary was proposed. This summary would collapse a 200+ page document into an abbreviated overview, with visual data representations so the reader won’t be bombarded by text and numbers. While much of the detailed data will still be readily available in the full document, understanding the full scope of the budget will be achievable in just a few pages.
Departments will also redesign their performance measures with the City Council’s vision and goals in mind. Each department will describe their own mission, and connect service objectives for the year with Council goal statements. Additionally, each department will provide a breakdown of their departmental expenses, which were previously presented one aggregate figure.
City Council was supportive of the new budget format and philosophy. Council shared interest in the visual executive summary and wanted to reassure citizens that the budget detail will be accessible and, in some cases, enhanced. While a user-friendly budget document will map out the City’s financial situation, the real work of addressing the budget challenges is ongoing. Of utmost concern are underfunded areas, such as the Capital Improvement Plans for roads, facilities, and public spaces and the City pension and other post-employment benefits liabilities. Council gave staff direction to look into strategies for cost-savings and revenue generation. Staff will be working with Council over the next few months on strategies to find the means to address our backlog of needs.