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So Simple Why Didn’t I Think of That?

Posted: 4:32PM July 26th, 2012 | Comments


A new process of handling city budgets allows for more citizen participation and input when deciding what and where the annual budget will be spent on. Priority Driven Budgeting has become more popular over the past few years and for good reasons. It is essentially a process which does what every politician seeks to accomplish, allow for the voices of all citizens to be heard and yield results.


The city of Cincinnati, Ohio made the switch to Priority Driven Budgeting in 2011 and detailed the process (available at the previous hyperlink). This process begins with random sample surveys sent out to different districts throughout the city asking citizens to rank what city officials should and have been doing well. After those are gathered,several town hall type meetings are held throughout the city, seeking to include a representative, and sometimes focused participant group. These venues allow for a diverse group of citizens to voice their opinions on issues specific to them that they feel government is either not doing enough, or doing too much. 


With federal cutbacks and unbalanced budgets left and right, an important aspect of priority driven budgeting is shaving off some of the fat of governmental budgets. A more specified, personalized budget allows for more immediate results in areas that need attention, while some other city responsibilities may be designated with a smaller percentage of attention and funding. 


Priority driven budgeting has been examined by the Government Finance Officials Association in a detailed essay which looks at 7 cities across the U.S. which have made the switch. The GFOA essay accounts for each cities specific reasons and outcomes as well as how each went about introducing the radically logical approach to budgeting. This essay also explains the core philosophy behind priority driven budgeting, as well as advises how to go about the process in one's own city or town. 


Citizen's issues of most importance were identified as 'trend benders'. These trend benders, which were voted on in surveys, discussed in town hall meetings, and discussed behind closed doors with city officials and stake holders, were led by sustainability, education, environmental protection, and job creation. 


Allowing Madisonian's to engage city officials and demand more focus, energy and resources to be put behind sustainability is an exciting thought. Cities and even school districts throughout the country are allowing for concerned and able citizen's voices to be heard and results are being seen in areas which have been overlooked and underfunded for years. And with the help of social media, planning, feedback and increased awareness have never been easier. 


In a city like Madison, where we pride ourselves on our progressive attitudes and forward thinking, how come we haven't already joined this movement? And what would be our priorities when we do? The possibilities are priority driven. 


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