“Priority Based Budgeting serves as the framework within which all budget decisions are made, and 2018 marks the eighth consecutive year of PBB integration in the city's budget development process.”
The City of Boulder, Colorado is one of the most innovative proponents of priority based budgeting (PBB) in the nation. They deeply and fundamentally understand how to implement and utilize PBB, and their community has benefited tremendously from the city's continued and evolved implementation of PBB.
Boulder has recently published their 2018 Recommended Budget. Not only has the city produced yet another thoughtful, comprehensive annual budget plan that will continue to lead the community down the path to long-term fiscal health by applying PBB data, but the budget is also strategically developed to provide the highest level of responsible, efficient service delivery to their citizens (and community).
The City also incorporates PBB into their Strategic & Long-Term Planning. "The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, Department Master Plans and Strategic Plans, Subcommunity and Area Plans are developed to align with and support the achievement of Boulder's seven strategic outcomes. Together, they inform development standards, fiscal policies, financial policies and resource allocation through the annual budget process."
"The city has also used Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) as a tool to strategically evaluate requests to fund new city projects or programs and to assess and score current programs as to how program results positively influence the city’s ability to achieve the Community Sustainability Framework outcomes." For those in local government, this is the ideal case study in how a city uses PBB data year after year, in support of the city's budget plus strategic and long-term planning, for actionable decision-making and to yield results for citizens and the community.
To recognize Boulder's ongoing PBB success and commitment to excellence in resource allocation to achieve community results, we've provided a quick window of content (below) into how Boulder utilizes "PBB as the framework within which all budget decisions are made."
And for a much deeper dive (including the city's fully defined results, full program inventory broken down by quartile and outcomes map), please see the full City of Boulder 2018 Recommended Budget (with a focus on Priority Based Budgeting on pages 37 - 45).
Priority Based Budgeting in Boulder, CO
Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) contributes to the city’s long-term financial sustainability and allows the City of Boulder to serve its residents in the most effective, efficient and fiscally responsible manner possible. It builds on the city’s prior Business Plan, which separates goals and actions into near-term versus long-term time frames, and is a key way in which the city meets the challenge outlined above. It also harnesses the policies and values of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan and department strategic and master plans.
As the cornerstone of the city’s budget process, PBB provides three central benefits to the city. It:
• Identifies key council and community goals (see the next section on PBB Results and
• Evaluates the impact on these goals of city programs and services; and
• Provides a tool for strategic decision-making in funding, adding and/or eliminating programs and services, making more effective use of the city’s limited resources.
Priority Based Budgeting serves as the framework within which all budget decisions are made, and 2018 marks the eighth consecutive year of PBB integration in the city's budget development process. In the 2015 budget process, the city engaged in a streamlined PBB process, recognizing the significant work done in prior years, as well as the demands on staff related to flood recovery and the implementation of an integrated Finance and Human Resources business solutions software package.
The city continues to have a favorable distribution of resources between the highest priority (Quartile 1) and lowest priority (Quartile 4) programs. Fewer resources are invested in programs yielding lower impact on community values.
From 2011 when the city implemented PBB, to today, the total budget has increased 35 percent, and Quartile 1 programs have increased 16.5 percent while Quartile 4 programs have decreased 16 percent. Quartile 2 and 3 programs also increased over the years largely due to programmatic increases in Human Services, Homelessness initiatives and Police code enforcement, general investigations and major crimes.
A listing of all 2018 programs by quartile is included in the following section. Community programs are those providing direct service to residents and businesses, while governance programs are those providing support services within the city to other departments.
Over the past year, the city has taken the PBB results and used them to identify efficiencies in operations. The 2018 budget takes advantage of several efficiencies including:
• Proactive Emergency Staffing: the fire department added an additional firefighter to each shift which led to a
savings of over $100K from reduced overtime costs.
• Automated Library Book Sorting: reduced the physical touches on each item from more than 10 to less than four per item, resulting in significant staff time savings. In addition, requests for claims returned went down, reducing the amount of time staff spend engaged searching for lost materials. Reducing staff touches also reduces the risk of physical injury from repetitive activities. Library workman’s compensation claims have
dropped significantly and consistently over the last two years.
• Wastewater Collaboration: collaborated with Avery Brewing to use brewery sugar water ‘waste’ product for enhanced treatment at the Wastewater Facility. This saved the department $50,000 and reduced the amount of acetic acid required, which is a sustainability benefit due to reduced reliance on traditional chemical (petroleum-based).
• Citywide Scanning: departments including Parks and Recreation, Human Resources, Finance, and Legal are undertaking efforts to digitize records, saving hundreds of hours of staff time searching for files and allowing greater public access.
• Staffing Restructures: departments including Public Works, Planning, Housing and Sustainability, and Library have restructured staffing to effectively and efficiently share resources and job duties to ensure service excellence even during vacancies.
Strategic & Long-Term Planning
The Boulder community has long been a leader in collaborative strategic planning and proactive long-term financial planning. The city developed a Community Sustainability Framework and a Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan that aligns with that framework. Through the adoption of a Community Sustainability Framework, the city has identified several outcomes necessary for Boulder’s vision of a great community. The seven outcomes are:
The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, Department Master Plans and Strategic Plans, Subcommunity and Area Plans are then developed to align with and support the achievement of these outcomes. Together, they inform development standards, fiscal policies, financial policies and resource allocation through the annual budget process. Through 2017, the Library, Public Works Department, Finance Department and City Manager’s Office have worked to
develop strategic or master plans, which identify goals and strategies and inform future programs and investments. Management is committed to better considering and incorporating future financial impacts of proposed goals and strategies during the planning process to ensure plans align with available and future resources.
The city has also used Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) as a tool to strategically evaluate requests to fund new city projects or programs and to assess and score current programs as to how program results positively influence the city’s ability to achieve the Community Sustainability Framework outcomes.