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A Story of PBB Mastery: Littleton, Colorado

| December 10, 2020 | By

The City of Littleton, Colorado Applies their PBB Mastery in Communication and Reallocation Efforts

The City of Littleton published their 2021 Final Budget last week, and like so many throughout the country and world, the impacts of COVID-19 are ever-present. The intentions and plans for 2020 went out the door as COVID-19 forced the need to pivot to new expectations and make tough decisions. For the City of Littleton, the reality of 2020 presented these same challenges, and they responded with a growing fluency and mastery of Priority Based Budgeting (PBB).

"There was a necessity to make some tough budget decisions as a result of COVID, and the concepts from the PBB Blueprint that we base our program review on were the primary means of justifying budget requests from departments and were a main focus in our budget discussions."
Stacey Covington, Budget Analyst, City of Littleton, Colorado

 The City of Littleton launched their PBB implementation in 2017 and have steadily developed an understanding, proficiency, and mastery of the programmatic language created through PBB.

 2018: The City created program data through a series of workshops and training focused on Program Inventory Identification, Cost Allocation, Department Scoring, and Peer Review. The first year of their implementation was about learning the tools, understanding the data they created and how it applies to their communication with Council and the decision making associated with budget requests.

Priority Based Budgeting Data Layers-1

2019: Littleton Pick 3 was born! The Littleton Super User team developed and presented this practical application of the PBB data designed to analyze programs for opportunities, as outlined in the PBB Blueprint, and serve as a learning experience for departments applying PBB concepts. Departments picked two programs they wanted to analyze for opportunities, and City Manager, Mark Relph, picked one program on which he wanted analysis. The choice of programs was based on the data created through the implementation process. The departments and City Manager had a library of programs to review. Each program was complete with a full description, personnel and operating costs allocated to provide a total program cost, and an alignment to the City's priorities determined. This nine-month endeavor concluded with departments presenting their recommendations to Council in a programmatic way, and some of this data was included in the 2020 budget document.

Littleton Pick 3 (1)

2020: The intention for 2020 was to repeat the Pick 3 process identifying a variety of opportunities across their program inventory. However, 2020 had other ideas. The shift in expectations and needs required flexibility and nimbleness. Due to their experience with PBB, the Super User team was able to refocus their efforts towards the specific goal of freeing up resources in less critical areas. By doing an in-depth program review, the entire Littleton organization was able to present data-driven recommendations for service-level increases and decreases based on their alignment with the city's priorities. Through the alignment of resources to priorities and Basic Program Attributes, and the direction from PBB peers in the City of Boise, the City was able to identify those programs critical to the City's well-being during the COVID crisis.

 "Thankfully, we already had the conceptual knowledge of what opportunities there were and the tradeoffs you can make and how to look at a program and understand it on a programmatic basis and analyze that. Having that vocabulary and knowledge of the concepts, we were still able to do a pretty impressive review of our programs."
Stacey Covington, Budget Analyst, City of Littleton, Colorado

2021 and beyond: In 2021, the city will continue to monitor and assess the economy. Should the economy prove more favorable than anticipated, staff will be poised to bring forward a supplemental appropriation to address service levels and program needs.

Mastery in Littleton
Littleton's 2021 Budget reflects success in Communication and Reallocation.

 The progression from data creation to organizational proficiency to the mastery of communicating programmatically has been inspiring for other PBB communities and the ResourceX team to observe. The leadership in the City Manager's office and from the PBB Super User team, combined with the Departments' adoption of programs into their everyday vernacular, has helped the City of Littleton to successfully deliver a 2021 budget that easily communicates the tradeoffs and service level changes that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 "In 2020, PBB was further incorporated into the budget process. The economic circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic presented numerous budget challenges, but the City was fortunate to already have the PBB data available to help make difficult budget decisions. The opportunities defined in the PBB Blueprint were made the primary means of justifying budget changes and requests by departments."
-Mark Relph, City Manager, City of Littleton, Colorado

Through the ResourceXchange Interview Series, we can capture and share our PBB community's excellent work and outstanding achievements. Visit www.resourcex.net/resourcexchange for the full recording and other Interview recordings.


Linked resources:
City of Littleton 2021 Final Budget
Priority Based Budgeting Data Layers
Littleton Pick 3 Blog
Continuity of Operations Planning in the City of Boise Video
4 Levels of Mastery: a PBB Manifesto Blog
ResourceXchange Overview
Stacey Covington, Budget Analyst, City of Littleton Video Clip