Bruce Nye is a board member of Make Oakland Better Now!. Budget reform will be on the agenda at the joint Make Oakland Better Now! and East Bay Young Democrats meeting on Sunday, February 20, 2011, 2:00 p.m. at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Avenue (directions). All are welcome.
At Make Oakland Better Now!’s February 20 meeting, we will be looking at ways our city could reform its budget process to make city government more responsive and more cost-effective. In posts this week, we will be focusing on two reforms: Performance Based Budgeting and “Price of Government” Budgeting. Both reforms have been used successfully in other cities.
Performance Based Budgeting
Oakland has been talking about performance based budgeting for nearly ten years. In the Budget Advisory Committee minutes from November, 2002 (DOC), it was noted that the City Council had committed to begin performance based budgeting by fiscal year 2005. And changing to performance based budgeting was part of the city’s “Moving Oakland Forward!” strategy (PDF) in 2003. Despite these discussions, the city has yet to make performance based budgeting a reality.
While there are many variations of the performance based budgeting model, they all have these features: Departments, divisions or other government units accept measurable goals for the budgetary period. They are given resources to achieve those goals. And at the end of the budgetary period, its leadership is evaluated on whether and to what extent those goals were met.
Here’s a comparison: Oakland’s 2009-10 and 2010-11 budget for its Public Works Department is here (PDF). In this budget, the department’s performance goals are described as follows:
- Improve livability through sustainable practices for cleaning and maintaining streets, trees, sidewalks, parks and facilities.
- Maintain the City’s infrastructure to meet current and future needs of our neighborhoods, support development and reduce the City’s exposure to liability.
- Create a sustainable City through implementing green buildings, renewable energy and efficiency projects, alternative fueled vehicles, and recycling/solid waste services.
- Leverage existing resources by seeking grants, public private partnerships and by enhancing volunteerism and sponsorship opportunities.
- Foster collaborative opportunities with other agencies and individuals to improve service delivery.
- Continue focusing on high-quality service and customer satisfaction to be the ‘provider of choice’ for our customers.
These are all lofty goals. But none of them are measurable.
Now let’s look at the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city with twice the population of Oakland. Here is Milwaukee’s Public Works, Infrastructure Services Division budget (PDF). Even in its executive summary, the budget document is specific and sets out measurable goals:
OBJECTIVES: Enhance transportation options and existing infrastructure. Reduce energy use in city operations by 15% by 2012.
STRATEGIES: Reduce local street replacement cycle to 65 years.
Increase capital maintenance of local streets. Improve bicycle and pedestrian access citywide. Complete installation of the LED traffic control signals and follow the development of LED street lights. Retrofit buildings to increase energy efficiency.
The sections that follow tell the reader all the details, of what will be accomplished, many of them quantitative, and what it will cost in terms of staffing, salaries and wages, benefits, equipment, etc. If the system works as designed, at the end of the budget period departments and divisions report on how well they met their goals with the resources they were given. This helps citizens and city policy-makers decide if tax dollars are being spent efficiently and in conformance with the city’s goals and priorities.
Performance based budgeting is on the agenda (PDF) of City Council’s Finance & Management Committee at 11:00 a.m., February 22, Oakland City Hall, Sgt. Mark Dunakin Room, First Floor. City staff seems less than enthusiastic about performance based budgeting (PDF). Make Oakland Better Now! supports it, however, and urges Oaklanders to come out in support.