Bloomington Examining 'Priority Budgeting'

Published 08/18 2014 10:09PM

Updated 08/18 2014 10:46PM

BLOOMINGTON - The City of Bloomington is looking at a new way to plan its budget. Monday's committee of the whole could set the stage for a completely new way of doing business.

There’s always been one way to do budgeting in Bloomington: the traditional way. That meant lookingat previous year’s and factoring in inflation.But on Monday, it looked at a new possibility: priority-based budgeting.

In the Land of Lincoln, it would only make sense to look to another Lincoln, to see if the method works. Lincoln, Neb., has been using the system since 2008.

"That's what builds confidence when they can see what you're doing in a very transparent way, and look at the same information you've looked at and come to similar conclusions,” said Rick Hoppe, chief of staff in Lincoln, Neb.

Priority budgeting would lay out all of the different programs within a department, and see what's profitable and how much revenue each part generates or needs.

"We would look at not the department as a whole, but its individual components,” said Bloomington city manager David Hales. “The detective investigation division, its school resource officers, and so on and so on.”

In Lincoln, the process has been well-received.

"Rather than doing it with a chainsaw, we're doing it with a scalpel,” said Hoppe.

Under the proposal, instead of cutting entire programs, some things could stick, and citizens would know how much each move could cost them or save them.

"What are the values to the community as a whole,” said Hales.

"People were willing to let the snow pile up when they had all the information on performance indicators and what it meant to them,” said Hoppe.

The system also allows for overrides of the citizens, but council says it's certainly moving in the right direction.

"If we're going down this path, that we'd get a lot of new faces and fresh perspectives as opposed to council commentary,” said Scott Black Bloomington city council member.

Council will likely look at this plan formally within the next month or so. If it is approved, a consultant could be hired to help to implement the program.

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