Different city departments are visiting the city council these days. Each one goes up and explains why they need a budget increase over last year. The mayor says many departments will see increases to their bottom lines compared to last year. The budget process the city uses is the incremental budgeting. But this method is old. The City Council must implement priority based budgeting.

Yes, the New Orleans City Council is in the middle of the charter mandated budget approval process.  The way it works in New Orleans is the mayor presents a proposed budget to the council.  The council has a month to approve the spending.  This year, from November 6th through the 14th, the council holds budget hearings.  During this time, budget recipients go before the council and explain their needs.  Last week, District Attorney Jason Williams explained his need for extra money for victims of domestic abuse. 

As the council hears from these different agencies, they must prioritize spending.  Everybody has real needs. How can the council agree to fund spending more for at risk youth than bight reduction. Each is critical. Priority based budgeting is the solution.  It is the guide to the complex decision making that the council must undertake.

Related: Councilman Thomas Suggests Putting the People First

Typically, the mayor’s office and previous councils used incremental budgeting.  Incremental budgeting uses the previous budget as the basis for the new budget.  NOPD needs an additional 20% next year, but the fire department didn’t use all of their money so deduct 8% from their budget.  Incremental budgeting makes marginal changes to the old budget, usually based upon the previous years usage by the agency.  This approach is simplistic but provides operational stability.

City Council Must Implement Priority Based Budgeting

But the incremental approach discourages innovation and fails to account for changes and external factors.  Priority spending is a better approach.  Priority based budgeting makes budget decisions and allocates funds based on the needs of the community. And priority based budgets emphasize working with the available resources as a starting point rather than the previous year’s expenditures. Also, priority budgets allocate funds to programs instead of departments.  Priority-based budgets allocate funds based on strategic planning and community needs.

Priority based budgeting embodies several principles, which all center around the core concept of delivering services to the community. 

  • Understand Community Needs
  • Prioritize Services
  • Allocate and Cut Based on Needs
  • Transparency
  • Accountability

So if New Orleans has a carjacking by youth problem, then spending more money on at risk youth becomes the priority. And ff New Orleans decides to incentivize more high schoolers to become police officers, it could create an after school program that trains, pays and integrates high school students into a NOPD ROTC like program.  The program not only produces more NOPD officers from New Orleans, but reduces crime by paying and training young people who might otherwise be out carjacking.  Instead of just increasing the NOPD budget to combat criminal activity, the budget provides a real solution. 

City Council Must Implement Priority Based Budgeting

Priority budgeting provides immediate solutions.  Priority budgeting includes program alignment to community priorities to ensure the funded programs reflect community needs.  Also, priority budgeting directly funds programs.  Priority budgeting directly connects revenue to solutions.  Priority budgeting can help New Orleans spend better and make the city better. City Council Must Implement Priority Based Budgeting

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