Consultation is a different beast altogether than information sharing. Whereas information sharing is a one way relationship, consultation creates a two way relationship based on citizen feedback. It relies on a fundamental assumption by local leaders that citizen feedback is beneficial to the budget process and decision making (often with regard to expenditures or even tax rate setting). This method provides for and encourages citizen input while still allowing local leaders to define the agenda. The key is that practitioners and elected officials solicit input a set of issues and questions that they create and control.
Budgeting in Local Government
October 31st – November 3rd, 2017, School of Government
This four-day course covers the legal and management framework of budget preparation and enactment in North Carolina local government. Participants will discuss the numerous processes and techniques used to produce an annual operating budget and capital budget.
In the last three blogs we have been talking about citizen engagement (see here, here, and here). One of the areas that is most frustrating for governments is often their attempts to engage citizens are not particularly successful. Citizens may not have time or easy access to the events and resources, but there are ways around that. What happens when it is simply that citizens DO NOT WANT to engage? That is often the reality. Governments spend precious time and resources developing great opportunities but no one (or few) takes advantage of them. This is an aspect of citizen engagement I have been personally interested in and one that I believe we can address by starting ‘em young.
Consider these tactics and efforts the Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights, and Alice in Wonderland of sharing budget information. Except no one makes you read (or watch) these in high school.
The first step, in my opinion, in productive citizen engagement is providing information and helping educate citizens about government and budgeting. This is because government is just a black box to most people. They sort of understand some of the most basic functions of government, but may not have any idea of which level of government does it. Who pays for libraries? Roads? Do I have police and a sheriff? What about fire service? What does the state even do? These are not unrealistic questions. Continue reading
Do you want your bonds to kill your city’s bond ratings?
Do you want your bonds to go into default?
Do you want to be responsible for a backlash against the mayor/council for not planning for a future you should have known was coming?
Do you want your city to become even more clogged with traffic, but this time the cars are empty and slowing everyone down?
Ignoring autonomous vehicles (AVs) may be possible today, but just know, they are coming soon–and by soon I mean this year (2017). While AVs may not yet be mainstream transportation today, do not count on it just being something your grandkids use. Cities have to start planning now, or their leaders will be saying YES (begrudgingly) to those questions above. A new report out from the folks at the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon is looking to help you deal with these questions. You can read our report here.
There has been a lot of interest in how to tighten up the relationships between citizens and their local governments. At the local level there is a lot more opportunity to work with and get feedback from citizens. This is accomplished by many communities and in various ways. I believe, and I know this will be shocking, that the budget is the single best place to engage citizens. The budget is the encyclopedia of government. The budget reflects what government does and reflects priorities based on spending decisions, as well as changes in the community as reflected in changes in the budget from year to year.
***I love this quote from a VP debate in 2012. 1) It is true. 2) It is hilarious because we are living in a time of continuing resolutions rather than budgets at the federal level, so I guess we prioritize not making hard decisions and not working together.*** Continue reading
Cities and counties are constructs of their respective states. Counties are almost always created by state constitutional decree. Cities are municipal corporations created by state legislative action. Regardless of the method of creation, states exercise significant control over what cities and counties can and cannot do. From the taxes levied to debt issuances to services that can or cannot be provided, the state determines the role of local governments within its borders. States have been pre-empting local policies at an increasing rate. The National League of Cities has documented a number of these actions. Popular targets are restrictions locally imposed minimum wages (24 states), paid leave (18 states), and public provision of broadband internet (17 states). Of these three, North Carolina is included in all. There are many other areas where states have been pre-empting local actions. This top-down view suggests that local governments have little ability to chart their own course. However, this isn’t quite right. There are many ways that cities and counties push back against state policy. In the news now, Sanctuary Cities in Texas are pushing back against new laws restricting their actions. This is a highly visible example; however, cities and counties often have other options that are less visible.
Have you ever used the County and Municipal Fiscal Analysis tool that is housed on Treasurer’s website? It allows municipalities and counties in the state to see how they are doing with regard to financial condition and compare their performance to peers. It has recently become the focus of new research coming from colleagues at the University of South Dakota and Indiana University. Ed Gerrish and Luke Spreen presented their research on our benchmarking tool earlier this month at the Public Management Research Conference and it is forthcoming at the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. In this Research Review I am going to discuss their research and pull a few findings that are especially notable for those of you that work in budgeting and finance.
Research Review is a place for me to bring you academic research that I think might be of interest or relevant to you all. It is not necessarily the Cliff notes of the paper, but it will present some key findings or insights from the paper.