Mallory Herrmann

The city council heard two presentations during their recent work session, including one that might change the future of how the city looks at its budget planning. Chris Fabian of Center for Priority Based Budgeting (or PBB) presented a blue print plan that more than 200 communities in the U.S. and Canada have implemented as a tool to reallocate existing funds to new programs.

At the August 16 meeting the council heard how cities like Toledo, Ohio, and Boulder, Colorado, have found success in closely assessing the services and programming they provide citizens – and deciding whether that funding makes sense.

“The goal of PBB is to look for every opportunity that you have,” Fabian said. “We’re truly considering the budget in a totally different frame of reference with new objectives.”

Fabian stressed that the PBB program is not about simply cutting programs or adding new revenue but instead finding ways to free up existing funds to be used in more impactful ways, and to partner with other organizations or companies to continue providing the services that citizens value most. He said it could be particularly useful for a community considering a new recreation center or a small business incubator – two initiatives high on the city’s list of future hopefuls.

Fabian likened the concept to the app store on your smart phone: When the iPhone debuted, Apple provided all the applications you could use to make calls, update your calendar, and more. But as other people started providing other services – or the same services in a slightly different capacity – a marketplace of apps flourished. Toledo calls it “the city as platform,” a take on the government-as-a-platform concept.

Nearby communities Shawnee, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, implemented the PBB system in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The process to assess existing programs, services, and budgeting typically takes between four and six months but can take as long as the community needs. Once prioritizations are made, the city can begin to address changes in funding in response to the data.

City Manager Steve Arbo will work with Fabian and city staff to discuss a possible timeframe of implementation, being mindful of the citizens’ strategic planning initiative that’s also currently taking place. An initial plan will be presented at the city council’s next work session on September 13 for further discussion.

The second presentation was from Lee’s Summit CARES, who presented the council with a new “Community of Character” banner for the council chambers. The new branding represents the nine categories of character: family, schools, city government, law enforcement, parks and recreation, media, business, faith and health care.

Following the session, the council voted to go into a scheduled closed session. Councilmember Bob Johnson voted no.

Councilmember Craig Faith was absent.