New budget process more “transparent”

System receives approval from members
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn City Council heard an initial report on a new method of budgeting that requires departments to break down how they spend money and why at a meeting Monday night.

Performance-based budgeting requires department heads to include their mission and a list of services they provide based on statistical data. The council directed staff to begin researching new, more detailed methods of budgeting.

At Monday's meeting, Bernie Schroeder, director of public works, was the first to approach the council with a draft performance-based budget.

"It makes me a better manager and I think it will make you better as policy makers," Schroeder said.

The word "story" was used more than once to describe the performance-based budgeting process. City Manager Robert Richardson said by having departments list their accomplishments, goals, vision and how funds allocated to them have been spent should make it easier for the council and public to understand how the city operates.

"It's really a tool for you and for the citizens to understand what we do and how we do it," Richardson said.

Schroeder broke down her department into four sections in her performance-based budget. Those included the airport, sewer, transit, and a separate section for street and fleet maintenance, building maintenance and engineering and administrative services.

She then explained specific work her department has done throughout Auburn over the past three years. For example, she tracked how many potholes have been filled, how much has been spent on everything from flood prevention to sewer line maintenance, and also included the amount of full-time and part-time employees in her department.

When Councilman Dr. Bill Kirby asked Schroeder if creating a performance-based budget was too much of a burden, given the staffing cuts Auburn has faced over the years, she made it clear that it was a necessary tool.

Schroeder said that by showing how her department spends its money it might be easier for residents to understand how different aspects of public works impact each other financially.

"It has the ability to strengthen some of the programs that maybe are not explained. There are probably a lot of people in the audience and in the community that don't understand the relationship between transit and paving the roads. There is a direct correlation there, so if this document can provide more transparency and explanation to the community it certainly is a good tool as far as I am concerned," Schroeder said.

The mayor and council were in favor of performance-based budgeting and instructed Richardson to have other city departments prepare similar presentations to Schroeder's for future meetings.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what the other department heads present to us as well and seeing what their heads of staff think of the performance-based idea," said Councilwoman Bridget Powers.

Richardson said the fire and police departments would be next, followed by community development and then administrative services.

"I think it's a good benchmark document that over the next year or several years will become fluid and maybe become more refined," said Councilman Keith Nesbitt.

Mayor Kevin Hanley called the new budgeting process "the future."

"I think we're moving toward more transparency and it's going to help the council make decisions, it's going to help the public give more input in what they think the priorities are and I think that's a good thing," Hanley said.

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.