Prince William County, VA Strategic-Based Budget Process
Status: Adopted in 1989, 1992 & 1994
Performance Based Budgeting is based on defining and measuring desired outcomes through a participatory mechanism; allocating resources to achieve desired outcomes and providing accountability for results. A fundamental premise of performance based budgeting is focusing on desired results and not initially on a constraints imposed by a budget. By defining and reconciling needs, the municipalities define an appropriate financing and service production strategy to meet those objectives. This forces the municipality to have an open and transparent dialogue with community informing them of how the established objectives are being met and how the impact of resources is being maximized.
A successful case of performance based budgeting is Prince William County, Virginia, USA. In 1992 the county defined a mechanism to institute performance based budgeting. Citizen attitude surveys were performed to help define the tastes and preferences of citizens toward municipal infrastructure and services and the survey served as a key input into a strategic development plan. The strategic plan defined objectives and desired outcomes for a period of four years. The annual budget was formulated with the guiding principle of achieving the outcome (impact) that was established in the strategic plan. In order to monitor progress in meeting the objectives the municipality contracted the University of Virginia Business School to carry out annual service delivery surveys. After five years of instituting performance based budgeting, the constituency has responded very positively and concrete improvements in the quality of life are visible.
Strategic-Based Outcome Budget Process
I. Prince William Financial and Program Planning Ordinance
In 1994, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors adopted the Financial and Program Planning Ordinance. This ordinance provides a framework for planning government services, funding these planned services, and achieving desired community outcomes. This framework also links the County’s strategic planning and budgeting processes, resulting in the implementation of strategic-based, outcome budgeting in Prince William County. This type of budgeting accomplishes two major objectives.
First, it provides County leaders and residents with a blueprint for the current and future direction of the County government. Second, it enables decision-makers to make budget decisions based on achieving community outcomes. This system implements the community’s vision for accountable, efficient government.
II. Community Vision and Values
A. The Future Report
In 1989, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved a process to involve the community in envisioning the physical and aesthetic characteristics of life as well as the amenities and opportunities that should exist in Prince William in the year 2010. The Board appointed fifteen citizens to the County’s Commission on the Future to oversee this process. When completed, this “visioning” process involved over 3,000 citizens. The Future Report covers nearly every aspect of life in Prince William and contains hundreds of vision statements.
B. The Annual Citizen Survey
A formal visioning process is only one way the County gauges citizens’ views on vision and values. Every spring, the University of Virginia conducts a citizen survey for Prince William County that asks citizens to rate their satisfaction both with overall County Government and with various County services and facilities. This survey provides valuable information to the Board of County Supervisors and to staff and ties directly into agencies’ service level targets. Every four years, the County expands the use of this survey to include not only satisfaction with current services, but also citizens’ views on issues and problems facing the County.
C. On-going Community Dialogue
The County’s Strategic Plan is a community-based plan. This is a key reason why the Plan has been so successful in achieving the County’s future vision and in guiding resource allocation decisions. The Board consistently encourages citizen input and participation throughout the planning and budget processes. In addition to the annual citizen survey, this includes:
1. Annual community meetings to provide citizens with reports on progress towards implementation of the Strategic Plan and to get input on changes to the plan;
2. Community meetings and public hearings on the recommendations contained in the annual budget;
3. Ongoing presentations and dialogue with civic, business and community groups on the Strategic Plan and budget;
4. Annual meetings with all County board, committee and commission members to get their input into these processes;
5. Dialogue with the Board’s Budget Committees regarding recommendations in the proposed budget.