Lawrence City Commission to consider consultant agreement to improve budget process
photo by: Mike Yoder
Lawrence city commissioners will consider moving forward with a consultant-led overhaul of the city’s budget process that aims to better prioritize spending decisions.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider a $135,000 three-year agreement with a consultant, Resource Exploration LLC, to put in place new budgeting software and a process. To implement the program, called priority-based budgeting, would also require additional staff positions.
Strategic Projects Manager Danielle Buschkoetter explained that the process would go beyond fund- and department-level budget reviews and would evaluate the total costs and relative priority of individual programs. She said the priority-based budgeting process would allow the city to look at its budget in a different context.
“It’s taking it one level deeper and focusing on what programs we provide and talking about the budget in that process,” Buschkoetter said.
According to an overview of the program provided to the commission in March, priority-based budgeting will also require the city to hire additional staff members. The memo states that implementation will take a significant investment in staff time and resources and that, at a minimum, positions in finance and IT would be recommended.
The priority-based budgeting process includes a system that evaluates city programs based on multiple factors. Buschkoetter said city staff would begin by identifying all the programs the city currently provided and their costs. She said the budgeting software would then use a scoring matrix based on the commission’s strategic plan that would rank each program using the commission’s priorities.
“Then we can say, ‘OK, if this is a priority that we’ve identified, is that aligning with the resources that we’re putting toward it?” Buschkoetter said. “So it’s really, at this point, kind of a conversation starter and a different way to look at the budget.”
The first year of the consultant agreement would cost $65,000 and would include the price of the software, set-up costs, training and support, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The annual renewal rate is $35,000.
The city did not conduct a bidding process for the contract. The memo states that because Resource Exploration is a sole source vendor, the process is exempt from the city’s competitive bidding process. Pursuant to the city’s purchasing procedures, an exemption applies when a written determination has been made by a department director and approved by the city manager that there is only one vendor practicably or reasonably available to provide a service, according to the memo.
The proposed implementation schedule calls for the program inventory, cost allocation and department scoring to be complete by the end of the year and for reviews to take place in January and February. Buschkoetter said the new budgeting process could be used during the budget process for 2020, which will begin in February 2019.
The commission created a strategic plan in 2017, and one of the eight priority initiatives the commission set out to accomplish within two years was to “develop a plan to implement Priority Based Budgeting and enhance communication in the annual budget process.” The commission will consider the agreement as part of its consent agenda.
The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.