Lawrence City Commission to consider new scoring guide to help make spending decisions
photo by: Mike Yoder
As part of their effort to better prioritize their budget decisions, city leaders will soon consider a new scoring guide that would affect how millions of tax dollars are spent.
As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider approving a proposed priority-based budgeting scoring matrix, which will identify spending priorities by scoring city programs against the commission’s new strategic plan. Danielle Buschkoetter, budget and strategic initiatives administrator, said the matrix was intended to build on the city’s recent budget prioritization efforts.
“I think this is a continuation of what we have been trying to accomplish over the last couple years, and I think this is a really good next step in this process,” Buschkoetter said.
The scoring matrix ties into the city’s priority-based budgeting process, which aims to better identify the cost of city services, help link funding decisions to commission priorities, and help identify potential efficiencies, according to a city staff memo to the commission.
The commission adopted its new strategic plan last year, replacing one created in 2017. The plan lays out five goals, or outcomes, and six commitments the city will make as it pursues those outcomes. The outcomes are a welcoming and vibrant community; safe and functional neighborhoods; trusted public and community-based safety; economic security and a sustainable local economy; and well-maintained, functional and efficient infrastructure. Among other things, the commitments include community engagement, equity and inclusion, sound fiscal stewardship and environmental sustainability.
Buschkoetter said the new priority-based scoring method would be specifically for city programs and services. That includes a variety of services the city provides, such as water treatment, solid waste pickup and public transit service.
As part of the scoring process, each city program would be classified into one of two groups and scored against the matrix, according to the memo. The two groups would be community programs, such as planning or trash collection, and internal governance programs, such as staff training or accounts payable. City departments would then assign each program or service a score based on how well it aligns with the outcomes and commitments of the strategic plan, and then they would place the programs into quartiles based on the overall score. Those scores would then be reviewed by cross-departmental groups of city staff members to ensure consistency across departments and would go through a final analysis and review before being presented to the City Commission for consideration.
The scoring process for programs and services wouldn’t be the first such system adopted by city government. The city already established a similar scoring process over the summer for prioritizing capital improvement projects.
Because of financial uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic, the city adopted a $291 million “placeholder” budget for 2021, which the commission will make its first amendments to this spring.
The City Commission will convene virtually at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday with limited staff in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The city has asked that residents participate in the meeting virtually if they are able to do so. A link to register for the Zoom meeting and directions to submit written public comment are included in the agenda that is available on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org.