Holistic Budgeting 

City uses long-term goals to focus budget

The world is filled with holistic everything. Holistic healing, holistic food, but holistic city budgeting?

That's the approach the Boise City Council took for the first time this year when allocating funds in its latest two-year budget, which was approved on Aug. 14. Rather than pitting city departments against each other in a battle for funds, the city based its budgeting process on the city strategic plan.

Teams drawn from numerous city departments looked at what needs to be done to meet specific city goals, and then reported to the council. Funds were allocated to the various departments based on what needs to happen to reach those goals. "It's a really new and different thing for the city to do," said Council President Elaine Clegg.

"We approached [the budget] in a whole-city sense," said Council member Maryanne Jordan, who credited the process with making perennially dull budget hearings more understandable for everyone involved.

"It helps not only the departments, but the public, understand the decision-making process as well," she said. "We all recognize what we see as important, but we have to balance that as a whole."

Clegg said when many of the current council members came into office, city money was spent like someone sitting down to pay bills, with little advanced planning involved and even less money set aside for larger projects.

"We know what our strategic direction is; now we have performance goals," she said.

Among the advantages of the new system, Clegg pointed to improved maintenance and repair programs across the city, and a more substantial capital fund which has allowed the city to take on projects like the new City Hall West without raising taxes.

One item on which the council voted to focus funds goes along with the city's new holistic planning approach. Blueprint Boise is an effort to create a new city comprehensive plan, as well as new zoning and subdivision codes, by using community priorities as guidelines.

Beginning this fall, the public will have a chance to weigh in on what the city should be in the future. This means everything from growth to transit.

"The way the city will develop in the future will differ depending on those plans," Clegg said.

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