If you’ve ever worked in finance administration at a local government, then you know citizens and colleagues alike love to complain about how tax dollars are, or are not, being spent.
Have you ever wished you could align your internal stakeholders on budgeting decisions? Or give residents a window into what the budgeting process is really like? Now you can, with Citizen Budget.
Used by more than 100 Canadian municipalities, Citizen Budget is Canada’s leading online public engagement for municipal budgeting. Citizen Budget empowers anyone to step into the shoes of the public officials who are responsible for budgeting.
As participants give feedback, they can see the constraints involved, the challenges of balance competing interests and priorities, and come out of the experience informed and aligned on local spending decisions.
The Ethelo algorithm that powers Citizen Budget then analyzes participant feedback in real-time and finds budget scenarios that have the greatest level of buy-in and consensus.
It's easier than ever to balance your budget.
The tool can also be configured to automatically balance budgets that are in surplus or deficit. Participants can manually make adjustments if they've gone over budget, or they can choose to have the platform automatically balance their budget based on their stated preferences.
For example, if someone indicates that transportation expenditure is very important to them, Citizen Budget will look to balance the allotted dollars by reducing allocation to other areas that are not weighted as strongly. Following this, users can also readjust their spending preferences and have funds redistributed accordingly.
Again, participants also have the option to balance their budgets manually by going back to edit their original selections. Results are updated in real-time in this case as well.
Either way you slice it, participants can complete the budgeting process without feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to balance the budget on their own. If they want to dig into the details and do it themselves, they can, but otherwise the system will do it for them in a way that aligns with their beliefs and values.
This method allows for higher completion rates and less likelihood that people will drop out along the way because they are too confused or frustrated to make everything balance out.
Once everyone has weighed in with their individual budget preferences, Citizen Budget takes that input and generates the overall budget that has the highest level of constituent support. This final collective budget should reflects the original budget outlined by each individual.
Beyond this, involving residents in this collaborative engagement process gives more trust and acceptance of the budget outcome, given the process was transparent and fair - regardless of how close the budget consensus appears to their personal choices.
The platform can be used both internally within a local government to create inter-departmental consensus, and externally, for those who want the public to have their say on how tax dollars are spent.