Priority Based and Zero Based Budgeting

Ensure that Budget Priorities have Measurable Goals

Gear GraphicSome local governments engage in a practice they call Priority-Based Budgeting, which is a formal process for involving their citizens in establishing funding priorities in the municipal budget. Priority-Based Budgeting allows citizens to participate in identifying those areas where a higher-level of service is desired, or a new initiative should be launched – and ensures that those priorities are reflected in the upcoming budget. Zero-Based Budgeting is a process for building a budget that does not assume that the previous year’s funding levels for each program should be the starting point for developing the new budget, it requires that every dollar be justified as if the program were starting from zero.

Cascade directly supports Priority-Based Budgeting by ensuring that the conclusions of that process are effectively implemented, including the key input from citizens. When citizens have helped formulate the list of funding priorities for the upcoming year, the performance budgeting function of Cascade is the tool for reaching those goals. It is one thing to set priorities by ranking which services are most important and that call for additional funding or the reallocation of dollars. But it is another thing to create measurable goals for defining the effectiveness of those services, and to link those measures to their supporting activities – and then to track measurable progress and results throughout the year. Cascade shows how priorities will be implemented, and it makes apparent how programs are staying on track throughout the year to meet the goals.

Cascade is also a particularly effective solution for Zero-Based Budgeting. Cascade helps justify every dollar in the budget, by showing specifically what it should achieve. It also may be used to create alternative budget scenarios that show the expected effect on program performance of a different level of funding. If funding for a program area or subunit is zeroed-out, its impact on overall organizational performance can be mapped and illustrated with Cascade.



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