Menlo Park budget gets a mission
Publication Date: Friday Jul 29, 1994

COMMUNITY: Menlo Park budget gets a mission

New approach to spending touted as more efficient

by Rufus Jeffris

City Manager Jan Dolan on Tuesday unveiled Menlo Park's proposed 1994-95 budget, an exacting plan that attempts for the first time to link what the city spends to the actual cost of giving residents the services they want. The approach is similar to that used by Sunnyvale, which got national attention when President Clinton visited the city to borrow concepts from its budget for making the federal government run more efficiently. The city of Palo Alto is also moving toward this approach, known as "mission-driven budgeting."

"This is our continued focus of giving priority to programs that produce outcomes desired by the citizens vs. that of bureaucrats and to ensure that citizens get at least a dollar's worth of service for each dollar invested," Dolan wrote in a letter to the City Council.

The proposed budget calls for spending nearly $16.5 million to run the city, about 3.3 percent less than what city officials estimate was spent last year. Revenue for the fiscal year, which started July 1, is expected to reach almost $16.9 million.

The Council will give the proposed budget its first public review Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

In crafting the plan, Menlo Park officials started with broad mission statements developed by the Council that reflected what residents want from the community. This approach differed from the way budgets have been calculated in the past, when making decisions about how much to spend and where to spend it amounted largely to a guessing game.

City officials then attempted to figure out which services, and in what amount, were needed to carry out those mission statements. And finally, they hammered out the exact cost of providing each service.

"The public and elected officials can readily see what level of resources is needed for each service," Dolan said.

Knowing that, she explained, will also make it easier for city leaders and residents to decide which services are not needed and which may be too expensive or inefficient to provide.

At the same time, however, Dolan acknowledged that "because this is our first attempt at identifying performance measures, it is not perfect . . . next year, this process should be more fully refined."1 n

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