Change is in the Air for Budget Process

Mayor Dan Rizzo’s administration is about to take a major step towards revolutionizing the way the City does budgeting, and officials said it would be a major change from the way that money is allocated now.

The City recently learned that it was the beneficiary of a grant to help implement performance-based budgeting – often known as CitiStat – through a grant administered by the Mass Municipal Association.

Mayor Rizzo, Mayoral Assistant Miles Lang-Kennedy and Director of Finance George Anzuoni have been attending seminars for some time now at UMass-Boston to learn about the program.

The grant, Rizzo said, is good for a six-month period and will allow an analyst to work eight hours per week (one full day) in Revere – probably concentrating on one department per week. Some 29 communities were able to get the grant along with Revere, and a kick-off meeting will take place on July 30th.

The initiative was a cornerstone of Rizzo’s campaign and has been very successful in Somerville.

“Six months ago, I assigned our Director of Finance George Anzuoni, along with other members of my administration, to participate in StatNet meetings with the Collins Center at UMass,” Rizzo said. “StatNet is a network of municipal officials who are currently using data-driven performance management systems. The group gathers three times per year to discuss municipal governance. With funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Community Innovation Challenge Grant Program, five communities (Amesbury, Lowell, Somerville, Woburn and Worcester) are launching a six-month program for establishing performance management in their own communities. Additional funding was provided for another 15 communities to help launch similar efforts. We are grateful for Revere being chosen as one of those additional communities. Our selection into this group means free training and analytical support in our pursuit to implement performance based budgeting.”

Kennedy said that it is exciting and will help the City find money that isn’t being utilized to the highest degree.

“This is about using data to make budgetary decisions, not just saying a line item in the budget needs to be there because it’s always been there,” he said. “It’s about backing up budgetary decisions with numbers and data…This was a big initiative during the campaign and this is going to help us put it in place and to be able to do more with less.”

Performance-based budgeting, or CitiStat, got its start with the New York Police Department – where administrators were trying to become more efficient and accountable.

That effort was taken and modified by the City of Baltimore, which used it to revolutionize its City government and won numerous awards in the process.

In Massachusetts, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone instituted the program about five years ago and it has shown measurable success. In fact, current Revere City Councillor Brian Arrigo works closely with the program in Somerville’s Water & Sewer Department.

Anzuoni said that Revere is also trying to get a college class to use Revere as a project, customizing the computer program for the City free of charge. If that happens, he said, Revere would be well on its way to implementing the sweeping change.

Nevertheless, he said, it will be a slow process.

“This isn’t going to be done overnight,” he said. “We’re probably going to start with the Police Department, then the Fire and then the DPW. This is going to require retraining of the staff, City Hall employees and the department heads. The way we do business is no longer going to be submitting a budget like the previous years. It will be that every expenditure is analyzed. A department head will have to justify, with figures, why they need each appropriation in their budget.”

And it won’t be finished there.

Anzuoni said that once the money is granted to a department head, they would have to meet certain goals with that money and prove that they’ve met those goals and that they needed it.

“If they can’t prove it, they won’t get it again,” he said.

Anzuoni said that he has been an advocate for implementing the system for some time, and said he is glad the Rizzo administration is taking quick action to get it done.

“We’re hoping to have some form of this ready to use in the next budget cycle,” said Anzuoni. “There’s money out there we can probably get back, but we don’t now know exactly where it is and we can’t prove it’s not needed.”

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