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The Center for Priority Based Budgeting™ (CPBB), a Denver, Colorado-based, mission driven organization established in 2010, provides technical and advisory services to assist local governments, school districts and other non-profit agencies achieve Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting. This creative and innovative process, developed by CPBB, enables communities to reassess their priorities in order to make sound, long-term funding decisions. Establishing a mission-driven organization solidifies CPBB’s focus on being a trusted advisor and a dependable, objective resource, assisting local government leaders who are seeking service excellence, transparency to their stakeholders and a strong desire to achieve the Results that are important to their community.

From large organizations (such as the cities of Cincinnati, Ohio, Sacramento, California and
Edmonton, Alberta) to mid-sized communities (like the Colorado cities of Boulder, Wheat Ridge and Fort Collins) to smaller communities (such as Blue Ash, Ohio and Douglas County, Nevada), the processes and tools developed by CPBB have proven effective, scalable, and best of all, repeatable. CPBB has already led nearly 70 communities through this comprehensive body of work. As a result, in 2012, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) established Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting as a leading practice for local governments.



The Decade of Local Government

“the next decade will be a time in which the fiscal woes of federal and state governments will leave local and regional governments on their own, struggling to balance the need for innovation against the necessity of making tough choices… it will also be a decade in which local government will lead the way in developing creative solutions to extraordinary problems. There are a number of reasons to be optimistic about this coming decade of local government”
- Bob O’Neill, The Coming Decade of Local Government, Governing Magazine

Local governments continue to face previously unknown financial and political pressures as they struggle to develop meaningful and fiscally prudent budgets. Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting is a unique and innovative approach being used across the Country to:

  • help organizations assess their “picture of fiscal health”
  • objectively determine how to match available resources with community priorities
  • provide elected officials with clearly presented information that leads to better informed decisions
  • meaningfully engage citizens in the budgeting process
  • escape the traditional routine of basing “new” budgets on revisions to the “old” budget

This holistic approach helps to provide elected officials and other decision-makers with a “new lens” through which to frame better-informed financial and budgeting decisions and helps ensure that a community is able to identify and preserve those programs and services that are most highly valued. 

Conversely, communities that have successfully navigated the fiscal storm will also benefit from Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting. By continuing to match resources with community priorities, engage citizens, and develop budgets that focus scarce reasons on the most highly valued programs and services, this unique and logical process created by CPBB, provides an ongoing platform for high-performing communities to continue to be successful.


“A New Lens”

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“Challenges facing local governments today literally requires a new way to see. It’s as if our vision has been blurred by the extraordinary stress of managing in this complex economic environment. Whether attempting to rebuild in a post-recession climate, or persevering through another year of stagnating or declining revenues, the challenge remains: how to allocate scarce resources to achieve our community’s highest priorities. Through the new lens of Priority Based Budgeting, which provides powerful insights, local governments are making significant breakthroughs.”
- Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian, Seeing Things Differently, Public Management (PM) Magazine, 2012

Fiscal Health and Wellness

The Leading Practice of Fiscal Health is achieved by properly diagnosing the symptoms and causes of an organization’s fiscal issues in order to avoid applying the wrong treatment (which may make matters ever worse) and properly “prescribing” the correct treatments needed to alleviate any fiscal distress. This preventative diagnostic approach helps uncover the root cause of an organizations fiscal “ailments” and uncovers potentially unhealthy practices that can be easily corrected before the organizations fiscal potion is compromised. Fiscal Health is attainable for every organization by undertaking CPBB’s basic 5-step diagnostic process, then graphically depicting and communicated the organization’s “picture of fiscal health” using the newly designed web-based “Fiscal Health Diagnostic Tool”. Through a series of basic diagnostic questions, organizations gain a better assessment of not only their positive signs of Fiscal Health but also the root causes of the fiscal "dis-ease" impacting their long-term financial sustainability.

CPBB has seen its diagnostic approach to achieving Fiscal Health and the development and utilization of its unique and innovative “Fiscal Health Diagnostic Model” profoundly change the conversation between local government managers, finance professionals and elected officials. These are but a few of the powerful ways Fiscal Health has been used to help local government leaders achieve long-term financial sustainability.

Seeking clearer understanding and communication with your elected officials?

  • Elected officials have adopted Fiscal Health as their preferred means of communicating with staff regarding any decisions brought before them that potentially might have a fiscal impact – asking staff to “show us” those impacts using the principles of Fiscal Health as the primary communication device.

Working through challenging conversations about compensation with staff or bargaining units?

  • Organizations have entered into labor negotiations with their bargaining units using Fiscal Health as a way to quickly agree on the assumptions behind the City’s fiscal forecasts, therefore establishing a basis of trust in the discussion – then modeling the bargaining units’ requests to demonstrate impacts to the City’s fiscal position.

Weighing various financial related decisions, with complex variables, and long-term impacts?

  • Fiscal Health modeling is a powerful scenario-planning tool, providing easy to understand visualization of data. It has even been used to help a Water and Sewer District prioritize capital projects, understand the ongoing impacts of those projects, and effectively develop rate increases by better understanding their ongoing and one-time sources and uses of funding in their operation.

Local governments choosing to implement the concepts of Fiscal Health as a treatment regimen are making substantial progress because they are doing the analytical work required to more accurately diagnosis the reasons behind their fiscal issues and then determining the best treatments that lead to a viable cure. Once an organization is on the road to being fiscally healthy, it can then become more financially sustainable by implementing a Fiscal Wellness regimen centered around the principles of Priority Based Budgeting.

Priority Based Budgeting provides a comprehensive review of the entire organization, identifying every program offered, identifying the costs of every program offered, evaluating the relevance of every program offered on the basis of the community's priorities, and ultimately guiding elected and appointed officials to the policy questions they can answer with the information gained from the Priority Based Budgeting process, such as:

  • What is the local government uniquely qualified to provide, offering the maximum benefit to citizens for the tax dollars
    they pay?
  • What is the community truly mandated to provide? What does it cost to fulfill those mandates?
  • What programs are most appropriate to fund by establishing or increasing user-fees?
  • What programs are most appropriate for establishing partnerships with other community service providers?
  • What services might the local government consider “getting out of the business” of providing?
  • Where are there apparent overlaps and redundancies in a community because several entities are providing similar services?
  • Where is the local government potentially competing against private businesses within its own community?

The creative, organic, and diagnostic process developed by CPBB progresses from a diagnosis to a prescription that ultimately enables communities to link funding decisions to their avowed priorities.

The process also brings together government managers, finance officers, civic leaders, and community residents to make decisions that better align the community's resources with what its leaders the residents value the most. Accomplish this and you've attained Fiscal Health and Wellness©.

CPBB’s work is published and/or highlighted by such leading organizations as the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), Alliance for Innovation, Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), and National League of Cities (NLC).