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Municipal Budget – Mobilizing Citizen Engagement

Budget season is here for many munis and it’s time to start considering what tools for mobilizing citizen engagement you’ll employ. Notice there isn’t an option of whether an engagement strategy will be used, only what kind.

Gone are the days when a budget/corporate plan is prepared behind closed doors by administration and presented to council for rubber stamping. Nowadays there are several online budgeting tools your municipality can use as an easy way to engage your residents in the budget process. Citizen Budget and Open North are two popular online budgeting tools available to Canadian municipalities. One thing to keep in mind is the cost associated with this type of engagement, you’ll likely need to work with your procurement department to ensure you remain within policy.

The most valuable thing about these budget tools is their ability to make the budget interactive. They increase transparency by allowing citizens to easily navigate complex municipal budgets, to view revenues received from the government, and to track outgoing expenditures. The hope is that with this increased accessibility, citizens can provide better input into the budget process and governments can make better program-level decisions based on constituent needs. Most online budgeting tools allow governments to track traffic within these budgeting technology portals and further examine community interest.

Another upside to using these budget tools is the decrease in requests for line-by-line reviews of the budget because there is a better understanding of the process and where dollars are being spent.

For more information on how to develop a citizen engagement strategy for your budget/corporate plan, feel free to contact us directly.