Editors note: This post originally ran on the blog of the Center for Priority-Based Budgeting and is republished here with permission.

Since late 2010, the Town of Christiansburg has been working with the Center for Priority-Based Budgeting, based in Denver, CO, on a radically different budget process that evaluates and prioritizes the programs and services provided by the town. Like so many other municipalities across the country, Christiansburg enjoyed many years of prosperous economic conditions. Most capital projects were paid for in-full and residents have long enjoyed a relatively low real estate tax rate for decades. However, the economic downturn of the past few years had a significant impact on revenues and the town found itself in a budget deficit situation.

When faced with a budget deficit, the common approach in many localities is to take emergency-room measures, such as across-the-board cuts, pushing back replacement schedules for vehicles and construction equipment, or implementing furlough days or even layoffs. These steps, while effective in cutting spending in the short-term, can have long-term implications on a towns ability to provide the level and type of service citizens desire.

Developing a Process

With the above information in mind, help was sought from the Center for Priority-Based Budgeting in developing a prioritization process that could be used to help the town better understand:

  • The programs and services it provides the community
  • The true cost of providing these services
  • The best way to allocate funds as the town strives to spend within its means

This course of action is intended to help focus the towns decision-making process by basing priorities on outcomes. The concept behind prioritization of services is that it creates an objective and transparent decision-making process, one that ensures programs of higher value to citizens (ie, those that achieve the organizations objectives most effectively) can be sustained through adequate funding levels, regardless of the economic conditions. This strategic approach to managing the current fiscal environment will also help insure the towns long-term fiscal wellness.

Priority-based budgeting is a key component in the budgeting process, with Town Council and staff using its results to determine the best way to allocate available resources. In addition to assisting in the determination of what services and programs contribute directly to the Towns overall objectives, the process also helps in evaluating any future new programs or services being considered.

Working on the Process

Work on the budget prioritization process began in December 2010, when advisors from the Center for Priority-Based Budgeting met with councilmembers and representative citizens at a public meeting. The advisors facilitated a discussion to help define and refine Christiansburgs results, or overall objectives and strategic goals. The group first examined the Vision 2020 previously prepared by Town Council to ensure the goals in the vision were broad enough to cover the many needs and desires of the community, yet specific enough to allow for further definition. Participants then wrote down the services, amenities, and/or initiatives that went into achieving these goals for our town. (In other words, participants defined what it specifically means for Christiansburg to be, whether a clean, healthy, safe place to live or an interconnected community.) While some answers seem obvious and would be basic requirements regardless of where you live or work, the exact way in which each objective is defined by and for our town is uniquely representative of our communitys needs and desires.

After much discussion, it was determined that the towns overall objectives should be:

  • Clean, Healthy, Safe Place to Live
  • Everyones Hometown with Well-Informed and Engaged Citizens
  • Good Governance (Sound Financial Entity)
  • Green, Well-Planned Community
  • Interconnected Community
  • Recreational, Cultural, and Entertainment Mecca
  • Retail, Commerce, and Tourist Destination

Meeting Multiple Objectives

You may notice a bit of redundancy in some of these definitions. This is due to the fact that some programs, services, or initiatives offered by the town are so important, or so all-encompassing, that they help meet multiple objectives in Christiansburgs desire to make our town a great place to live, work, and visit. For example, building and maintaining quality transportation and utility infrastructure systems is listed under Clean, Healthy, Safe Place to Live. However, you will also find slight variations related to transit options and mobility under Green, Well Planned Community, Interconnected Community, and Retail, Commerce and Tourist Destination.

Why is this? Simply stated: transportation is vital. A well planned, well built, and well maintained transportation network is necessary if Christiansburg is to going to meet all of these objectives. If you were to only list transportation issues under one objective, the others would be incomplete. As part of the priority based budgeting process, town staff also diligently worked to create an overall inventory of all services and programs currently provided to its citizens. The final tally included over 400 listings; from installing sewer lines in the ground to installing child safety seats in citizens vehicles, and everything in between.

Grading Services andCitizen Input

A next step in this prioritization process involved the grading of the overall Town services and programs, specifically grading in terms of how each program or service rates specifically to each of the six overall Town objectives listed above. Those programs that contributed significantly to the objectives received higher grades than those programs that did not contribute directly. Next, the overall cost of each program was determined.

In addition to the internal work described above, the town incorporated a Citizen $100 Exercise into the process, where those who live and work in town were asked to prioritize the goals/objectives that the town is striving to achieve for the community. This citizen input was factored into the weighting of the individual goals/objectives.

View the final list of programs and their corresponding quartile listings.

The next round of participatory budgeting in Chicagos 49th Ward will kick off Tuesday night, according to Ald. Joe Moores office.

Moore is set to hold the first of several neighborhood assemblies for his wards participatory budgeting process at 7 pm tonight at Sullivan High School.

Participatory budget lets residents decide how to spend aldermanic menu money for infrastructure needs. Moore has used the process in his ward since 2009. Read Progress Illinois coverage of participatory budgeting in Chicago here.

The neighborhood assemblies, according to an email to constiutients from Moores office, will provide a review of this years process and an explanation of the type of projects that are eligible for funding.

Youll also get to see some new short videos on participatory budgeting, including an updated video of the 49th Wards experience with PB, the note adds. You will then have an opportunity to weigh in with your thoughts on specific infrastructure projects you would like to see completed in the ward.

After tonights meeting, Moore will hold six more neighborhood assemblies. Heres the schedule for those events:

Tuesday, Oct. 28, 7 pm, Sullivan High School, 6631 N. Bosworth Ave.

Wednesday, Oct. 29, 7 pm, Pottawattomie Park Fieldhouse, 7340 N. Rogers Ave.

Thursday, Oct. 30, 7 pm, United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse Ave., 3rd floor

Thursday, Nov. 6, 7 pm, Paschen Park Fieldhouse, 1932 W. Lunt Ave.

Saturday, Nov. 8, 10 am, Willye White Park Fieldhouse, 1610 W. Howard St.

Tuesday, Nov. 11, 7 pm, Loyola Park Fieldhouse, 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave.

Wednesday, Nov. 12, 7 pm, St. Jerome Church Parish Center, 1709 W. Lunt Ave. (Spanish language) 

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Parents: Youll teach your children thousands of skills, from how to share to how to how to ride a bicycle. But too many parents overlook teaching their children how to manage money.

If theyre old enough to have a piggy bank, theyre old enough to start learning the basics of budgeting -- and these principles can help them have a lifelong healthy relationship with their money. Here are four great ways to start teaching them the ABCs of budgeting:

1. Let Them Help You with Budgeting Decisions

Walk your child through a real-life example of budgeting in action.
  • When their birthday comes around, let them assist with party planning. Would they rather have an expensive party at the laser tag place -- where they can only afford to include a handful of friends -- or have a party in the backyard where they can invite their whole class?
  • When its time to go back-to-school shopping, let your child know how much money (in total) youd like to spend. Then have them help you make decisions with that number in mind. Would they rather have that cool pair of sneakers or would they rather get a moderately priced pair so they can also buy a new backpack (you know, to replace the cartoon one they wanted as a kindergartner, but they swear theyre way too old for it now that theyre a mature second-grader)?
Letting your kids in on these choices helps them to realize they cant have every single thing they want -- and more importantly, why. But by making smart decisions and weighing their priorities, they can often have some of the things they really, really want. Instill the attitude that they can afford anything, but not everything.

2. Teach Them the Value of Hard-Earned Money

Want your kids to realize the truth of money doesnt grow on trees? Then start connecting the money they receive with the hard work they put forth.

While some parents give their children a blanket allowance each week for helping out around the house (or for doing nothing in particular), tying the money your kid earns to specific tasks helps them understand the way salary works in the real world: You do X amount of work, you receive Y amount of dollars.

Specify the pay for certain chores -- ranging from putting away the dishes to cutting the lawn -- based on their age: easy, low-paying chores anyone can do,and harder, higher-paying chores your kids can take on as they get older.

Bear in mind that you set the rules for which chores are worth money and which arent. You may want your child to do certain things simply because they ought to help around the house, like making their beds every morning or clearing their plate from the table when theyre done eating. Avoid any I wont do this unless you pay me arguments by making a clearly marked chore chart to indicate which chores are above and beyond normal duties as members of your household.

3. Let Them Make Decisions (And Deal with the Consequences)

Of course, you wouldnt put a 10-year-old in charge of their college fund, but when it comes to small, discretionary purchases, giving your child the freedom to make decisions can teach them some valuable life lessons.

Even more valuable is teaching them you wont always bail them out if they make a bad decision; theyll have to learn to deal with the consequences and do better next time.

Were talking spending decisions like whether to blow that $5 in chore money on candy or save it for more tokens at Chuck E Cheese -- not world-ending in your mind, but to a kid, they can be huge.

4. Set Up Separate Piggy Banks

When kids get money, their first instinct is to spend it immediately. Unfortunately, many adults have that same instinct. Help your child break free from it now by teaching them how to set their money aside for different goals, some short-term and some long-term.

Rather than having one piggy for all their money, give your child three piggy banks labeled spend now, save for later and share with others. Whenever they get any money, discuss with them how theyd like to divvy it up among these three banks.

Youll be teaching them how to budget, and also how to wait patiently for rewards that wont come right away.
  • Spend now is for fun stuff in the immediate future, like getting popcorn at the movie theater or buying the latest comic book when it comes out.
  • Save for later is for bigger, long-term goals they want to work towards, like buying a new video game or going to a concert with their friends.
  • Share with others will help you instill a spirit of charitable giving in your child. Help them choose a cause they personally relate to, like the local SCPA or helping hungry kids overseas, and remind them of the importance of sharing your wealth with those in need.
Paula Pant ditched her 9-to-5 job in 2008. Shes traveled to 30 countries, owns seven rental units and runs a business from her laptop. Her blog, Afford Anything, is a gathering spot for rebels who want to ditch the cubicle, shatter limits and live life on your own terms -- while also building wealth, security and freedom.

One of the great things about North Florida is that we actually have seasons. As someone who spent most of her life in Southern California, this proved to be quite a shock. When we were making plans to move, one of our biggest criteria was that there wouldn't be any snow. I assumed that if we were living near the ocean and in a Southern state that the climates would be quite similar. But the temperature changes during the seasons are completely different.

This becomes a budget issue when it comes to clothes.

When the temperatures start to cool, our wardrobes have to change.

We live in an 85-year-old house which has a lot of historic charm, but very little closet space, which requires that our cool weather clothes are stored during the warm months and vice versa. So every year, we go through our warm weather clothes to discard what has been worn out and store them for the next season. And then we move our cool weather clothes into our closets and it's like having a new wardrobe again.

But for those of us with children, those cool weather clothes from last year have often been outgrown, and this can become a major expense item. Adding the fact that our kids want to be fashionable and cool can turn this into a major parent-child conflict. Out of our four boys, two cared a lot about how they looked, one cared some only because his brothers were close in age to him and pressured him into it, and our youngest couldn't care less. So we have had the range of arguing over designer labels to arguing about how you can't wear the same thing every day.

We resolved this by learning how to focus on the big things and to let the little things go. After many missteps, we settled on setting a budget amount for clothes for each one. We set the rules where the funds needed to cover a certain amount of clothes, so they each had to have seven pairs of pants, seven shirts, two pairs of shoes, etc. Beyond that, the decisions were theirs. We were amazed at what great shoppers they became. For the two boys who were somewhat obsessed about their looks as looking good for certain girls was a critical item, they pored over the sale fliers. They would return items to one store when they found they could get the same item at another store for less money.

When all the purchases were complete, they each had to show us the items to ensure we had sufficient quantities and then give the total. Any difference was theirs to keep. We also learned to compromise even on the quantities, which were based on the fact that we do laundry once a week. If they wanted to get by on fewer items, it was their responsibility to do the laundry. As they got older, we moved all their laundry responsibilities to them, which proved to be a great benefit when they went off to college and were the only ones in their dorms who knew how to wash clothes. This taught us a great lesson about balance and making choices. We can never have everything we want, but even with limited amounts of money, we still can strike a balance between having some of what we really, really want while still taking care of what we need.

Martha Cox is chief strategy and development officer of Jacksonville's Family Foundations, and her column runs every other Wednesday in the Times-Union. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..