There are a number of tools that Council can employ to ensure that prices remain competitive and that customer satisfaction with the type and quality of services being provided remains high. I will introduce two of them; one designed to keep prices down, Zero-Based Budgeting and one designed to continuously improved restraint programs and ensure that the right services are being provided and in the right way to improve customer satisfaction, Zero-Based Program Review.
1. Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB)
In management accounting, when a budget is prepared from scratch with its base as zero, it is called Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB). It promises to move organizations away from incremental budgeting, where last yearís budget is the starting point. Instead, the starting point becomes zero, with the implication that past patterns of spending are no longer taken as a given. Essentially it is a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period.
During the traditional budgeting process, managers often view it as a bit of a contest to ensure their department has a sizable budget as this is often seen as a sign of the importance of their area. Zero-based budgeting forces managers to understand the cash flows and expenditures of their department and to be able to articulate why their department should be funded to a particular level in the context of the organization's goals and objectives.
There are a number of Pros and Cons when considering Zero-Based Budgeting. It
has been the subject of a fair amount of controversy over the years, largely due
to the level of effort required annually to build the budget. The Financials
Officers Association in Calgary published a comprehensive review of Zero-Based
Budgeting that can be downloaded here:
Calgary Government Financial Officers Association Review
It can be somewhat time consuming but the return to taxpayers would be well worth the effort. You can review and excellent slide presentation on Zero-Based Budgeting here: Power Point Summary
2. Zero-Based Program Review
The Zero-Based Review Program is a process of continuous improvement through service periodic reviews to determine whether the right services are being provided in the right way. The City of Calgary uses this process to ensure that sufficient attention is being paid to restraining expenditures, and to continually seek improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of programs and services. A Zero-Based Review includes the review of all costs of a service from the bottom up.
Some of the results of this process as implemented by the city of Calgary are posted on the website and are very impressive. For example a Zero-Based Review of their Fire Department is expected to deliver between $14.1 to $15.1 million in efficiency savings as well as effectiveness improvements. Keep in mind that these figures are relative to the size of their Fire Department as compared to ours. Click here to review other results.