Philadelphia Needs Budget Reform

Unless We Establish Transparency In Our Budgeting Process And Focus Our Budget On Results...

Philadelphians Will Be Unable To Truly Participate In The Debate Over The City's Budgetary Priorities And Focus Our Government On Efficiently And Effectively Serving The Public

The budget should be about more than numbers on a ledger, it should be about our collective aspirations for our city and it should reflect the public's priorities.

  • The budget is focused on inputs (how much we will spend on police next year) instead of outcomes (how much crime will decrease next year).
  • The budget doesn't really tell us what we are spending our money for or what results we are achieving.

How Does This Affect You?

  • The budget process does not include any meaningful public participation.
  • When the public finally does get to comment, it is long past time to have a productive discussion about what we want for our city, what we ask our government to accomplish, and what we would prioritize with scarce resources.

Is It Like This Elsewhere?

  • Other jurisdictions do much more to use the budget process as a way to involve the citizenry in a conversation to set the city's priorities and the budget as a tool to focus the government on delivering high performance.

Can Philadelphia Reform The Budget System?

In the future, the city can use its budget process to engage citizens and use the budget to create positive results for the citizenry.

  1. The city budget process should include a formal priority-setting process that would stress public involvement at the beginning of the budget process.
  2. The budget should track agency outcomes and link performance to operations to enable the city to create incentives for improvements and accountability for poor performance.
  3. The budget should present the true cost of government activities and include activity-based costing so the public can judge the true, total costs of government activities.
  4. The city should use a consensus revenue forecast to improve the accuracy of tax-collection projections and reduce politicization of the revenue forecast.
  5. The city should create a Rainy-Day Fund to set money aside in times of plenty to create reserves for use during economic downturns.
  6. The city should require fiscal impact statements for legislation so that the legislation's merits can be debated with an understanding of its costs.

The City's Current Budget System Holds Philadelphia Back

Budget Reform Can Move Philadelphia Forward