Discretionary Budget

I submitted a PO so that innovative, resident-facing web projects, community engagement projects, and other urgent needs can be implemented by the City Council and City Manager more quickly. I think we shouldn't have to wait a year or more for the formal budget process and many others fear this will be used as a slush fund for the council—a fair point. In committee, I will propose that we keep the amount for this discretionary budget at less than 1% and that we set a procedure so that the money is used as a kind of internal innovation grant and for internal city efficiency changes, and not pet projects. The motion passed 5-3 with one absent. Here is how the votes broke down: Carlone – Yes; Chung – No; Kelly – No; Me – Yes; McGovern – Yes; Simmons – Yes; Toomey – No; Maher – Yes; Benzan – Absent.  

Discretionary Budget Policy Order






WHEREAS:    In order to serve residents in a more efficient, direct, and collaborative fashion, a discretionary budget would prove a worthwhile addition to the current budgeting process; and


WHEREAS:   Implementing discretionary budgeting processes would create a streamlined process for allocating funds “in the moment” around one-time priorities that enjoy consensus from the council, yet were not known during the original budgeting process; and


WHEREAS:   Cities such as New York, NY, Providence, Rhode Island, and Buffalo, NY, have successfully implemented Discretionary Budgeting processes to better serve their constituents, and catalyze a more diverse range of community initiatives and municipal projects; and


WHEREAS:   A yearly recurring discretionary budgeting process separate from free cash would allow for the funding of research, one time implementation, urgent technology initiatives, emergency safety measures, more comprehensive community responses to tragedy, and infrastructure improvements; and


WHEREAS:   “Free Cash” is misnomer and this body of cash ought to be maintained at an appropriate level since it helps support the City's credit rating and financial best practices; and


WHEREAS:   With detailed criteria and procedures—and with an agreed upon culture that emphasizes city efficiency and emergent needs, and not personal projects—a Discretionary Budgeting process can make the city even more responsive and innovative; and



WHEREAS:   Discretionary budgeting processes can provide funding for innovative and cutting edge projects that are normally outside the scope of a yearlong budgeting process but are nonetheless urgently needed; now therefore be it




ORDERED:     That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to consult with the Finance Department to determine the possible structure, size, and plans for a discretionary budget; and be it further


ORDERED:     That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the council on this matter




  • commented 2014-09-29 11:11:59 -0400
    Excellent! I can’t wait to see this implemented. Is there a deadline by which the CM must report back with findings?

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