Engaging Residents in Kansas City's Business Plan.

Author:Huizenga, Scott
Position:Cover story

Engaging Residents in Kansas City's Business Plan won GFOA's 2018 Awards for Excellence in Government Finance for Exceptionally Well Implemented GFOA Best Practices.

The City of Kansas City, Missouri, started developing a comprehensive, renewable five-year business plan in 2013. The plan, which guides financial and operational alternatives through the planning and budget process, included three essential components: the city's strategic plan, a financial strategic plan, and a five-year planning model. Then, addressing the importance of citizen engagement in the process, the city developed an annual series of resident work sessions, inviting the public to directly influence strategic and budgetary decisions.

The citywide business plan is Kansas City's primary policy document. The budget process and public input starts with the high-level strategic plan and long-range financial plan before the annual budget process begins. The city refers to the annual budget as the "one-year snapshot" of the citywide business plan, which is now the base of all city budgeting, reporting, and resident feedback.

Like many communities, Kansas City had a series of valuable but isolated policies and processes, including a strategic plan, annual budget, financial forecasts, annual financial reports, and departmental plans. The city also had a public-facing program, KCStat, a data-driven management system in which management monitors and improves the performance of city departments in real time. These disconnected fragments needed to be put together to create a cohesive direction.

In April 2014, Kansas City residents approved a change in the city charter that required an annual financial strategic plan and five-year planning model. This change marked an important first step in breaking a pattern of successive single-year fixes, often implemented without a long-term view. It established the citywide business plan, with its three components, as the official blueprint to guide the city's policy and financial decisions. This is how Kansas City finally "connected the dots." (See Exhibit 1.)


Before the citywide business plan was implemented, the city got much of its resident feedback from an annual resident survey. Once the "dots" were connected, however, the city recognized that public involvement was crucial to legitimizing the choices presented in the citywide business plan. Ensuring that the plan reflected residents' priorities and preferences of service levels was crucial, so the city developed a series of "Resident Work Sessions" that give residents the opportunity to learn about the citywide business plan and to directly influence the plan through activities that simulate the city's budget process.

Resident Work Sessions. The Resident Work Sessions are a series of events during the citywide business plan planning sessions in the fall. These sessions, which are held in different neighborhoods throughout the city, teach residents about the plan and how to provide input through discussions and hands-on activities.

In 2017, the city decided to evolve the Resident Work Sessions to provide a realistic...

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