Monitoring performance at the program level helps with budget reductions: Santa Barbara County's cost center performance plan helps measure and monitor resources and activities at the lower levels of an organization.

Author:Stilwell, Jason

Performance management involves establishing outcomes to be achieved, given a particular level of staffing and funding. Once established, performance management requires jurisdictions to track activities and report on progress. Performance measures are a key component of the performance management process.

Successful performance management requires measuring and monitoring resources and activities at the lower levels of an organization. Although the city council may be ultimately responsible for pothole repair on roads or response times of emergency responders, those services are provided by programs within the organization, sometimes deep within one of the organization's departments.


This is the lower program level where decision makers need to understand what would be accomplished (or not) given a certain allocation of resources including staff, vehicles, office space, and supplies. It is also the program level where the work is actually performed. Monitoring performance at the program level or "street level" of the organization allows the jurisdiction to thread the decision making from its highest levels down to the programs that directly interact with and affect the public (see Exhibit 1).

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award Program encourages governments to link decision making and performance management. Budget documents that do so provide useful information to decision makers and help the public understand the jurisdiction's missions, goals, objectives, and outcomes.


Santa Barbara County, California (which has received the GFOA's Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for 24 years), has been at the forefront of performance management, receiving the GFOA's Special Performance Measures Recognition for its budget and the Certificate of Excellence from the International City/County Management Association for exceeding the standards established by the ICMA Center for Performance Measurement, as well as positive recognition from the media, taxpayer groups, rating agencies, and the public.

The elected members of Santa Barbara County's governing board have come to expect performance measures for their decision making, and county staff routinely use performance management in administering operations. However, even with the availability of performance data and a culture of performance management, Santa Barbara County decision makers...

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