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Flagstaff, Arizona, is a beautiful city full of character and charm. The residents are passionate about their history; many of the buildings in historic downtown date to the early 1900s. And there’s so much more—alleries and musicfests highlight the rich cultural diversity of Northern Arizona. And for the nature lovers... they'll love hiking the 55 miles of urban trails, and the Grand Canyon is truly in Flagstaff's backyard.
And the city is more than just a great place to visit. As Flagstaff set out to make their city an international leader in climate action, they knew that success would require strong leadership and perseverance. One key was modifying the budget request process, so requests supported their carbon neutrality plan (CNP) goals and helped ensure alignment across all departments.
The city of Flagstaff set hopeful, ambitious, and necessary goals for climate action in their CNP, knowing that achieving success would require strong leadership, bold action, perseverance, and creativity. Flagstaff needed to modify its process to ensure department budget requests were supporting the goals of the CNP.
With every plan of great magnitude comes the issue of where to begin. How does an organization begin to prioritize the action steps for the first phase of the plan? Flagstaff needed city leadership to incorporate climate action into the budget process, procurement decisions, strategic planning, and facility management.
Most important to the success of the CNP was determining how the city would fund it. The funding for implementation will need to come from within the city budget, agency grants, and new revenue sources. Many activities will require new capital investment in infrastructure. Others will require increases in annual operating budgets.
Creating a connection between the budget team and the sustainability efforts was central to the CNP's success. With strong leadership from the top, City Manager Greg Clifton placed the sustainability director on the budget team to help understand the budget development process through the lens of the CNP.
Through OnlinePBB Budgeter functionality, Flagstaff created a fully developed and prioritized program data set with customized program budget requests centered around the advancement of the CNP while maintaining alignment with all the city's most important priorities. The result included a comprehensive analysis of what the city is investing across the organization in climate action, which unveiled over two million dollars in new CNP investments.
- $2 million in new CNP investments, funding almost 25% of initial action steps for the first three years of the plan.
- All budget requests were made at the program level tied to priority-based budgeting data.
- Flagstaff successfully built and delivered its FY 2022-2023 budget as the city's first programmatic budget.
- Elected officials could accurately track how proposed programs would impact the organizational investment in the CNP and maintain alignment with the city’s top priorities.
- The new program-based budgeting process helped staff feel participatory in making a difference and accountable for the plan's advancement.
As a leader in the priority-based budgeting community, Flagstaff completed its first programmatic budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, focusing on building budget requests at the program level instead of the line-item level.
The goal here? To improve transparency as well align spending with residents' priorities. In partnership with ResourceX's OnlinePBB functionality, the city evaluated all program budget requests against climate and equity priorities, enabling them to identify necessary resources to help them reach their goals.
The use of their priority-based budgeting data was crucial in their ability to:
- Reframe the budget process through the lens of the CNP.
- Find the right questions to ask about each budget request.
- Give staff the context to understand how they are making a difference.
- Provide a programmatic language relevant to how residents and elected officials experience city services.
Utilizing this programmatic budget process, departments could effectively identify how their proposed programs would impact the CNP. The staff felt participatory, aligned, and accountable for the plan's advancement by providing the lens through which each request was created.
With the right people on the team, Flagstaff created custom questions on their program budget requests framing the concepts of the CNP. Utilizing these questions, departments identified programs aligned with the CNP, or that, through new investment, could be better aligned.
These investments provide funding for almost 25% of initial action steps identified for years one through three of the plan in areas such as:
- Decreased dependence on cars.
- Electric mobility.
- Clean electricity.
- Reduced building energy use.
And advance impact in the three areas:
- Adaptation: Preparing for change and strengthening the community’s social, economic, and infrastructure systems.
- Mitigation: Reducing emissions through a combination of emission reductions and carbon dioxide removal.
- Equity: Centering equity in climate action decisions to ensure all communities in Flagstaff can benefit from a carbon neutral future.
The Future Looks in Alignment with Community Priorities