Phoenix lays plans for zero-based budgeting

Spending controversies mark transparency push

by Lynh Bui –
The Arizona Republic

Phoenix is developing a zero-based budgeting system for the 2012-13 fiscal year that would provide more details of what the city is spending money on and how the costs are justified.

Recent controversy over the city’s 7 percent water-rate increase and concerns over nearly $30 million in promotion pay raises and longevity bonuses planned for employees this coming fiscal year have fueled public demand for the switch. Residents have asked for easier access to understandable information about the city’s finances.

The city prepares its annual spending plan using a programmed budget system, where the prior year’s expenses are automatically built in to the next budget and additions and subtractions are highlighted. Under traditional zero-based budgeting, all department expenses and spending on programs and employees must be justified and approved, instead of simply reviewing new spending.

Councilman Bill Gates, head of the city’s Finance, Efficiency and Innovation Subcommittee, said many residents have complained about difficulties finding information on the city’s proposed spending plan under the current system.

“You have to take the document that talks about the proposed changes to the budget and then you have to bootstrap that to the last year’s budget and piece that together to get what the whole budget looks like,” said Gates, who voted against the 2011-12 budget over concerns about financial transparency…

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Bill Gates serves as the District 3 Supervisor for Maricopa County. His Maricopa County District 3 reaches from the far southern boundary of McDowell Road, north to the border of Yavapai County, from the eastern boundary of Scottsdale Road in places, to the western boundary of 43rd Avenue and includes the areas of Anthem, New River, and Desert Hills.

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