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Communicating Your Budget to the Public

This page provides examples of effective approaches local governments use to communicate budget information to citizens.


Overview

Tax and budget issues are often the focal points for citizen dissatisfaction with government. Various polls and initiative actions indicate that citizen anger over taxes may not be primarily about the total amount of the taxes levied. Rather, the main issue may be the feeling that tax dollars are wasted, or are not being spent where citizens would like to see their money spent (e.g., baseball stadiums).

Citizens frequently express the feeling that they have little influence over how their money is spent. Some voice their suspicions that special interests drive local decisions. There is confusion over different levels of government and how the tax dollar is split. There is a lack of understanding about the connection between the tax dollars government collects and the services that government provides. Budget documents are often lengthy and obtuse. More focused and understandable messages about budget decisions and tax dollar spending are urgently needed.


Effective Visual Explanations about Budgets and Tax Dollar Spending

Articles

Washington Examples

Other State Examples


Budgets-in-Brief

Most citizens will find budget-in-brief summaries of highlights to be more digestable than the full length budget documents.


Budget/Capital Improvements Program Citizen Involvement Process

Articles

Washington Examples

Other State Examples


Financial Budget Portals

Articles

Washington Examples

Other State Examples


Budget Guides

Washington Examples

Other State Examples


Annual Reports and Reporting Accomplishments

Comprehensive annual financial reports (CAFR) provide the opportunity to inform citizens about the fiscal position of the city, but also to reinforce understanding about important city services, priorities, challenges, and major accomplishments. Some communities also prepare an easy-to-read "popular" version of the reports that can be distributed to citizens.


Last Modified: July 12, 2017