Traditionally cities establish budgets by taking last year’s baseline and adding in funds for new initiatives or expansion. And they often reduce spending by indiscriminate across-the-board cuts. Baltimore wanted to involve citizens in tougher and more substantive decisions, having them help prioritize objectives and get beneath the numbers to evaluate and rank the actual purposes of spending.
Andrew introduced “outcome budgeting,” trying to turn the normal approval process on its head by starting not with inherited numbers, but with what citizens want their government to accomplish. The mayor starts the process by establishing priority outcomes (recently, six: better schools, safer streets, stronger neighborhood, growing economy, innovative government, a cleaner city). The mayor then allocates available dollars to outcomes rather than agencies. Agencies compete (or collaborate) for funding by writing service proposals. Before starting outcome budgeting, Baltimore overhauled its service structure. For example, in the past the Department of Parks and Recreation had four programs for budgeting (general rec services, regular, special, and admin). Now they budget to 12 actual services (eg, aquatics, urban forestry, community rec centers, therapeutic recreation), services that are more relatable to citizens than abstract programmatic lingo. City officials working with citizens recommend how the Mayor should invest to advance each outcome. This happens via teams focused on each outcome: each has 8 members, including 6 city employees and 2 citizens associated with civic or business groups. The aim is for citizens to be able to read and readily understand the city’s budget. For example, they can debate the relative degree of focus on heroin overdoses, percentage of residents who use alternative forms of transportation, recycling rates, street lighting, police and fire department resources, kindergarten readiness, and graduation rates.
The budget process has become much more inclusive and educational—employees and citizens learn the ins and outs, varying perspectives, and trade offs associated with city issues, and are more supportive of decisions even if they don’t agree with them. They come to understand the need for tough decisions. Emerging city leaders are found in the process. And the mayor no longer makes decisions at the margin but more substantive ones after much public analysis and debate. Baltimore is the first city of its size to use outcome budgeting, and several other large cities have sought Andrew’s advice about how to do it, including LA, Philly, Atlanta, Houston, Chattanooga, and Madison.
Appointed in 2008, Andrew directs a staff of 18 and is responsible for an annual budget of $3.5 billion.
Andrew’s Personal Background
From Lansing Michigan, BA Washington University (1992), MPP, University of Michigan (1994). Management intern at OMB, then 15 years serving in federal government at OMB, DOT, and Americorps.
Other Humanizing Factoids
Weakness for Payday candy bars, 16-year-old daughter plays Irish fiddle, Andrew once drove a cab in Morocco (you’ll have to ask for further details—but it was only for a day).