For two days across two weeks, Branson officials with the budget and finance committee and capital improvements committee planned the course of the city’s capital projects for the next two years.
Jamie Rouch, director of finance for Branson, said the process was a first for the city as it looks to apply priority-based budgeting for the capital projects.
“We implemented this a few years back for our operations funds, and we felt like it was important for our capital process as well,” Rouch said. “What I mean by capital process is funds we have to set aside for capital purchases.”
According to Rouch, the city asked each of its department head to look at requests for capital for 2019 and 2020 and give each item a priority rank.
“Once we had those scores, we had a peer review team, which consisted of our capital committee and our finance committee, coming together in a joint meeting to score those as well,” Rouch said.
During those meetings, Rouch said the joint committees went through each item, deciding which ones the city should put funds into. During the pair of meetings, officials discussed projects ranging from water and sewer maintenance, improvements to city parks and the continuation of the 76 Revitalization Project.
“Today, and last week, was about distributing those funds to the capital requested,” Rouch said. “Deciding which were the most important for the city to achieve.”
According to Rouch, the practice will be helpful in allowing the city to make sure funds are being used with maximum impact for the city in mind.
“At a time when your revenues are growing at a smaller pace than your expenditures, you can’t add new revenues you have to come up with another way to achieve the results of our community,” Rouch said. “Priority-based budgeting simply says we are going to distribute the funds we have toward the priorities of our community.
“We started off with the operational, and then we move the capital into it, and I think it’s been pretty successful.”
Looking ahead, Rouch said the two-day process will allow for a more confident discussion during the city’s budget planning in the fall.
“It means we’ll be able to go to the board and present a budget and identify the amount of dollars we’re putting toward our goals,” Rouch said. “That goes back to our Community Plan 2030. The goals came right out of the community plan. The community is the one that set those goals, and the board and department heads define those.
“Now, we can truly say, we’re spending dollars to achieve results the public told us were important.”
According to Rouch, the city will conduct its special budget meeting in October with first and second reads of the budget by the Branson Board of Aldermen planned for November.