Thursday, October 29, 2009

OSD could learn from City of Olympia

Last year, in the middle of some of the toughest budget decisions in recent Olympia School District memory, the District publicized a list of potential cuts, allowing citizens an unprecedented level of transparency in the budget process. What was missing? Interactivity.

To fill in the gap, I took data from District PDF files and created a somewhat hurky spreadsheet, so you could play around with the figures and try to balance the budget on your own.

If I had any coding skills, I would've added something like the City of Olympia is offering now. "Constrained prioritization" is the name of the game: you rate services or priorities from 1-4, but you're forced to limit each rating to only 11 out of the 44 choices--in other words, you can't put everything as a "1" or a "4." It's hard. (Sorry, Parks and Recreation.)

It's not a perfect survey, but it's a step. Next time the OSD stares down another tough budget--and you can bet that's going to be soon--it would do well to collect its constituents' input in a similar fashion.

[Link via Mathias Eichler.]


peter rex said...

Jim -
This is a great tool. I'm going to look into the feasibility of designing something like this for OSD next time we have decisions about budget cuts.

Peter Rex
Olympia School District

Jim Anderson said...

Peter, that's good to hear. Of course, it can be useful in a non-emergency situation, too, as a way to discuss strategic planning, etc. The success we had with the recent staff survey about collaboration--the great conversations it sparked, and the goals that came out of the process--is a perfect example.