Customer Story: The City of Calgary, Canada

'screenshot of 'The City of Calgary, Canada
'screenshot of 'The City of Calgary, Canada

Mayor-led strategic budget planning

In 2014, the City of Calgary undertook a major strategic planning process. The administration had set out a 100 year vision for the city and were now starting to draw up a detailed 'action plan' for 2015-18.

This would constitute the highest level of corporate planning for the area, and would include – vitally – setting a budget. Given the significance of the decisions under consideration, the Mayor, Naheed Nenshi, wanted to make sure everything possible was done to involve the public in the process.

The public engagement team were tasked with finding a way to genuinely open up the question of budget planning to citizen participation. In particular, they wanted to understand residents' spending and service priorities when it came to balancing the city's strategic goals with a realistic budget.

Calgary placed a high value on making sure all information was digestible and easy to use. They were looking for an approach that would both educate the public about the difficult choices to be made and also allow people to give their feedback in a simple, accessible way.


Calgary deployed Budget Simulator

Budget Simulator lets citizens try their hand at creating a balanced budget, allocating their own priorities based on actual spending choices.

Calgary used Budget Simulator as one part of a wide-reaching campaign to give people every opportunity to participate. They had a high profile launch, with the Mayor himself even completing the Simulator online (check out some photos and tweets from the launch event). They also took to the streets with a consultation bus, visiting 20 different public engagement events and encouraging people to participate.

Calgary's 'action plan' bus

Over the intensive 17 day consultation period, thousands of people took part in the exercise. The team also received a lot of feedback from participants saying that Budget Simulator had given them a better insight into the budgeting process and the challenges of balancing service and costs.

To accurately reflect the decisions facing the city, Calgary's Budget Simulator showed participants the impact of spending choices both on the overall city budget and also their own individual property tax rates. Many people fed back that the Simulator had helped them appreciate how budget changes might affect their daily life and that the extra cost required to maintain service levels was not excessive.

In the comments submitted along with participants' proposed budgets, many people stated they would happily pay a little more in order to maintain levels of service. The team at Calgary were actually surprised at how many people preferred to increase taxes rather than reduce services.

After the consultation period, a comprehensive report was presented to the Council, showing – among other things – that most participants had opted to keep service level the same despite the necessary tax increase. In fact, Calgary's final budget proposals almost exactly matched the results from Budget Simulator: the city opted for a tax increase of 5.2% - 0.05% less than the average Simulator response.


Now is your chance to share your ideas about the city budget and business plans with The City of Calgary and Council. What are your priorities? What should be be doing more/less of? Take a spin on the Budget Simulator and share your ideas!

Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary

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