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A Word in Edgewise

By Commissioner Tim Norton

February 23, 2015

Last week the Board of County Commissioners held their annual retreat and planning session.   Numerous topics were brought forward and discussed in an effort to define future needs and actions.   Some of the conversations were budget driven, several were policy driven.

Two topics that came up were budget related and would dramatically change how the County would approach budgeting, finances, funding of projects, etc.    Since the meeting, I have begun to try to understand the nuances of each of the practices that could alter how we do business and budgeting at Sedgwick County.   The first was a ‘No Debt' policy.   The second was zero-based budgeting.   Both would be radical departures from the long-standing and highly effective methods that we use now.

Sedgwick County has been consistently acknowledged for its excellence in financial reporting, budget management and preparation, etc. over several decades by peer review of the Government Financial Officers Association.  It has been a source of pride of our finance and budgeting staff and the Board of Commissioners.   Massive change in how we do business should be studied with an understanding that there could be unintended consequences to any extreme and massive changes to our proven methods of development and administration of our overall budget and capital improvement funding plan.

I am researching ‘No Debt’ policies and applications among similar sized counties and municipalities around the nation.   While the notion sounds provocative there is little evidence that it is a widely adopted method.   I will continue my reading and research with an open mind and try to also look for other best practices from around the country.

Zero based budgeting (ZBB)  sounds simple but can be a very complicated and time consuming method of developing a budget.   It contends that you start at zero expenditure in every cost center and build up the budget based on the priority of each additional expenditure.  The process can be arduous and can be a micro-managing exercise requiring massive oversight and incremental decisions by policy makers.   I am continuing to learn about this budgeting system and an alternative called target based budgeting (TBB).

Budgeting is an important part of running the County.  So how we do it effectively and efficiently is important.   Funding of capital projects and infrastructure is a critical element of a well-maintained County.   I will continue to try to understand any methods and processes that are brought forward.

Thanks for letting me get a word in edgewise.

T.N.

Video Files

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
5th District Commissioner Jim Howell
January 23, 2015 - 20 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
GraceMed - With David Sandford
September 26, 2014 - 18 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
Project Access - With Anne Nelson and Jon Rosell
September 15, 2014 - 16 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
Sedgwick County Zoo Elephant Exhibit - With Scott Ochs and Mark Reed
September 10, 2014 - 17 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
Wichita State University - With John Bardo
March 11, 2014 - 15 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
Child Advocacy Center - With Diana Schunn and Marc Bennett
March 11, 2014 - 18 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
City-to-City - With Suzy Finn and Taylor Gill
October 25, 2013 - 14 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
City-to-City - With Janet Miller and Jon Rosell
October 18, 2013 - 20 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
FIT Wichita - With Mim McKenzie and Claudia Blackburn
October 9, 2013 - 15 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
Visioneering - With Sam Williams and Ron Holt
October 1, 2013 - 15 minutes

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
with Jan Luth about Star Wars at Exploration Place
May 23, 2012

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
With 5th District Commissioner Jim Skelton
January 26, 2012

"A Word in Edgewise" Video
With Commissioners Richard Ranzau and Tim Norton
January 19, 2011 - 17 minutes


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Mission: To assure quality public services that provide for the present and future well-being of the citizens of Sedgwick County.