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City of Carlsbad – Budget Workshop Story

Case Story

Community:City of Carlsbad (San Diego County)

Population: 103,811

Summary: Small Workshops With an Impact

The City of Carlsbad has made a series of budget workshops an annual practice. Several types of outreach are used to recruit participants: utility inserts, newspaper ads and articles, and announcements at televised governing body meetings and on the agency website.

Each workshop includes a budget overview presented by staff, followed by a question-and-answer session. Representatives from every municipal department are on hand to answer questions.

This approach allows people to learn together, according to the city finance director. She says some of the questions residents ask are challenging, but she and other agency staff do their best to explain so that everyone has a shared understanding of the budget and related issues. Staff provides notes on the discussion to elected officials, who consider this community input as part of their decision-making process.

Carlsbad’s budget workshops have influenced major decisions. For example, complaints about the impact of overcrowding at the local pool helped secure council support for an additional pool complex.

The finance director believes that the budget workshops are worth the time and effort they require. Costs are low because the meetings are held at agency facilities and most participating staff don’t require overtime pay.

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