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Budget Surveys


Collect public input by telephone, special mailing, online or in-person at a community venue.

Keep in Mind

Survey methodology affects the validity and usefulness of the results.

Why This Approach?

Surveys can provide a relatively easy to organize snapshot of public opinion at any given time. Such snapshots can give decision-makers a picture of the services that the public most and least values, and the budget choices that enjoy more or less support.

For more information see the notes on budget surveys on the right.

Outreach and Education Case Stories From California and Beyond

Below are stories of local agencies using a “budget survey” approach to involve residents in the budgeting process.

Case Story

Digital Public Engagement: City of Salinas $500 Budget Challenge

In 2013 the City of Salinas faced a challenging fiscal situation familiar to many jurisdictions. They had to address a General Fund structural deficit of $5 million in FY 2014-15, which would grow to over $12.7 million by 2019-20. The strategic approach they took to allocating their limited resources was Priority Based Budgeting with a robust public engagement component.

Case Story

City of Los Angeles – Budget Surveys Story

The City of Los Angeles conducts an annual budget survey as part of a larger public involvement process. Survey participation has increased each year, and the city received about 5,000 responses in 2008 from a combination of online and handwritten surveys.

Case Story

City of Menlo Park – Budget Surveys Story

Menlo Park, located on the southern San Francisco Peninsula, worked with consultants to distribute a budget survey in multiple formats.

Case Story

City of San Jose – Budget Surveys Story

San Jose retained a professional polling company to survey a random, representative sample of residents about their perceptions of city services and funding priorities. The survey used a random-digit dial method and reached 450 people.

Case Story

City of San Luis Obispo – Budget Surveys Story

The City of San Luis Obispo worked with a consultant to conduct a representative sample survey that identified and ranked residents’ preferences for discretionary and non-discretionary services.

Case Story

City of Santa Monica – Budget Surveys Story

This coastal community uses its website to gather public input on the city budget.

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