Evaluation of public engagement in the Yolo County budget process

The County Administrator’s Office of Yolo County continues to seek new opportunities to improve processes for operational improvement. In recent years, many local governments have begun to further engage the public in the budget process. Given Yolo County’s interest in improving operational processes, leadership is interested in determining whether increased public engagement in budgeting would be beneficial to pursue, and if so what approach it should use to carry out this process. In this thesis I evaluate and review the literature to determine under what circumstances local governments typically choose to further engage the public in the budget process. I also review the literature to identify what engagement approaches are available for Yolo County’s consideration, nine engagement approaches were indentified. I then analyze the current conditions in Yolo County, evaluate the findings from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Financial Management Assessment conducted for Yolo County in 2012, and briefly assess projected costs and benefits that the County might anticipate under each of the nine engagement approaches. My results indicate that at this time Yolo County may meet one of the conditions that local governments typically face when they chose to pursue an approach to increase public engagement relative to its efforts to prioritize Tactical Plan goals. Results from the GFOA Financial Management Assessment (2012) indicated that the County was not meeting best practices in public engagement in budgeting, but the Assessment also found the County has several internal processes that could be enhanced and would likely help improve operational processes in the County. These internal processes are likely a more appropriate starting point for the County to focus its efforts to better meet best financial practices identified by GFOA, and should be pursued prior to focusing efforts externally. The final chapter provides further recommendations for Yolo County and outlines recommended next steps.