Prior to Fiscal 2011, Baltimore used a traditional agency-centric budget process similar to what was used by other local governments across the country. Each year, funding was allocated to agencies based on available resources and prior-year spending patterns, and agencies were given freedom to allocate their resources among a variety of functions. Although this process kept the City’s budget in balance from a financial perspective, it was unclear which agency functions were most important to citizens and which were demonstrating results.
In Fiscal 2011, Baltimore implemented an innovative process called Outcome Budgeting. The process required agencies to make service-level budget proposals that justify investments in strategies geared towards achieving City-wide outcomes and goals. Although the process has evolved significantly over the past decade, the underlying principle remains the same: to not only keep Baltimore’s budget sustainably balanced, but also to get the best use of City resources by devoting resources to services that achieve the best results for our citizens.
The ultimate goal of the budget process is to establish a virtuous cycle: first, developing a strategic plan; next, budgeting resources in a manner informed by the strategic plan; and finally, tracking performance against the plan. BBMR considers the budget process to be a collaborative effort led by the Mayor, with input from agencies, Council members, and Baltimore City residents. BBMR is committed to building and upholding an open and equitable process. To provide more insight into Baltimore’s budget process, we have provided a description of each step of the budget process.
Outcome Budgeting in the News
Baltimore’s Outcome Budgeting system became a national best practice and serves as a model for local governments across the country. In Baltimore, Outcome Budgeting led to innovative service delivery mechanisms and a cultural shift within agencies. Greater use of data and evidence during the budget process has improved outcomes for residents in many of the City's priority policy areas.