Report City Budget

Giving Taxpayers More Bang for the Buck

Managing for Results in New York City Government

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November 01, 2006

Accountability is the central tenet of good democracy and good management. Good democracy demands that citizens be able to call on their elected leaders to explain their choices and be judged on their achievements. Good management demands that these leaders can apply the same standard by which they are judged all the way down the chain of command to the staff that provides direct services to the public. Where the chain is broken, the public is getting lower quality services than it should. This is the logic that underpins all efforts to manage for performance in government.

New York City has made many significant advances in performance management over the past decades and its practices are, in many ways, quite good. However, even with these good practices New York City should renew its efforts to be a leader among cities by pursuing new policies and advancing innovations. New York City is a $54 billion dollar enterprise and one fundamental question should drive improvement efforts: Is the public really getting all it deserves from government for the price tag?

To help spark some new thinking on how this question could be answered, the Citizens Budget Commission completed Managing for Results in New York City Government: A Review of Current Practices, an evaluation of the City’s performance management practices and what is reported to the public about service quality. The review found that to answer the question the City needs to address two fundamentally weak areas in its practices. First, it needs to account for its results in the context of the money it spends to achieve them. Second, it needs to focus on achieving results in every service area by improving the caliber of its performance measures. To make these changes the CBC calls on City leaders to implement five specific recommendations. These are:

  1. Connect money and performance in the budget. The budget should be reorganized to better align with programs and program performance.
  2. Focus on efficiency. Measuring and reporting unit costs should be a high priority in every service area.
  3. Improve outcome measurement and reporting. Leaders should push to develop and track desired results measures for every service area.
  4. Develop and present comparative performance measures. New Yorkers should be able to compare the caliber of their services to those provided by other competitor cities.
  5. Expand the use of resident perception measures. Public perception of City services should not be measured just by complaints, but also by satisfaction survey measures.

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Giving Taxpayers More Bang for the Buck