Awards for Excellence: Roseville, CA

EngageRoseville

 

About Roseville, CA

Roseville, California is a city of 132,683 people located in Placer County, California. Roseville started the EngageRoseville project to educate community members and ask for their input in defining Roseville’s priorities as the city created its general fund budget for fiscal year 2019 and beyond.

EngageRoseville

Roseville needed to illustrate the realities of declining municipal revenues during a growing economy – a task taken on by the city’s Public Affairs and Communications Department and multi-departmental Communications Team. This team work made it easier for Roseville to address the immediacy of its budget concerns with constituents.

Roseville then initiated an 18-month, multi-platform public outreach effort called EngageRoseville. It started with simple, defined goals and objectives: engage with the community and help them understand the data and then provide the city informed feedback. The effort had three parts: research, education, and engagement:

  • Roseville conducted formal research before and during the initiative to ensure that the data gathered could be used to inform policy decision makers without introducing misconceptions.
  • The project engaged community members wherever they could be found – at home, online, and with town hall-style meetings.
  • The five largest general fund departments presented detailed department budget presentations to the Community Priorities Advisory Committee, the members of which were able to use the information to help determine their service priorities and provide input on the relative worth of a particular service

Creating EngageRoseville

"Like all California cities, the City of Roseville was facing considerable financial stress due to changing consumer spending habits and increasing costs. To raise awareness of these issues and understand what our community values most, Roseville initiated an 18-month, multi-platform public outreach effort called EngageRoseville. The project started with simple, defined goals and objectives: engage the community to consume, digest, and understand the data, and then provide informed feedback.

If the City were to maintain its current levels of service while also fully funding its long-term liabilities, infrastructure, and deferred maintenance expenses, the General Fund budget would realize a $10+ million annual deficit. Roseville understood that to generate the needed response, they would first have to engage the community, and provide context and insight to an enormous body of financial data.

Research

Roseville conducted an extensive amount of research both before and during the EngageRoseville effort. This ensured that they gathered clean data to inform their policy-decision makers, filled in gaps of understanding among our stakeholders, and corrected any misperceptions. This base of information was the foundation used to create the EngageRoseville effort.

Godbe Research conducted primary research through statistically valid polls in 2014 and 2017. These polls were aimed at gauging the community’s perception of the City services and budget issues. These efforts specifically revealed that:

  • While the community was not enthusiastic about paying more for new services, they were keenly interested in preventing any erosion of services they value.
  • The city learned that many residents did not realize how businesses and visitors subsidized the services our community receives.
  • There was an assumption among residents that all of the taxes paid went directly to the City; in actuality, 85 percent of the sales and property taxes go to the State and County.

In addition, Roseville conducted secondary research online, in person, and through industry publications. They learned how other agencies conducted budget outreach and defined what budget items resonated with residents in the complex world of municipal finance.

Education

The EngageRoseville project was designed to address the Roseville community members wherever they could be found – at home, online, and with town-hall-style meetings. The city used every viable platform to convey complex financial data in consumable, digestible formats.

Specifically, Roseville created a diverse series of videos and podcasts, which explored in-depth conversations and content about the city’s finances and government. The city’s digital engagement extensively utilized Facebook, Nextdoor, Twitter, YouTube platforms, and the use of targeted e-newsletters. Roseville had graphic artists display complex financial concepts, practices, and principles in concise images. The Public Affairs and Communications Department developed an educational brochure that described the issues, outlined what had been done to date to address them, and highlighted ways to provide feedback. It was mailed it to all 60,000 households in the city to ensure everyone had an opportunity to learn and participate. City employees repeatedly met with multiple community, industry, and business groups to address their specific concerns and questions. Roseville took every opportunity to address the community. The City produced and distributed flyers and postcards at public counters and City events to inform people of ways to learn and get involved. In the end, all of the data is reviewable by the public by visiting our webpage www.EngageRoseville.com.

To obtain community input, the City offered in-person, online, and phone opportunities, requiring as much or as little time as stakeholders wanted to spend. The Institute for Local Government assisted with strategic planning and with the facilitation of our Community Conversation. Options ensured there would be no barriers to participation for anyone who was interested and included:

  • A series of brief, online polls prioritizing department services using FlashVote.
  • Formation of the Community Priorities Advisory Committee (CPAC), an ad-hoc advisory committee including representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, school districts, businesses, and residents. Meetings were open to the public, live-streamed online, and broadcast on the government-access station.
  • Balancing Act, an online gamification of the budget, allowing users to comment throughout and requiring them to close a $2 million operational deficit by reducing funding for discretionary services.
  • A “Community Conversation,” a community meeting involving 120 residents, which accommodated all who wanted to participate. Police and Fire chiefs and the Parks, Recreation & Libraries director presented, then residents discussed service priorities in small roundtable groups facilitated by staff. Residents used their smartphones to rank services with real-time results presented during the meeting; and
  • Dedicated email address and phone number to receive general comments and questions.

After reviewing the many thousands of data points gathered by EngageRoseville, the City Council unanimously voted to place a half-cent general sales tax measure on the November 2018 ballot. The vote that created Measure B was a significant milestone, but our greater objective was to educate and engage the community about our city’s finances. The ballot initiative passed with strong voter support in a notably conservative area. This measure will generate an estimated $16 million -19 million per year. The EngageRoseville project identified the priorities of our community and helped move the City forward to a financially stable future.

Engagement

The engagement and interaction between the city government and the community was crucial part of the projects success. Each of Roseville five largest General Fund departments (Police, Fire, Public Works, Development Services, and Parks, Recreation & Libraries) developed detailed department budget presentations to the Community Priorities Advisory Committee (CPAC). The members of the CPAC were able to take this information to help determine their service priorities and provide input on the relative worth of a particular service.

These efforts required a tremendous amount of additional work to create, prepare materials, and interact with the community. Hundreds of hours were invested in gathering data, developing presentations, and then answering questions one-on-one. All of this happened in addition to addressing the city’s daily operations. Roseville held multiple meetings for each department, providing community members the opportunity to ask, learn, and then re-ask a possibly more-sophisticated question about these topics.

This information was used to educate and gather input from the general public through public meetings, online surveys, and online budget gamification. Our Public Affairs and Communications Team helped develop standardized presentation materials, charts, and infographics to tell our budget story in easily digestible ways.

Tools and Resources

GFOA Best Practice: Public Engagement in the Budget Process

GFOA recommends that governments encourage effective and well-implemented public engagement budget processes. This will enable the public to work with their government, resulting in more beneficial budget decisions.

More