Customer story: City of Austin, Texas, USA

Property Rates Simulator
'screenshot of 'City of Austin, Texas, USA
'screenshot of 'City of Austin, Texas, USA

Involving communities in budget decisions

Every year, the City of Austin, Texas seek community input for their budget development process through public engagement activities.

In FY2016/17, they were in a fortunate financial position in that they were not experiencing economic downturn and so were not asking people to comment on reductions to service provisions but to give ideas on how funding should be increased, maintained or decreased for different service areas.

Granular feedback given online

Generally, the team tried to cover all the ground they could, involving the community with a wealth of different initiatives and putting out adverts for the range of ways they could engage.

Austin used a Property Rates Simulator to provide an online component where participants could give feedback on a very detailed scale, from the comfort of their homes.

With an expectation that large numbers of people would participate on mobile devices, the Property Rates Simulator was an easily accessible way of getting involved for all of the community, including the visually impaired, through the use of screen readers and other accessibility tools.

Closing the digital divide

The ability to engage people online through social media was really important in raising awareness and encouraging people to participate in the process.

A short video which was posted on Facebook to drive traffic to the Property Rates Simulator received more than 50,000 views, an impressive achievement for Austin, which contributed to the 1,200 responses they received on the budget development.

This was a great take-up and meant that more people were aware of the process and how they could be involved with it.

Because the tool was intuitive and easy to use, participants didn’t have to lose valuable time trying to understand the technology. They were able to quickly get to the heart of the issues under consideration, deliberating which spending changes they would make and why.

Guide: how involve residents in setting property taxes or rates using Simulator.

It’s an added value to our budget process. It serves to educate community not only about budget and how it affects their pocketbook, but also how they can get involved and get more information.

Ed Van Eenoo, Austin’s Deputy Chief Financial Officer

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