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Resident feedback guides Bloomington to address budget shortfall, saving $390,000

City of Bloomington

Bloomington, MN

Bloomington used an online community engagement platform to partner with residents in deciding how to address a $17 million budget shortfall brought on by COVID-19. Supposed by representative community input, Bloomington's City Council elected to close a community center saving the City an estimated $390,000.

Topics Covered

Transparency
Civic Technology
Fiscal Uncertainty
Process Improvement

Cost

Initial: 8.3 Thousand USD

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Federal grants

Project Status

Operational since 2020

Gov Champion

Community Services Director

Problem Addressed

Bloomington's leaders wanted resident input on how to address a multi-million dollar budget shortfall while maintaining essential services.

In 2020, the city of Bloomington, MN suffered a more severe economic downturn than was experienced during the 2008 Great Recession.

Businesses closed, people lost jobs, and there was widespread uncertainty about the economy. Faced with a budget shortfall of up to $17 million, Bloomington’s leaders needed to determine how best to address the shortfall and keep providing essential services to the city’s residents.

Solutions Used

Bloomington used an engagement platform to partner with residents in deciding how to address the budget shortfall.

"The use of the Polco citizen engagement platform has helped the City of Bloomington to increase engagement, improve transparency, and inform decision-making on issues that matter to the city’s residents," said Kirby. "It is helping the City to stay abreast of public opinion and key trends, especially at a time when in-person engagement is significantly constricted due to a public health crisis."

"We selected the Polco platform because of its ability to provide quick snapshots of how constituents were faring and gather feedback on budget and service issues," said Diann Kirby, Bloomington's Community Services Director.

Polco’s suite of survey and civic engagement tools deliver insights local governments can rely on to support decision-making. The scientific surveys can be filtered to isolate responses from respondents in the community, giving local governments a representative snapshot of community sentiment. To gather community input on how to address the budget shortfall, Bloomington leaders promoted a budgeting poll through the City’s social media, email, and website. Residents who do not have internet access could call the Parks and Recreation Department to have their responses recorded. To address questions or issues residents might encounter with the process, city leaders included a Frequently Asked Questions page with the poll.

“The ability to select surveys off the shelf was particularly useful in our case, as was the verification of residents against voter registration files for demographic data. The product was very user-friendly, providing us with the ability to upload questions and set up polls in a matter of minutes," Kirby said.

The city’s poll was successful in reaching residents, receiving over 3,000 responses. After reviewing resident feedback on how to best address the budget shortfall, the City Council elected to close a community center through the end of the year. This closure saved the city an estimated $390,000 and was based on the input of Bloomington’s residents.

"The use of the Polco citizen engagement platform has helped the City of Bloomington to increase engagement, improve transparency, and inform decision-making on issues that matter to the city’s residents," said Kirby. "It is helping the City to stay abreast of public opinion and key trends, especially at a time when in-person engagement is significantly constricted due to a public health crisis."

Outcomes

1

Using resident feedback from a budgeting poll, The City Council addressed the budget shortfall by closing a community center, saving $390,000

2

The city’s poll received over 3,000 responses, giving the city a representative snapshot of community sentiment around how to address the budget shortfall

3

The city has benefited from greater resident interaction with social media and email as a result of promotion of the budgeting poll through these channels

4

Bloomington now has a reliable method of gathering representative community input to support future decisions

Who Should Consider

Counties, cities, or towns looking to gather reliable resident feedback in order to support budgeting decisions.

Last Updated

May 2nd, 2022

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