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City of Roseville Eliminates $10 Million Budget Shortfall Using Scientific Community Surveys

The City of Roseville

Roseville, CA

Facing a serious budget shortfall, Roseville wanted to know which services could be cut with the least impact to residents. With a series of short scientific surveys, the city received guidance from the whole community instead of just the users and defenders of programs that might be cut.

Topics Covered

Law Enforcement and Emergency Response
Fiscal Uncertainty


General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2018

Gov Champion

City Manager

Problem Addressed

Facing a budget gap, The City of Roseville needed resident input on where budget cuts would least impact the community.

The City of Roseville (pop.135,000) was projecting a future budget gap as taxes stayed flat compared to growing expenses, due in part to increased public pension obligations. They needed to explain the situation and get useful guidance from residents.

So the city started a community engagement effort called EngageRoseville. They involved residents and businesses in prioritizing city services and identifying where budget cuts would least hurt the community. They knew that meetings and other engagement options tend to attract participants with special interests different from broader community interests so the city wanted to know what the broader community thought too.

The city needed a method to gather this broader community input so it could be determined which services to prioritize saving and what services to reduce or eliminate.

Solutions Used

The City used a series of scientific surveys to identify what services residents prioritized and used the data to support budget decisions. 

Using a series of 6 FlashVote surveys over 8 months, the city asked residents which marginal services offered by several departments were most important to them.

The surveys covered programs in Parks and Recreation, Fire, Public Works, Police, and Development Services. The activities in each department were reviewed to identify a list of possible cuts. Then each FlashVote survey was designed to gather representative input on the community preferences for these possible cuts. Once finalized, each survey launched and provided statistically valid community input 48 hours later.

Regular residents were able to make their voice heard via these convenient short surveys as each survey, on average, gathered over 600 responses. Plus, participants were automatically sent the results when each survey ended so they trusted the results. This transparency meant that everyone could see the same valid data, as an objective guide to what services to save and what services to reduce or eliminate. The city also made it clear that the survey results would be incorporated into the decision-making process, with City Manager Rob Jensen saying that the results would guide the city’s budget cut choices.

Some of the prioritized services included homeless outreach and illegal camp cleanup, coordinating social-work services, and pavement maintenance. Some lower priorities were funding business outreach programs and maintaining Roseville’s flood protection rating. Because the city recognized this as a unique opportunity to get input from the entire community, residents were asked about some core services as they did with law enforcement. Even though the core services were not flagged for budget cuts, the city learned how to better allocate resources to its ongoing services.

Just 48 hours after sending out each survey, Roseville had actionable results that could support budget decisions and help address the budget shortfall. They also built large amounts of community trust as residents realized that none of the cuts were easy or obvious.

A year later the city’s population was set to vote on “Measure B”, a half-cent sales tax to protect Roseville’s essential services. The city estimated a $1-3 million operating budget shortfall and a continued $10-14 million annual shortfall if Measure B did not pass. To their surprise, Measure B passed overwhelmingly, with 62% in favor.



Roseville gathered representative community input through a series of 6 scientific surveys that averaged over 600 responses each (+/- 4%) and made data available within 48 hours


Results from the scientific surveys clearly identified programs that would be good targets for budget cuts


The City was able to use the surveys to guide the budget process for FY2019


City officials built trust with the community by making budget decisions with transparency


The City was able to pass a major $16 million sales tax increase a year later

Lessons Learned


Large numbers of regular people will give input if the process is fast and easy for them.


Involving the whole community in transparent decisions builds trust and support for future decisions or initiatives.

Something Unique

Roseville won the Continuous Improvement of Public Services Award at Granicus' Digital Strategy Awards in 2018 for its EngageRoseville project EngageRoseville won the GFOA Exceptionally Well Implemented GFOA Best Practice Award in 2019

Who Should Consider

Towns/Cities/Counties facing tough budget decisions and seeking a quick, reliable way to solicit community input to support budget cut decisions

Last Updated

Mar 23rd, 2022
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