The New England States Government Finance Officers Association (NESGFOA) has sponsored a project to develop and implement a citizen-informed regional performance measurement system that serves as a catalyst for service improvement at the local government level. The project is a collaborative effort among the NESGFOA, The Research Bureau, and municipalities selected from the six New England states.
Municipal leaders have been challenged to improve government’s performance and to “do more with less.” Efforts to improve services, processes, and resource allocation are aided by the ability to track one’s own performance over time, as well as by comparing one’s performance to that of other organizations providing similar services. Leaders of NESGFOA think that while there is strong financial accountability at the municipal level, regular and appropriate data-driven assessments of operational accountability, which would reveal if services are provided in an efficient and effective manner, are lacking in most of its member municipalities. In late 2005, the NESGFOA Executive Board submitted a proposal to the Sloan Foundation seeking funding to conduct a feasibility study, which involved site visits to learn about successes and short comings of other regional performance measurement projects and processes followed. Numerous lessons were learned through the task force review of four other regional initiatives in both the United States and Canada, completed in 2006. The findings from the work of this task force served as a blueprint for how this New England project is structured and implemented.
The goal of this project is to expand the adoption of performance measurement practices at the local level by regularly collecting and reporting timely data that are accurate and reliable, and will assist policymakers, managers, and citizens in determining whether a particular service is efficient and effective. Ultimately, this project aims to improve service delivery and make government more responsive to its citizens by providing managers with data to inform their decision-making as well as a forum in which the identification and implementation of effective practices is fostered. Through participation in this process, public officials and citizens will have tools to connect goals to results and the information needed to improve local government performance in key activities or functions.
The regional nature of the project enables municipal leaders to network and provides them with an opportunity to assess what is working well in other communities and identify aspects of service provision that could enhance service delivery in their own community. We think there are sufficient commonalities across the six New England states, including climate and culture (e.g., the existence of municipal employee unions), as well as the nature and variety of services provided to allow for meaningful cross-state comparisons.
The Project Steering Committee, which consists of representatives from all participating towns, decided that “Fire, EMS and Dispatch” and “Snow and Ice Removal Operations” were the two service areas to be measured. The 3rd service area to measure will be municipal fees and charges.
This is a 3-year pilot project which received a 3-year grant from the Sloan Foundation. NESGFOA has made a 3-year commitment of funding as well. Each participating town pays a fee of $5,200 per year for 3 years.
S. Portland, ME
South Burlington, VT