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Phil Winter: Zero-based budgeting debate

Letter from Phil Winter
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The News Virginian’s April 24 article about “zero-based” budgeting brought back memories of the federal government’s use of this approach more than 15 years ago. It proved then to be a quickly passing, inefficient, and ineffective, fad. Current City Council member, and candidate for reelection, Lorie Smith has it right; the budget preparation process should focus on efficiently utilizing taxpayers dollars, not on starting over every year from a “zero base.”

One of the best ways to improve efficiency of our city is to “benchmark” the costs, quality, and effectiveness of its services against those for comparable services provided by private or governmental entities. For example, trash pickup services are provided by both governmental and private entities. Our city periodically should compare its costs, quality, and effectiveness of trash pickup with “best in class” providers of this service elsewhere. If we don’t measure up, we should adopt the more efficient/effective practices of others or contract-out this service to a more efficient/effective, private provider.

Waynesboro should move forward to a more efficient/effective budget-making process than one that is “zero-based.” If the latter is adopted, it likely will prove to be short-lived and ineffective as it was many years ago with the Feds.

Past federal-government employee Phil Winter resides in Waynesboro.