As one of his chief goals for the City, Mayor Curtatone promised to implement management initiatives that would enable the City to deliver the best services possible with very limited resources. Like most other municipalities in the state, Somerville faces severe budget constraints. Because Somerville relies so heavily on state aid, recent cuts in state aid have hit the city hard. State aid represented 42.5 percent of the City's revenue base in FY 2000, but only 34.1 percent by FY 2006. At the same time, while revenue growth has fallen, fixed costs and employee benefits have continued to rise. While many Massachusetts municipalities have struggled, Somerville is among the leanest, with the lowest total receipts per capita in FY06 of all MA municipalities with populations of 40,000 or higher.
To survive in this fiscal environment, the Mayor believed, Somerville needed the best possible management. This, he thought, required having data to make decisions and the ability, through forums and analysis of the data, to use it to make decisions. Each of the management initiatives advances this goal in different ways. They have, in fact, enabled the City to not just survive, but to implement a large number of innovations. See the attached SomerStat Overview for more information on each.
The SomerStat program facilitates very regular forums in which key City decision-makers meet to study financial, personnel, and operational data to understand what's happening within departments. In these forums, we identify opportunities for improvement and over time, track implementation of plans. The meetings have become an ongoing conversation among City leaders on where the City should be headed, with each meeting allowing City managers to better understand how the City can work better.
The ResiStat Program brings SomerStat into the community to extend the SomerStat problem-solving discussion to Somerville residents. To learn about the ResiStat program, please visit: http://somervilleresistat.blogspot.com/. ResiStat's pilot year in 2007-2008 was funded by grants from The Boston Foundation and the National Center for Civic Innovation. ResiStat has allowed City staff and Board of Aldermen officials to share data on City operations with residents to solicit their feedback and ideas. The suggestions of residents are compiled in this first ever Resident Report, along with data analyzed by neighborhood and ResiStat group. All of the goals presented in this report are also published in the City's annual budget, which the Board of Aldermen approved in June. It is our intent to publish a Resident Report annually.
The Program-Based budget complements the SomerStat program by integrating financial information with data on operations and performance in an annual review of operations. While the SomerStat program is an ongoing conversation, the Program Budget is an opportunity to set goals that will be tracked throughout the year and to make changes to the budget to have the City's budget reflect ideas for change that have been uncovered in SomerStat meetings throughout the year.
311 Call Center and Reverse Notification: Finally, the 311 Call Center rounds out the management reform effort by establishing a direct line to residents allowing them to provide real-time feedback on how well the City delivers its services. Data from the 311 center are regularly studied in SomerStat meetings and serve as a backbone for the program-based budget, which requires data on departmental output (e.g. number of trees trimmed). While 311 allows residents to contact the City, the complementary phone notification system allows the City to contact all residents or residents who live in a particular area to get urgent or important information out to residents. The two systems provide rapid sharing of information between residents and the City.
As these components grow, they will continue to complement one another and provide a more and more robust picture of how the City works. While other cities have spearheaded these initiatives, we believe Somerville is unique in its aggressive implementation of all these related efforts. Also, we are able to provide a model of implementation in a medium-sized city and in the Northeast.