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How one public works department has maintained or increased its budget for 20+ years

West Des Moines, Iowa

Joe Cory can rattle off several key reasons why the City of West Des Moines, Iowa, has stuck with Cartegraph's high-performance government technology for two decades. As Deputy Public Works Director, Cory has first-hand experience expanding the system’s functionality to fulfill the city’s evolving data needs. He also appreciates the capability to readily access facts and figures from the database to address citizens’ concerns.

But perhaps most powerful is the ability to generate solid budget numbers and justify funding requests. “Our budget has been stable or increasing since 1994,” says Cory. “It gives more credibility to our argument and the City Council is more liable to fund it.”

If you dread having budget conversations with city council or are looking for ways to support your budget requests, keep reading.

Challenge

West Des Moines currently maintains 774 lane miles of pavement valued at over $735 million. The street network has grown 3-4 percent annually for 10 years and is expected to continue at that pace for the foreseeable future.

The cost of maintaining this network at the city’s target Overall Condition Index (OCI) of 80 has also risen. For the 2015 construction season, the pavement crew needed $4 million for street maintenance and repair. That’s a hefty budget request in a time when most local government organizations are dealing with budget cuts.

To obtain approval for the needed funding, the Public Works Department must be able to document current road conditions, construction and maintenance costs, long-term savings, and a plan for optimizing the budget dollars. “When you go in with a report that says here’s how much I need, here’s why and here’s what I will do with it, it’s more powerful to the finance guy to be able to budget,” says Cory.

Solution

Using Cartegraph’s proactive work planning tools, the Public Works Department can inventory street information, perform and record inspections, establish OCI ratings, predict and prioritize repair needs, and determine budgets.

“The data is all at our fingertips on a map,” says Cory. His team can easily prepare reports that support budget requests by specifying how the funds will be used for proactive, preventive maintenance that extends pavement life, reduces expensive reconstruction, meets OCI targets, and saves costs over the service life of the pavement. The city also uses the system to determine the value of its public infrastructure for annual financial report audits.

Results

“Our budget doesn’t get cut,” says Cory. “The reason it doesn’t get cut is because our council has a lot of confidence in the numbers. If Cartegraph says we need $4 million to maintain our OCI, then the council says, ‘That’s what it has to be.’ They understand we can’t have brand-new streets covering the city, but they also understand the value of keeping our streets in good condition to save money down the road.”

The same data used to generate budget proposals also helps the Public Works team efficiently respond to residents’ inquiries about plans to improve their streets. “When you can quickly pull up the 5-year plan and let them know when you’ll be working on their street, people are satisfied,” explains Cory.

Staff can knowledgeably communicate maintenance schedules several years out and explain priorities and how they might be impacted by budget changes.

“Having that data makes it easier,” Cory adds. “Not just for me, but for our elected council body too. They can take that message when they go campaigning—explaining that we have a pavement management system; this is how much we spend every year; here’s how we spend it and when your street will be worked on. Being able to give that information back to our residents is powerful.”

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