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That’s a Whole Lot of PowerPoint: Austin’s 2014 Budget Videos Play Out Over 200 Wonky Minutes

City of Austin
The City of Austin has released 20 vidoes to try and make their budgeting process more transparent and engaging. This graph represents the budget and number of city employees.

The City of Austin’s trying something different this budget season: City department officials have made 20 videos that clock in at over 200 minutes, available on the city's YouTube channel.

The videos include everything from a basic overview of how revenue from taxes and utilities equate to city services, to a 25-minute financial forecast of public utility Austin Water. Each department’s financial forecast presentation is available online, so anyone who wants the lowdown on, say, the Public Works department, can get it.

The 20 videos – together, longer than any one individual Lord of the Rings movies (bonus features not included) – are part of a broader effort to engage citizens in the budgeting process and allow them to give feedback.

“We’ve worked hard to try to take the mystery out of how a city, this city, goes about putting together the city’s financial plan for any given year,” City Manager Marc Ott said.

At a press conference today, deputy chief financial officer Ed Van Eenoo said the first video is a budget basics video, meant to summarize a 1,200 page document over eight minutes.

“We have a budget of about $3.1 billion, and we understand that is difficult for members of the general public to approach,” Van Eeno said.  “Most folks simply don’t have the time to go through a 1,200 page document to learn more about city services.”

The other 19 videos are the financial forecast presentations of every Austin department. Van Eeno said these videos include information about services the departments provide, performance ratings and challenges the departments face.

Take a look at the overview video below. The Austin City Council begins budget talks in earnest with a worksession this Thursday.

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