MILFORD JOHN-WILLIAMS 

Milford is a Senior Budget Analyst for the City of Bellevue, WA.



"I talk to people about my job and they assume that I’m an accountant. An accountant deals with what actually happened. It’s a rigid set of rules and there’s a scope. You have to be really good within that scope.

When you come into budgeting, there’s a sense of flexibility that you need. It’s not only gathering the data. It’s seeing the data, figuring out the variables to make a proper projection, and what does this projection tell? Where does it lead in the grand scheme of things? Does it tell a story?

Our numbers are being used to help present data to inform managers, council, the public of where we should prioritize. In doing so we need to give a story to help guide, so there’s more of that open-endedness that we need to think about."


Heading into my discussion with Milford I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the activities of a budget analyst, or the broad context in which they operate.  I knew money was the focus, which generally bodes well for the prominence of analytic work.  I also knew that in movies it’s rarely the FBI field officer daydreaming about becoming the budget analyst.  We had nowhere to go but up.

So what does a budget analyst do?  Turns out, a lot: Supporting various departments with budget development, monitoring, and reporting; Performing ad-hoc analysis for policy and project proposals; Overseeing special projects or funds like capital improvements, personnel, or health benefits; Looking for opportunities to save money; Making sure everything fits into the larger picture of the organization; Effectively communicating this to everybody along the way, among other things.  And like most analysis work, the numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.  This all happens in a way that must balance politics, people, and financial angles, creating a rather dynamic environment.

Milford’s experience at different cities also led us down the path of discussing the different approaches to budgeting, including priority-based budgeting, where services are ranked and resources allocated according to strategic priority, and zero-base budgeting, where all expenses must be justified for each new period (as opposed to requesting more or less from an existing baseline) – all with a moment in the sun across various times and jurisdictions.  A nice crash-course in budgeting strategies for this novice.

Apart from the nuts and bolts of the job, we discussed the dynamics of being both an employee and resident of Bellevue.

“One of the rewarding things about work, yes I’m a budget guy and I do crunch numbers, but it gives me opportunities to find other ways to serve my community, or to serve other staff within my community…I have my day job but it helps bring connections or ideas that help me utilize it in other ways.”

This includes collaborations like the Livable City Year program, with the University of Washington, to help make the city budget more accessible to a larger audience.

This mix of analytic dynamism and community connection might not flip the script for an FBI agent, but perhaps a few more Business Analysts or Data Architects will start to daydream about being Budget Analysts.  It’s not Tom Clancy, but not bad drama, all things considered.


RECOMMENDATIONS


Budgeting and Planning Resource Center; Government Finance Officers Association

Walkable City Rules; Jeff Speck

Financial Strategy for Public Managers; Sharon Kioko and Justin Marlowe


WORK


City of Bellevue Open Budget Portal

Livable City Year Program; Partnership with University of Washington

Bellevue Essentials Civic Engagement Program


EDUCATION, TOOLS, DATA

  • BA, Economics; MPA, Public Administration
  • 8 Years in Municipal Budget Analysis; 3 Years as a Tax Compliance Inspector



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