A Budget Simulation

A New Way to Look at the Tough Choices Ahead

The School of Government has created an innovative and engaging tool to help public officials make strategic long-term budget choices, and help citizens understand the complexity of the local budgeting process. The facilitated simulations are designed as classic board games that approach budgeting as serious business.

“In this economy, elected officials have to balance the amount of revenues available with all of the services we would like to provide. These are not easy decisions, but we go through that each and every day. This game depicts that process, and could go a long way toward helping the general public and others understand all of the services that counties are engaged in.”

—Joe Bryan, Commissioner, Wake County and former President, NC Association of County Commissioners

What is the budget simulation?

Two versions of the simulation are available: Budgetopolis for municipalities and Bottom Line! for counties. Played in small groups that simulate elected boards, the game requires participants to begin by agreeing on what they value most about their municipality or county. In rounds that present real-world budget challenges such as a natural disaster or state-mandated cut, players are given alternatives for cutting services and options to generate revenue. Participants are asked to balance the budget while considering the long-term impact on their communities.

Who can play?

The following individuals and groups will benefit from playing Budgetopolis and Bottom Line!:

  • Elected officials
  • Managers and department heads
  • Citizen groups and advisory boards
  • Youth groups
  • Regional groups of public officials

“This game would be useful for any groups that are involved in and concerned with how their government spends money. Citizens might be surprised by the restrictions within which their public leaders have to budget, and by the challenging process of allocating expenses.”

—Tim Holloman, Manager, Town of Topsail Beach

How can I get the simulation for my jurisdiction or group?

A facilitator from the School of Government can help you think through how the simulation will be most effective with your jurisdiction or group and will bring the simulation to you. A fee will be determined based on unique requirements. Contact Lydian Altman, director of the Strategic Public Leadership Initiative, at 919.962.0103 or lydian@sog.unc.edu.