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How can local government make better public finance decisions?

More than ever, the voting public cares about good government, and wants government funding to be used wisely. Public finance decisions challenge leaders to manage complicated information and, sometimes, contentious public discussion. There is a "double bottom line" to the outcome of public finance decisions, because they affect the fiscal health of government and the taxpayers' expenses while they represent a choice about where the public invests for the public good. That's why the University of Minnesota's Extension Center for Community Vitality provides information and guidance that help local government make decisions and maintain the public trust. Through workshops, consultation, websites and research about the impact of decisions, Extension programs stimulate deeper and richer discussion about public finance options.

Recommended Resources

Extension > Community > Public Finance

What we offer

  • Face-to-face educational workshops for elected officials, public employees and taxpayers.
  • Consultation that helps local government engage stakeholders as they make decisions.
  • Local research to examine the impact of public investments in economic development.
  • Long-term leadership education cohort groups for government leaders.
  • Data-rich websites that provide property tax and land use comparisons across the state of Minnesota.

Local government, nonprofit organizations and others choose Extension when:

  • New public officials want to deepen their understanding of public finance
  • Communities want stronger cooperation among elected officials, public employees and community members.
  • Local government is prioritizing projects in tough times.
  • Local government is evaluating the tax base and economic benefit of industries.
  • Local government needs more information to help sell public projects to the community at large.
  • Taxpayers and local government need to get their facts straight about property taxes.

Program resources

Public value of public programs

At this three-hour workshop, public and nonprofit employees learn, through activities and facilitated dialogue, how to articulate the value of their programs.

Public Value

Just as the goal of private managers is to create (or increase) the value of their company, the primary goal of publicly-funded agencies and organizations is to create public value. Quite apart from the value direct participants gain from an agency's programs, public value is the value of an agency's program to those who do not directly benefit, yet still directly or indirectly fund the agency's activities.


The 3-hour Public Value workshop gives your staff the tools and opportunity to apply the public value strategy to your organization. Workshop participants learn the basics of public-sector economics behind the public value strategy, identify their organization's strength in creating public value, and craft their program's public value statement.

The Public Value workshop is usually organized by local units of government or non-profit organizations for their staff. Since group work is a significant part of the workshop, whole program teams are encouraged to attend.


The workshop does not simply give participants information about public value, but is geared towards application in your organization.  Past participants have identified how they intend to apply the public value statement they developed in the workshop:   

  • "Write grants"
  • "Perfect my message to legislators"
  • "Use with funders and also for use with potential participants"
  • "Inform staff to help them better frame the value of what they do"
  • "Utilize in public media outreach"
  • "Future planning, marketing, and day-to-day operations"

Educational Offerings

Contact an educator in your area to schedule one of these informative sessions:

  • Identifying the Public Value of Public Programs Public employees and governments can learn how to articulate the value of their programs through activities and facilitated dialogue. Learn how to Help Build Extension's Public Value
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