Models of Performance-Measurement Use in Local Governments: Understanding Budgeting, Communication, and Lasting Effects


  • Julia Melkers,

    1. Julia Melkers is an associate professor of public administration at the University of Illinois–Chicago, where she teaches and conducts research on performance measurement and public management. She has worked with numerous governments on the development and use of performance measures and strategic planning processes. E-mail:
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  • Katherine Willoughby

    1. Katherine Willoughby is a professor of public administration in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, where she teaches and conducts research on public budgeting, public management, and public policy. She has trained and consulted with local, state, and federal government officials on public budgeting, financial management, and audit practices in the United States. E-mail:
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While attention has been paid to a few cities and counties exhibiting effective performance measurement systems, most U.S. local governments have been active in the development and use of performance measurement for several decades. This research examines the effects of performance-measurement information on budgetary decision making, communication, and other operations of U.S. local governments. Data are drawn from a national survey of city and county administrators and budgeters that included nearly 300 governments. Findings indicate the use of performance measurement by local departments is pervasive, although survey respondents are less enthusiastic about measurement effectiveness. Study results show subtle distinctions between city and county officials in their use of performance measurement for budgetary purposes and processes. Research findings indicate the consistent, active integration of measures throughout the budget process is important in determining real budget and communication effects in local governments.