Get access

Citizens and Resource Allocation: Improving Decision Making with Interactive Web-Based Citizen Participation


Mark D. Robbins is an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut. His primary areas of research are government finance, budgeting, financial management and the design and implementation of citizen preference revelation and citizen participation mechanisms.

Bill Simonsen is a professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut. His research focuses on ways to aid public management decisions in the areas of finance and budgeting and processes that improve the ways that citizen preferences can be used in public decisions.

Barry Feldman is the chief operating officer for the University of Connecticut. Prior to this position, he was the town manager for West Hartford, Connecticut for 21 years.


Collective consumption and benefit characterize many government services. Moreover, government services are mostly paid for collectively through taxes—there is little or no relationship between the taxes paid by a household and its use of a particular service. Public sector decision makers face complex budget problems with difficult solutions. Involving citizens meaningfully in these decisions has long been a conundrum. The authors teamed up with the town of West Hartford, Connecticut, to develop a Web-based survey to overcome some of these participation problems and help decision makers better understand citizen preferences. The Web survey allowed for real-time interactivity and was tailored to present respondents with trade-offs between service levels and taxes.