Jennifer Larson is the director of finance & budget for the City of Dubuque, Iowa
When COVID-19 hit, Jennifer created four budget review teams: one to review staffing levels, one to review operating expenses, one to review capital expenditures, and one to review contracts and purchased services. Thanks to her leadership and skills, the City of Dubuque was able to avoid cutting any positions or critical services or programs to residents during the pandemic.
She led efforts to create and offer assistance programs to utility customers unable to pay their bills, managed a moratorium on utility shut-offs for delinquent accounts, and developed new options for residents to pay bills remotely.
Jennifer has taken the initiative to participate in the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, identifying equity processes in place in cities across the nation, and adapting promising practices to the City of Dubuque.
She worked to design a session for their citizen academy that included a hands-on opportunity for residents to think about and discuss the tradeoffs inherent in the budget process. Jennifer implemented the Taxpayer Receipt program that allows residents to generate an estimate of where their tax dollars are spent, and the Balancing Act Budget simulator, both of which are available to residents through the City’s website. She also was instrumental in implementing Open Expense and Open Budget, online programs that allow anyone to see exactly where money is being spent.
Jennifer has led several initiatives to improve efficiency, from implementing an online system for budget submissions, to creating ranking criteria for capital improvement packages, to developing an annual budget training regimen.
She has led reform of the City’s performance measures, developing guidance handbooks, training, and working with departments one-on-one to develop meaningful measures that are linked not only to the budget but to the larger mission and vision of the organization.