Irene S. Rubin
Northern Illinois University
A budget reform that requires the budget office to give targets, or maximum amounts to the departments before they draw up their budget requests. The departmental request must be within these targets, or it will be returned to the department for revision.
In its simplest form, target-based budgeting is a budget reform that rejuggles some of the traditional functions of the budget office and the departments during the process of budget requests. Under traditional, incremental budgeting, budget requests came up from the departments based on few or no prior constraints from the budget office. The totals of the requests would normally exceed the revenue available, forcing the budget office to cut back the departmental requests. Such cutbacks would either be across the board, requiring little knowledge of the department's operations, or be targeted, under the assumption that the budget office was armed to find the fat in department budget proposals.
The traditional model led to a number of widely acknowledged problems. Perhaps the most serious of those problems was an oppositional relationship between the budget office and the departments, and a mood of mutual mistrust and game playing. Department heads often inflated their budget requests because they expected across the board cuts and