Sugar Land residents with aspirations of being a city planner can now practice balancing the city’s general fund with its new budget simulator.

The online program starts participants with a $1.5 million surplus for a $79.3 million general fund and asks them how they would balance the budget. Participants can opt to increase funding in public safety or public works, or reduce those areas for other priorities. According to a Feb. 8 news release, the program aims to educate residents on the impact of incremental increases and decreases in funding for various departments.

"The new digital budget simulator tool takes that transparency to the next level by showing how much it costs resident-facing departments to provide services and how a department’s budget impacts the level of services the city can provide,” Sugar Land Communications Director Doug Adolph said in a Feb. 8 news release. “While this is only a partial look at the city’s general fund, it gives residents a great idea of what it takes to balance the city’s wallet.”

The program is run by Balancing Act, a public engagement firm that offers simulation-based engagement tools for governments.

Once they are done balancing, participants can offer suggestions for the city to balance the real budget, or to offer additional sources of revenue.

Sugar Land’s website stresses the program is simply an educational tool, but adds that comments and trends taken from users may be used to help the city understand budgeting priorities.