The City of Dubuque's approach to its annual budget involves the preparation of three budget documents: the Policy Budget, the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget, and the Citizen’s Guide.

The Policy Budget includes the City department detail, by defining goals and objectives for all City departments and activities, relates them to cost and resource requirements and attempts to establish measures for evaluating accomplishment. Specific improvement packages are developed and included in the Policy Budget for alternative funding and service levels. The Policy Budget document shows the budget by line item for each Department and provides a basis for fiscal control once the budget is adopted. The Policy Budget emphasizes objectives, accomplishments, and alternative funding and service levels and is intended to keep the attention of the City Council and public on the major policy decisions involving what services the City government will provide, who will pay for them, and the implications of such decisions.

The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget represents the City of Dubuque’s five year physical development effort, attempts to address a variety of needs, which the City must meet if it is to maintain its physical facilities, meet its service commitments and provide for its future development. The CIP Budget reflects the City’s comprehensive plan and the goals and priorities established by the City Council. The first year of the five-year CIP Budget goes into the budget for the next year and deserves the most attention. The CIP Budget is updated each year so that City Council has the opportunity to change the next four years and add a new year.

The Citizen’s Guide pulls the entire budget together through visuals, narratives and summaries. It explains the budget, provides revenue, expenditure and personnel summaries and provides the City Council vision, goals and priorities on which the budget is based.