Have you noticed all the cuts being made to your city budget? To schools and libraries, fire fighters and social services, and other public spending? Think you could do a better job managing the budget? Soon, you may have that chance.
Through a process called “participatory budgeting”, residents of over 1,000 cities around the world are deciding how to spend taxpayer dollars. In October, four districts in New York City launched the second such process in the US. This article offers some initial tips for how you could start participatory budgeting in your city.
What is Participatory Budgeting?
In 1989, the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre developed a new model of democratic participation, which has become known internationally as “participatory budgeting” (PB). Through this process, community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. In other words, the people who pay taxes (all of us) decide how they get spent.
This sounds simple, but it is not. Budgets are complex creatures, and it takes a lot of time and support for ordinary people to make wise spending decisions. For this reason, PB generally involves a year-long cycle of public meetings. Community members discuss local needs and develop project proposals to meet these needs, then invite the public to vote on which projects get funded.