What is Participatory Budgeting?
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It expands democracy and empowers residents, giving them control of how money is spent within their community. Instead of this decision-making power lying solely with politicians, PB returns the power to residents who then determine how the government spends their tax dollars.
Why is Participatory Budgeting Important?
Participatory Budgeting is important for a few reasons. It has proven to activate communities, not only getting people more involved in the political process but getting people more involved in their communities. In fact, a recent study of Participatory Budgeting in New York City showed that 1 in 3 participants had never worked with someone in their community to solve a problem before becoming involved in Participatory Budgeting. PB allows residents more control over things that influence their community and helps provide a fairer share of how funds are distributed throughout the ward. In a city like St. Louis, this is extremely important!
What’s Happening in St. Louis?
In 2013 St. Louis’ 6th Ward became the first ward to conduct participatory budgeting. Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia agreed to set aside $100,000 of the 6th Ward’s budget and let residents decide how the money was spent. Residents brainstormed ideas, created project proposal, then voted for their favorite projects. Residents of the 6th ward decided to fund mobile security cameras, additional street lighting, and more trash cans for their ward.
The 6th ward is currently looking for residents who would like to be on the steering committee for this year’s process.
In 2015 Alderwoman Meghan Ellyia-Green conducted the second participatory budgeting process in St. Louis. Residents were able to decide how to spend $100,000 (over 2 years) of the 15th Ward’s budget.
Alderman Chris Carter has agreed to pilot participatory budgeting St. Louis’ 27th Ward. Residents will have an opportunity to decide how to spend $100,000 in neighborhood improvements. Brainstorming sessions are underway.