By Carol Tannenhauser
The participatory budgeting (PB) process for the next fiscal year is underway. This is the time when residents of participating City Council districts can decide directly how some of their tax dollars will be spent. They can propose and vote to fund a wide variety of projects benefiting the local community. From now through January 23 is the “proposal submission” phase of the process, so now’s the time to get on board.
District 6 Council Member Gale Brewer explained further in her inaugural newsletter:
[Participatory Budgeting] is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of the public budget. PB gives people real power to make real decisions over real money. The process was first developed in Brazil in 1989. There are now over 3,000 participatory budgets around the world, most at the municipal level. It enables New York City residents to propose, evaluate, and vote on projects in their City Council districts. Successful projects will be funded by Council Member discretionary funds. Discretionary funds are monetary resources Council Members typically allocate based on their local priorities.
“Residents in each participating City Council district can decide how to spend capital and/or discretionary expense funding,” explained the NYC Civic Engagement Commission (CEC). “For Capital funds, this will mean that $1 million of Council Member budget allocation that can be used for physical infrastructure projects that benefit the public, cost at least $50,000, and have a lifespan of at least 5 years. For example, projects such as local improvements to schools, parks, libraries, housing, and other public spaces can be funded.”
Some examples of projects that have been funded by PB in the past are: Library Upgrades for P.S. 166; Air Conditioning for P.S. 9; New Waste Management System for NYCHA Buildings; Neighborhood Tree Planting and Tree Guards; and a new Recreation and Fitness area intended for tweens and younger adults in Riverside Park at 76th Street.
As noted, PB is currently in the first phase of the process. From now through January 23, you can submit your proposals here. You can also see other proposals that have been submitted.
“Ideas are [then] vetted, refined, and matched to agencies by PB volunteers, and a ballot is created and voted on by residents of District 6,” the CEC explained. “Council Members then submit projects receiving the most votes to be allocated in the budget at adoption in June for the following fiscal year. The projects are then implemented by City agencies and community-based organizations.”