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What is participatory budgeting?
Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It’s grassroots democracy at its best. It helps make budget decisions clear and accessible. It gives real power to people who have never before been involved in the political process. And it results in better budget decisions—because who better knows the needs of our community than the people who live there?
More than 1,500 cities across the world have adopted Participatory Budgeting (or PB), like Chicago, Boston, and Greensboro. To find more information on how the concept has worked elsewhere, visit Participatory Budgeting Project.
How does it work?
Council Members choose to join Participatory Budgeting New York City (PBNYC), giving at least $1 million from their budget for the whole community to participate in decision-making. It’s a yearlong process of public meetings, to ensure that people have the time and resources to make informed decisions. Community members discuss local needs and develop proposals to meet these needs. Through a public vote, residents then decide which proposals to fund.
This year, you can vote for as many as five of your favorite PBNYC project proposals on your district ballot. Each participating Council Member guarantees funding for the projects that receive the most votes, until their PB funding runs out.
There’s a PBNYC Steering Committee — made up of individuals, community organizations, and Council Members — which helps guide the process and supports PB across the city. The Steering Committee proposes rules for the process each year, which are formalized into a Rule Book adopted by the City Council. Check out this year’s Rule Book to learn more about our goals, guidelines, and eligibility criteria.
What kind of projects can be funded?
Community members can propose projects like improvements to schools, parks, libraries, public housing, and other public or community spaces with the use of certain “discretionary funds.”
Discretionary funds are money that a City Council Member allocates. There are two types of discretionary funds. Expense funds are used to pay for salaries and services. Capital funds are used to pay for physical infrastructure — “bricks and mortar” projects, like the construction, renovation or repair of city-owned property.
For the time being, PBNYC only deals with capital money.