In learning about the City of Corvallis budget, the Community Planning Committee discovered Participatory Budgeting (PB). First used in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, PB is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend a part of a public institution’s budget. It has been used worldwide in school districts, cities, counties, higher education, and housing authorities.
In the basic process, the organization allocates an amount of money to be used on project(s) selected by the community. Residents are either elected or volunteer to serve on a committee to solicit, flesh out and evaluate proposals from community members. They then ask the defined community to vote on the finished proposals. The ones with the highest votes are included in the organizational budget for the next fiscal year.
The money is generally from discretionary or grant funds and generally represents 1-15% of the overall budget. The “community” represented may be a geographic area like a ward or a demographic group like low-income. The proposals might be limited to something like transportation.
Some of the benefits include more equitable public spending, more transparent government, expanded public representation, more informed and involved citizens, stronger communities.