In late 2012 Vallejo became the first city in the United States to implement Participatory Budgeting city-wide. The Mayor and City Council took the bold step of setting aside $3.2 million dollars of the city budget for allocation on participatory budget projects.
In that first year 4,000 residents voted on a list of projects to create a final list of 12 that would be implemented throughout 2013.
The Vallejo Participatory Budgeting process was enabled by a new tax initiative. The first year of projects was such a success, the City Council voted to continue participatory budgeting through the 10 years the tax initiative is active. Additionally, the city hired full-time city staff to manage and supervise completion of approved projects.
What is Participatory Budgeting?
Originally started in Brazil in 1989, the practice of participatory budgeting has quickly spread throughout the world. Participatory budgeting is an annual process of setting aside a percentage of a budget and allowing local residents to decide what that money should be used for.
Typically participatory budgeting is part of a City budget, but there are participation projects at the County, State, and Departmental levels. For example, Housing Authority or School budgets. In over 1,500 budgets throughout the world, local residents are able to control allocation of funds in ways that are personally important to them.
Each participatory budgeting project can be tailored to the specific situation, but usually they all follow some common steps and stages.
- Brainstorm and review local projects
- Refine and develop project ideas
- Local resident vote on projects
- Selected projects are implemented