Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Participatory Budgeting Saint Louis (PB STL) seeks to empower residents via direct participation in the allocation of public monies in order to expand civic and political participation of citizens; and increase government transparency, with a focus on inclusion of historically disenfranchised or uninvolved populations. While PB is a fairly new concept in the United States, it is already being implemented in Chicago, New York City and Vallejo.

During St. Louis City’s 2013 municipal primary, the candidates determined there was a great interest on the part
of residents to feel more connected to the political process and to have greater governmental accountability. A Steering Committee was formed in May 2013 to bring PB to St. Louis City.

$100,000 of 6th ward capital improvement funds for fiscal year 2015 will go towards a pilot project to introduce St. Louis to this new endeavor. From May through September the PB STL Steering Committee worked on rules for implementation, created a fundraising plan and canvassed in low voter turnout areas of the 6th ward. In October, Neighborhood Assemblies were held. Trainings for budget delegates (volunteers planning projects) will occur in November and over the winter they will work with the Steering Committee and me to create project proposals. In March 2014 Project Expos will held. At these expos presentations of proposals will be made to the 6th Ward and changes can be made to them, as needed.

Voting will occur in several different forms over the course
of one to two weeks in April and will hopefully include an online option. In May 2014 winning projects will be provided to the City’s Board of Public Service to be included in the fiscal year 2015 budget. In June 2014 we will undertake evaluation of our first year’s efforts and the projects we voted on will begin to be implemented in July.

I’m hoping this project will increase community participation, act as an agent of government accountability and will spark an interest on the part of residents regarding how the budget process works.

—Christine Ingrassia