Ward 2 taxpayers in Hamilton will get a chance to weigh in on how $1.3 Million in special area rating money will get spent. Councilor Jason Farr of Ward 2 is working with a team of community partners and representatives to implement a model of participatory budgeting (PB) within the ward.
PB will allow the public to propose community improvement projects through open meetings. The suggestions will be voted upon by participants.
“I campaigned on engagement. I’m disappointed as much as many others that our voter turnout is poor. There’s a clear message from folks that […] there’s a disconnect between the taxpayer and the politician,” said Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr.
Norman Kearney, a McMaster University postgraduate and co-chair of the Participatory Budgeting Ward 2 Planning Committee (P2C), brought the idea to Farr last year on behalf of Reeves Financial Services, where Kearney was working at the time, and which was looking to develop a community engagement project.
“I saw a window of opportunity because the city had just created […] Area Rating Special Capital Reinvestment Fund,” said Kearney. This annual fund of about $1.3 million per ward (across wards 1 through 8) was developed in 2012 to compensate for the split between urban and rural budgets as a result of Hamilton’s amalgamation in 2001.
Kearney met with all six of the neighbourhood associations in Ward 2, to get a representative from each association on the entirely volunteer-driven planning committee.
“I had said to Norman from day one, […] that (the neighbourhood associations) all have to be on board,” said Farr.
“Members are quite excited about the idea. Obviously anything that makes it easier for rank and file residents to make decisions like this is definitely encouraged by us,” said Mike Borelli, co-president of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association who sits as representative on the PB planning committee.
The projects must go to capital acquisitions of public benefit–for example bike lanes or playground upgrades. The planning done in 2013 will be applied to the budget in 2014.
“Starting August 2013, we will be planning for about four months through a series of budget assembly meetings through the ward, […] culminating in a vote in December,” said Kearney.