Give west Hamilton taxpayers the ability to vote for where to put their tax dollars and they will choose school nutrition programs, better sidewalks and more bike lanes.
This is according to a new process called participatory budgeting, where Coun. Brian McHattie let ward one residents vote on where to spend $1,258,950 in area rating funding.
McHattie formed a committee and took community submissions on how to spend money. Residents then voted for what projects they wanted to fund.
The most popular suggestion was to fund school nutrition programs, followed by bicycle lanes, a seniors activity centre and wider sidewalks on Longwood over Highway 403.
None of them are a surprise, including the fondness for bike lanes, said John Romano, president of the Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association and a member of McHattie's 21-member participatory budget committee.
“In this area, there are a lot of cyclists,” he said. “Bike lanes make it a friendly city.”
As for the No. 1 choice, which is funding school nutrition programs, “that tells you a little bit about the community,” he said. “Everybody was concerned about the nutrition of kids. You know where their hearts are.”
At a meeting Tuesday evening, McHattie presented a list of projects that would be funded through the new system. Among them, in order of popularity:
Another $300,000 will be put into a ward one investment fund.
McHattie received more than 300 submissions, and 426 residents voted. Most were long-time residents — 55 per cent had lived in ward one 11 or more years.
Projects suggested but not funded included subsidizing homeowners who want to add wind turbines or solar panels to their homes. Some residents also suggested buying Prince Philip School, which until recently was scheduled to close in June 2013.
McHattie was pleased with the process. It was a first for Hamilton, he said.
“It got a great response from folks,” he said. “This was just first year and we could do much better in terms of reaching more people.”
Coun. Jason Farr is also doing participatory budgeting in ward two.
Check out McHattie's presentation below.