Ward 1 residents can now apply to sit on the 2013 Participatory Budgeting Advisory Committee to have a say on how infrastructure funds in the ward are spent, says Coun. Brian McHattie.

Participatory budgeting allows members of the 20-person board to vote on how $1.6 million per year in infrastructure funds from an area rating special capital re-investment reserve will be spent.

"Given that this is a long-term sustainable source of important capital project funding for Ward 1, the participatory budgeting process provides a meaningful and creative way of ensuring money goes where it is best needed, driven by the community" McHattie said in a release.

There are ten vacant spots left on the 20-person committee made up of residents from across Ward 1. The 2012 committee has met nine times and held two public meetings, and have met with staff to learn about infrastructure needs in the ward.

"Members of the 2013 PBAC will learn about Ward 1 needs and City processes, and will refine the participatory budget process created in 2012 for their fellow citizens," McHattie said. "This neighbourhood leadership is critical to the success of this project."

McHattie and Coun. Jason Farr are both using participatory budgeting to spend a pot of money allocated to their wards for capital projects.

It makes Hamilton the second city in Canada and the fifth in North America to use participatory budgeting, said Norman Kearney, director of the non-profit group Participatory Budget Hamilton.

"It's a bold experiment in democracy," he said.

Other cities that have participatory budgeting include Guelph, New York City, Chicago and Porto Alegre, Brazil, where each year 50,000 residents allocate as much as 20 per cent of the city's budget.

Application forms for the 2013 Participatory Budgeting Advisory Committee are available on www.brianmchattie.ca, at the Locke Street and Westdale Libraries, at the Dalewood and Ryerson Recreation Centres or by calling 905-546-2416.  The deadline to apply is February 22nd, 4:30 p.m.