New budget process gives Hamilton residents a say
Residents of west Hamilton have a chance to give input into how some of their tax dollars are spent and they can learn more about it at a meeting on Wednesday night.
Ward one residents are invited to a meeting about participatory budgeting, which allows them to vote on how $1.6 million per year will be spent.
At the meeting they can learn more about the process and some of the suggestions for where to spend it.
Coun. Brian McHattie, who represents ward one, and Coun. Jason Farr from ward two 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.
Earlier this year, McHattie formed a 21-member advisory committee to discuss how to spend an annual allocation to his ward known as the area rating special capital re-investment reserve.
The committee has met six times to discuss potential projects, he said. Once projects are identified, ward one residents can vote in an online poll to decide which projects are funded.
"We're just doing this for the first time and we're hoping to get better at it," he said.
The fund's past projects include winterizing an old lawn bowling building in Churchill Park and $200,000 for sidewalk repair, McHattie said.
Farr announced his move to participatory budgeting on Sept. 7. He has $1 million per year to spend and also has a community committee.
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.
The ward one meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the council chambers at city hall.