Philadelphia to ask residents to help shape city budget through new 'participatory' process

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia is joining the growing number of cities that ask residents to decide how to spend public money.

The city's foray into "participatory budgeting" will begin this spring with $1 million in capital spending from the mayor's budget. Budget director Marissa Waxman says residents will be asked to suggest projects to spend it on, and then in June, as the budget process is wrapping up, they'll vote on which ideas should be funded.

"It gives more direct input into the budget process and it's something that we wanted to do last year and then, pandemic, so we decided to move ahead with it this year because we do want to have more engagement," she said.

"We don't have resources to do everything, so understanding the priorities in communities is really important," she continued. "So we wanted to give folks the opportunity to get in there and give folks the opportunity to direct parts of the budget."

Waxman said that engagement will start with figuring out how to structure the program. Residents can apply to be on the Re-Imagining Philadelphia Steering Committee, which will design the process.

"There's a lot to be decided about how this works but one thing we thought was really important is that it shouldn't just be government folks figuring out how the program's going to work," she said. "We're really excited to design it with community members."

Waxman said the city will also be looking for additional ways to engage residents in the larger budgeting process.