What Does Participatory Budgeting Cost? And Who Pays?

Let’s explore the costs of implementing participatory budgeting (PB) in the 50th Ward.

Is the participatory budgeting petition process going to cost residents of the 50th Ward or the City of Chicago money?
No. All costs for the petition process to get the issue on November’s ballot are being paid by POWR (People of West Ridge) NFP.

Is it true that the referendum itself will cost residents of the 50th Ward money?
No. Costs for placing ANY referendum on the ballot are part of overall election expenditures and are built into the budget of the Chicago Board of Elections, including costs for referenda initiated by either the City or by taxpayers.

The City is permitted three referenda on the November ballot, all of which require City Council approval before they are presented to voters. Two of the three have already been approved by the Council. These referenda will ask:
1.  Should Illinois strengthen penalties for illegal gun sales and require background checks for gun dealers and their employees?
2.  Should Illinois fund the Chicago Public Schools?

The third referendum has not been chosen but it will be one of these two questions:
1.  Should Chicago issue municipal ID cards to help undocumented immigrants who cannot otherwise obtain governmental IDs access City services?
2.  Should there be independent oversight and management of O’Hare and Midway Airports (i.e., should the airports be removed from mayoral control)?

Various precincts and wards will also have referenda on November’s ballot for such decisions as whether liquor moratoriums should be imposed in certain areas. The 50th Ward’s initiative would be the only referendum on participatory budgeting, but not the only citizen initiative on the ballot. Neither the Ward nor its residents is charged any money to support the referendum’s inclusion on the ballot.

Citizen participation in government is vital to our democracy. PB grants citizens control over a very small part of a ward’s overall budget. It allows citizens a chance to experience the decision-making process that determines how and where tax money is spent. Menu money is the same in every ward. Overall, the City grants its fifty wards $65M in annual menu money; so far, citizens have a direct voice in spending only $9.1M of that amount.

Given the huge increase in property taxes that has just hit West Ridge property owners, is it true that they will have to pay more money to support PB?
No.  There are no costs to property owners associated with citizen control of the ward’s menu money.
Citizens are not required to take part in the PB process. Participation neither increases nor decreases the costs. Refusing to participate may mean that issues important to you won’t be addressed, but as a citizen in a democracy you are free to choose whether or not you wish to be involved in bringing those issues to your neighbors’ attention and seeking funding to address them.

Is it true that establishing the voting process will be costly and that those costs will be borne by 50th Ward taxpayers?
No. Eight other wards have implemented PB, creating various voting options. The 50th Ward thus has several voting models from which to choose, including paper ballots and online voting.The voting process would be administered as it is in all other wards–by a committee of volunteers under the supervision of the UIC Greater Cities Initiative.

Sample ballots from the 10th, 36th, and 45th Wards illustrate the process. Note the wide variety of projects that residents of each ward were asked to vote to fund. Be aware, also, that residents may choose to continue to use all the menu money to fund street repaving. You’ll notice that all voting takes place at the aldermen’s offices.

For mre information, please visit the Web site for the University of Illinois Great Cities Institute, which administers the program throughout Chicago.

If your church group, block club, senior organization, or neighbors would like to meet with PB50 organizers in an informational session at which you would have the opportunity to present your questions, discuss various options, and sign the petition if you wish, please contact POWR at peopleofwestridge@gmx.com or Ladymurphy1@yahoo.com to arrange a meeting.

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