At tonight’s meeting, the College Park City Council will discuss how the City can include more residents’ input in our annual budget process.

College Park has an annual budget of $20 million that is spent to provide essential services to its residents and build long time infrastructure projects. The City’s budget cycle runs from July 1st of a year to next year’s June 30th. City staff start preparing the draft budget in January and publish it on City’s website in late March. The City Council spends a weekend in April to discuss the draft budget and makes some small changes to it.

The Council then holds a public hearing on the budget in May and votes in June, and votes to approve the budget. Some Council members have also been hosting community town halls before the public hearing to get some community inputs.

Traditionally, very little is changed to the draft budget between the public hearing on the draft budget and the Council approval of the final budget.

Through the Participatory budgeting process, the City is trying to change this process to include more citizen’s feedback in this budget process

Participatory budgeting is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, involving City residents and stakeholders to decide how to allocate part of the annual budget. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending.

Citizens assist in defining and prioritizing which projects, processes, problems or opportunities should receive a portion of the City budget, and how much that portion should be.

Watch this video from the Participatory Budgeting Project to learn more about how other municipalities, such as New York City, use participatory budgeting and engage the community to make decisions on how government funds should be used in their neighborhoods.