Participatory Budgeting 101: Decide Where Your Tax Dollars Go


There’s a lot to complain about in Chicago – crime, weather, and traffic are just a few. In 2017, 20,000 people moved out of Chicago, the largest decrease among the ten most populous counties in the nation.

A Chicago Tribune survey found that high taxes are among the most common complaints former residents have about Chicago.

What Chicagoans may not realize, however, is that in nine of Chicago’s 50 wards, residents dictate where at least some of their hard-earned tax dollars are spent. In a process known as participatory budgeting, community members meet, discuss and then vote on what neighborhood improvements they’d like to spend money on.

Every year, each Alderman receives slightly over $1.3 million to spend on capital projects and infrastructure in their ward. This money,  called the “Aldermanic Menu Fund,” comes from a small part of the city’s $8.6 billion budget.

Aldermen can spend their allotted funds on any capital improvement within their wards, including the resurfacing streets and alleys, repairing sidewalks, installing new streetlights or fixing potholes.

The 49th ward (which includes Rogers Park) has used participatory budgeting since 2009.

In fact, it was Alderman Joe Moore of the 49th ward who introduced participatory budgeting not just to Chicago, but to the whole country. Moore said, “At the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta in 2007, I attended a presentation about how they use participatory budgeting in Brazil’s Porto Alegre and other cities.”

He introduced the concept at a city council meeting, and within two years, some aldermen implemented the process.

This year, Rogers Park residents began figuring out where to spend their tax dollars in late April. A series of meetings, the last of which occurred on May 2, were held for locals to suggest ideas.

According to Cecilia Salinas, the Participatory Budgeting Coordinator in the 49th Ward, “The PB format for 2019 tracks closely the four-step process we’ve employed the previous years.”

On August 20th, community members will have the opportunity to cast their votes on what this year’s fund should be spent on.

The location for this meeting has yet to be determined, but will be announced soon on the 49th ward’s official website, where residents can also share ideas for neighborhood infrastructure improvements.

What would you like to see money spent on in Rogers Park and Edgewater? Leave a comment below.

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