When the people decide the budget, here’s what they fund

When people first learn about participatory budgeting (PB), they often ask if it really makes a difference—if PB shifts funding to higher priority issues. At the Participatory Budgeting Project, we’re answering this question—with data!

Using New York City Open Data and the NYC Council capital discretionary budget, we built myPB, a tool for tracking projects that make it to the PB ballot. Now, we can see how funds are spent differently through PB.

PB shifts funding to high priority issues.

Using PB, residents allocate a greater percentage of money to schools, health, transportation, libraries, and public housing, when compared to City Council spending decided without PB.

  • Schools projects were overwhelmingly the most popular, accounting for 59% of PB spending and 56% of overall Council spending. Popular projects were air conditioning, auditorium repairs, bathroom renovations, and classroom technology.
  • In line with international research, residents spend more on health through PB, for projects such as hospital improvements and exercise equipment. PB sparks more investments in playgrounds and public exercise equipment, with 1 in 3 of those projects focused on spaces in and around NYC public housing.
  • Six of the 11 projects that included trees in the 2019 budget were funded through PB.
  • Transportation and traffic safety improvements won more funding through PB, such as street and sidewalk repairs and  bus arrival countdown clocks.

Since 2012, the NYC City Council has allocated $274 million through PBNYC for over a thousand projects. These projects were proposed, developed, and voted on by district residents over age 11, regardless of citizenship status.

Check out myPB to see more ways money is allocated by and for residents.

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