CA town: the public will help determine how a one penny sales tax increase is spent

Amidst other changes in Vallejo, California, the community is trying something innovative involving a recent one cent sales tax increase:

And the city council struck an unusual deal with residents — if they agreed to a one-penny sales tax increase, projected to generate an additional $9.5 million in revenue, they could vote on how the money would be used. The experiment in participatory budgeting, which began in April, is the first in a North American city.

The approach was pioneered in Port Alegre, Brazil, as a way to get citizens involved in bridging the large gap between the city’s middle-class residents and those living in slums on the outskirts. Individual districts in New York and Chicago are also experimenting with the process, and residents there have expressed interest in spending money on things such as more security cameras and lighting, public murals, and Meals on Wheels for seniors.

Here is more information on Measure B the city provided before the vote over the tax. Measure B itself passed in a very close vote and it looks like the city opened up the approved sales tax to the process of “participatory budgeting” (with some disagreement) in April 2012:

A bid to draw significant public participation in the city’s budget planning was approved Tuesday night by the Vallejo City Council.

The council voted 4-3 to launch a process known as “participatory budgeting,” setting aside 30 percent of revenue collected from a sales tax hike initiative voters passed in November.

Under City Charter provisions, public-proposed uses for the estimated $9.5 million a year ultimately will require council approval.

Duly noted: this is a measure with some controversy. It will be interesting to see how this works out: how much input will the public get? Will a good number of people in the city participate in the process? How much money will the public be able to control? What happens if the public wants to use the money for other purposes than the city council?

Could this work beyond the local level?

h/t Instapundit, Via Meadia

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