From Maplewood Township Committee Member Dean Dafis:
For the first time ever, Maplewood is unveiling Participatory Budgeting — or PB — this year. Hundreds of towns and cities around the world are exploring this process of democratic deliberation and decision-making. As its champion for Maplewood, I’m thrilled and proud that we too are giving our community the same opportunity to direct us to improve Maplewood.
Purely democratic, PB allows the community to directly decide how the township spends a portion of its capital improvement budget. The public often has the best ideas about public works that matter most to them, so why not let them tell us which public works we should do? This engages everyone to send in their ideas and then to vote for the best ones. It’s very engaging and allows people to better understand public works, the process, what things cost, etc.
This is how it works:
- community sends in its ideas via an application – see link below – the application is available digitally and in person/hardcopy for submission to the clerk’s office at town hall, 574 Valley Street, Maplewood, NJ
- all applications must be submitted by April 1
- the participatory budgeting committee, which consists of the Mayor, the Township Committee liaison (yours truly), the Township Administrator, the Township CFO, and the Township Engineer and his office, will review all submissions for eligibility and compliance – see more below under rules
- the review process April 1 through early May
- mid May a ballot will go out that will allow residents to vote for all approved submissions (approved meaning eligible and compliant with the rules; also the PBC reserves the right to go ahead and approve small, inexpensive — those that fall way below the threshold — and easy-to-do projects
- the public gets two weeks to vote – just like the application submission, either digitally or in person at the Township Clerk’s office at Town Hall
- the projects selected by the public will be announced in June (coincidentally about when our municipal budget is certified)
- the town will then start producing the selected projects – some projects may require contracts, bid process and coordination with county, state and federal agencies (all that to be done by town)
- we’re starting out small this year, just a $50K set aside from our capital budget; the $50K is part of our 4 million dollar capital improvement budget, so this isn’t increasing the budget and therefore not raising taxes; since this set aside isn’t from the operating budget, it will not affecting services, salaries, etc.
- capital projects only, meaning for the public good, on public property, for the community’s benefit, no private property improvements
- project must have a shelf life or time span of more than 5 years; short life projects do not qualify as capital improvements
- no project can cost more than $50K on its own
- examples of eligible improvements include: parks, traffic safety, street lighting, sidewalks, technology, bike lanes, streetscape beautifications, community centers
- community groups, non profits, neighborhood associations, school -parent organizations, civic organizations, are all eligible to apply
- the Maplewood Library and the town’s special improvement districts (Maplewood Village Alliance, Springfield Avenue Partnership) are not eligible as they already receive funding from the town; neither are township boards and committees
Applications will be available on-line.
Hard copies are also available in the Township Clerk’s office at Maplewood Town Hall, 574 Valley Street, Maplewood, NJ, 07040.