City outlines participatory budgeting process for ARPA funds

Published on June 01, 2021

Participatory budgeting image

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City Commission this morning discussed options for a public participatory budgeting process for the allocation of $2 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The recommended process, which would take place from June through September, will follow a five-step template laid out by the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP). The process relies on residents to create the rules and engagement plan, brainstorm project ideas, develop ideas into workable proposals and ultimately vote on the proposals that best serve the community's needs.

The City’s ARPA participatory budget process follows PBP best practice for municipal budgeting which outlines $1 million per 100,000 in population. The $2 million that Grand Rapids has set aside for participatory budgeting exceeds similar sized cities such as Oakland, CA ($185K per 100K), Durham, NC ($889K per 100K) and Sacramento, CA ($200K per 100K).

Commission reviewed a recommended graduated dispersal of $2 million in ARPA funds across the City’s three wards. This would allow for investment based in part on the distribution of demographic and economic factors in each Ward. The recommended graduated ward distribution includes:

  • $1M Third Ward
  • $600K First Ward
  • $400K Second Ward

The first step in the process begins in June with the City Commission forming three steering committees – one for each ward. The ward committees will consist of two residents appointed by Commissioners from that ward. Each City Commissioner will appoint one citizen to its representative ward committee with Mayor Rosalynn Bliss appointing the third representative for each ward steering committee. The committees will be responsible for planning and guiding public engagement and generating ideas for ARPA projects based on specific priority areas for investment. Prior to the public vote for funding, the steering committees will review and may refine the top ideas and proposals to make sure they are feasible.

Project ideas should be focused on one-time or time-constrained activities that address one of the five priorities outlined in ARPA and/or by the City Commission:

  • Violence Reduction
  • Public Safety Co-Response
  • Housing Affordability
  • Broadband Access
  • Economic Impacts from COVID

“We would not have this federal funding available if not for the pandemic,” Mayor Bliss said. “The pandemic touched every life in every part of our city. I think this is a fair recommendation based on what we know the needs are in the different wards.”

The City expects to release additional information on the process in the next two weeks. Residents interested in serving on their ward Steering Committee should contact their Commissioners to convey their interest. It is expected that the committees will begin work in mid-June.

To download and view the “American Rescue Plan: Guidance for Use and Plans for Community Engagement & Appropriations” (PDF) presentation made to the City Commission, please CLICK HERE.

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