Tucson’s Ward 1, known for its vibrant community and cultural richness, has taken a pioneering step in municipal governance with the implementation of a unique participatory budgeting program called ‘Budget de la Gente.’

The innovative initiative allows community members to actively engage in the budgetary process, deciding how public funds are allocated to projects aimed at enhancing the local neighborhood.

Ward 1 Tucson City Council Member Lane Santa Cruz spearhead this groundbreaking endeavor, aimed at fostering greater transparency and community involvement in municipal decision-making.

“Participatory budgeting actually comes from Brazil and then it spread throughout Latin America and the U.S. It’s where community members get to decide on how to spend public monies,” she said.

The process begins with individuals or groups submitting project ideas to a dedicated ward committee.

“We had over almost 150 ideas submitted this cycle,” Santa Cruz said.

The ideas are then refined with the help of the committee, and the community votes on their favorites either online or through various outreach efforts.

In the recent round of funding, approximately 700 people participated in the voting process, reflecting a growing interest and engagement in community affairs.

The winning projects span a diverse range, from vibrant murals celebrating local heritage to initiatives supporting youth and elderly programs.

Funding for Budget De La Gente projects comes from a combination of federal dollars, notably from the ARPA allocation, and infrastructure project funding.

“These past two cycles, we’ve had $450,000,” Santa Cruz said, illustrating a substantial investment in community-driven initiatives.

Ward 1, encompassing a broad geographic area and diverse population, ensures equitable distribution of resources based on need.

“The projects get rolled out based on equity scores, so areas with lower incomes or historically underserved communities receive more funding,” Santa Cruz said.

Looking ahead, the next round of project proposals for Budget De La Gente is slated for August and should run through September.

Community members eager to contribute their ideas or learn more about the process can visit the official website of Ward 1 for further information.

“It’s just a small way that we can engage community. They feel like their input makes a difference, and then they can see the project implemented,” Santa Cruz said.